1. We believe locally owned businesses are critical to the city’s economic health. As a City Councilor what steps will you take to help the City of Portland maintain and grow locally owned businesses in Portland?
Response: I believe that locally owned businesses are vital to the character of our city and intend to be supportive of them as a Councilor. Support for all businesses in the city should be a major priority for city government. This includes increasing direct outreach efforts with elected officials (e.g. expanding on the new business visitation program), working with city departments to ensure they are responsive to local businesses, and working with businesses to identify priorities for growth and improvement. In addition, the City has a major role to play in marketing the community as a whole. Obviously, many of these things benefit all businesses, but local ones need to be a priority for policymakers, including the Council. Our local businesses have a defining role in our city’s culture and neighborhoods. I can’t imagine what Portland would be like without the local businesses that make up our restaurant scene or our arts district.
2. Would you support the City of Portland providing additional funding and technical support to locally owned businesses and update the current plan to reflect this priority?
Response: I think the City needs to look carefully at how it can most effectively attract and support local businesses. I believe it is essential to view these efforts in terms of partnerships and in the context of the City’s overarching development plans. While local businesses obviously have some unique qualities and specific needs, those needs are met most effectively by emphasizing connections to other Portland businesses whether they are locally owned or not. When we encourage such holistic thinking I believe that it is easier to build broader support for initiatives that can have a lasting impact on local businesses. For example, our creative economy is going to be much stronger in the long term because of its inclusion in the Chamber’s Economic Development Vision and Strategic Plan. If there were a separate plan for the creative economy alone it would be more difficult for businesses to get support as that plan would have less community buy in and support.
As a rule, I don’t make specific funding promises because I’ve served in office for the past 6 years and know how many competing interests there are for scarce dollars. However, I do thinking supporting local businesses is a major priority for the City, think that should be reflected in economic development plan, and would likely support some level of funding to make sure that support was effective.
3. National chains are moving into Portland with increasing frequency. Would you be open to an ordinance that strikes a balance between economic development and preserving Portland’s strong independent business community?
Response: I would be open to such an ordinance, but my strong preference is to try and build bridges and encourage stakeholders to view themselves as part of a broader community wherever possible. As I’ve indicated, preserving and supporting local businesses is a priority, but I fear that an ordinance aimed at restricting certain kinds of businesses could be divisive within the business community, and within the city as a whole, especially given the not-too-distant history of the formula business ordinance. My preference is to try and avoid those kinds of divisive policy fights if at all possible.
4. How would you improve public transportation to ensure residents can more easily access locally owned businesses throughout the city? If you don’t think this is critical, why not?
Response: I think the City needs to continue to take a holistic look at its public transportation systems as a whole to make sure that they are meeting the needs of residents. Right now there are changes in the works at METRO, and I hope that the City can continue to foster innovative programs that increase ridership and make the city more accessible to more people. One such program (to give an example) may make METRO routes more accessible to our high school students, including those that live off peninsula. Looking at specific ridership programs targeted at particular populations within the city is a promising path to pursue, and I hope the City can do more of that.
5. What is your definition of a locally owned business and what are your top 3 favorite locally owned businesses?
Response: I would not define the term too narrowly or technically, but I generally think of a locally owned business as one that operates in a community and whose owners (or at least a majority of them) live in that same community. We’re blessed to have so many fantastic local businesses in Portland, but I (like everyone else it seems) have a particular soft spot for our culinary businesses. If I had to pick three I would say (in no particular order) The Standard Baking Company, Coffee by Design and Rosemont.
Allagash Brewing Co. / Bayside Bowl / BENCHMARK Residential & Investment Real Estate / Bull Feeney's / Casco Bay EyeCare / Casco Bay Frames & Gallery / Coffee By Design / CornerStone Building & Restoration / CrossFit Beacon / The Fish & Bone / Gorham Savings Bank / Green Clean Maine / Joan Leitzer / Teel Law Office, LLC / Liquid Riot / Longfellow Books / Maine Business Immigration Coalition / Malone Commercial Brokers / Marsh Agency / Max Ashburn / Nine Stones / No Umbrella Media, LLC / Nomads / OTTO / Philip Spalding / Port Property Management / Portland Food Co-op / Portland Downtown / Portland Farmers’ Market / Portside Real Estate Group / Renys Department Store / Runaways Run Club / Sanctuary Tattoo / Sebago Brewing Company / Stacy Mitchell / The SunriseGuide / Tsunami Tattoo / University Credit Union / University of Southern Maine / Wellness Connection of Maine / Young’s Furniture