Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Freep: Small business groups throwing support behind community benefits ordinance in Detroit

Posted By on Tue, Jan 6, 2015 at 12:56 PM


Though opponents of the proposed community benefits agreement ordinance in Detroit suggest it would inhibit future development in the city and hurt small businesses, local chambers of commerce have come out in support of the proposal, the Freep's Joe Guillen reports

With Detroit City Council back in session this week, it's expected to fire up the debate on the proposed ordinance. 



For the uninitiated, the way the ordinance would work is like this: A developer who wants a public subsidy, say a tax credit or to purchase Detroit-owned property, would need to include benefits to the community. They would negotiate those benefits into a CBA, and the community is involved. If the development is 100 percent privately-funded, then they don't need to negotiate community benefits. They also don't need to involve the community if the value of the credit or property is less than $300,000.

The Detroit Regional Chamber, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan have come out opposed to the ordinance, saying it would only create a bureaucratic nightmare. But some local business representatives have thrown their support behind the idea, as Guillen notes.

The small-business effect on the debate was evident earlier this month when the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, which represents thousands of neighborhood businesses in Detroit, joined the fight to block an attempt during state lawmakers' lame duck session to preemptively ban Detroit or other cities from passing a community benefits ordinance.

"Our influence changed the entire discussion from activist-versus-developer to, 'what is truly the benefit of a community benefits ordinance?'" said Kenneth Harris, a Detroiter who serves as president of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce.

Harris, whose organization advocates for Detroit's small businesses, said he supports the ordinance because it would encourage developers to interact and potentially hire workers from small businesses who for years have struggled to stay in business while Detroit's fortunes tumbled.

A bill introduced in the state Legislature during its lame duck session would've quashed the ordinance before a Detroit City Council vote on the ordinance ever took place. But the full Legislature never addressed the bill. 

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