WBEZ | Small business http://www.wbez.org/tags/small-business Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Nail salon workers to get access to Asian language licensing exams http://www.wbez.org/news/nail-salon-workers-get-access-asian-language-licensing-exams-109099 <p><p>It&rsquo;s no surprise to walk into a nail salon and find mostly Asian staff. But despite a concentration of Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese professionals in the cosmetology and nail technology industries, Illinois has never offered the licensing exams in Asian languages. Now the state is looking to change that.</p><p>&ldquo;You know why I opened a cosmetology school in Chinatown?&rdquo; said Mora Zheng, owner of the Elle International Beauty Academy in Chinatown. &ldquo;Because I just want to let more Chinese people work legally, have good benefits, have a good salary.&rdquo;</p><p>As a small group of students sat huddled around a table in a nearby room, applying fake nail tips to plastic mannequin hands, Zheng explained that jobs in the beauty industry are popular with Asian immigrants because the schooling only takes a few months. She said that allows them to start earning money quickly. According to the <a href="http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes395092.htm" target="_blank">Bureau of Labor Statistics</a>, average yearly income for manicurists and pedicurists in Illinois is $26,720.</p><p>But Zheng said she&rsquo;s noticed a disturbing trend: lots of students finish school, but don&rsquo;t get licensed to practice.</p><p>&ldquo;Some people, they (are) scared (of the) English written examination,&rdquo; said Zheng, referring to the licensing exam administered by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re scared to fail.&rdquo;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.idfpr.com/profs/info/NailTech.asp" target="_blank">IDFPR</a> offers the cosmetology and nail technician licensing exams in English and Spanish. Zheng said it&rsquo;s time to add Chinese, because otherwise, qualified professionals end up working illegally in nail salons, and they are not paid fair wages.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Nail%20tech%20exam%203.JPG" style="height: 201px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Most of the students at the Botanic School of Nail Technology on Chicago’s North Side are native speakers of Vietnamese, Korean, or Chinese. School owner Rosemary Hyunh has crafted a bilingual curriculum to help them pass the written licensing exam in English. (WBEZ/Jian Chung Lee)" />&ldquo;We shouldn&rsquo;t have to work harder if there&rsquo;s no rational basis for the exams to only be in English,&rdquo; said Anne Shaw, a lawyer and advocate for Chicago&rsquo;s Chinese-American community. Zheng enlisted Shaw&rsquo;s support when she started to cast around for allies to bring the issue to the state&rsquo;s attention. Shaw said the fact that the exam is already offered in Spanish shows that the state does not deem English to be an essential skill for the profession.</p><p>Shaw believes expanding language access to the licensing exams will have far-ranging, positive effects. She argued that not only would it make it easier for immigrants to earn an honest living, but that the overall state economy would benefit by easing the way for small business owners.</p><p>Still, Shaw was surprised to learn from Zheng that the licensing exams weren&rsquo;t already offered in Asian languages.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, I really don&rsquo;t believe there was any intent to discriminate,&rdquo; Shaw said. &ldquo;This is one of the downsides of not having someone that&rsquo;s elected that has an Asian-American background. We have zero state legislators that are Asian-American.&rdquo;</p><p>But Shaw and Zheng found an ally in the office Governor Pat Quinn with his appointment of Theresa Mah. Mah is a longtime activist and organizer in Chicago who serves as Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s chief liaison to the Asian-American community. The IDFPR will soon offer the cosmetology licensing exam in Chinese, and plans to offer translations of the nail technician licensing exam in Korean and Vietnamese. According to <a href="http://files.nailsmag.com/Market-Research/NAILSbb12-13stats.pdf" target="_blank">Nails Magazine</a>, Illinois is among the ten states with the largest number of Vietnamese nail technicians.</p><p>But some argue that translating the licensing exams could harm the industry.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Nail%20tech%20exam%202.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="Mora Zheng, owner of the Elle International Beauty Academy in Chinatown, says many educated nail technicians work without licenses because they fear they will fail the English written exam. She is pushing to have the exam translated into Chinese. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" />&ldquo;I really think it shouldn&rsquo;t be translated,&rdquo; said Rosemary Hyunh, owner of the Botanic School of Nail Technology on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just going to be too many nail salons,&rdquo; she explained. Hyunh, a Vietnamese-American raised in Chicago&rsquo;s Argyle Street neighborhood, said her views are shaped by her family&rsquo;s experience in the nail industry.</p><p>Hyunh said some of her relatives immigrated two decades ago to California, where they had successful nail shops. But she said their fortunes changed once California began offering its written manicurist exam in Vietnamese in 1996.</p><p>&ldquo;It got exploded so big over there that the prices started dropping,&rdquo; said Hyunh. &ldquo;So they had to find new states to start this whole new nail industry again.&rdquo; Hyunh said her aunts and uncles fled California to start new businesses in Chicago, a relatively unsaturated market.</p><p>Could something similar happen here? Chicago <a href="http://docs.chicityclerk.com/journal/2009/may13_2009/may13_2009_Zoning.pdf" target="_blank">zoning laws</a> prohibit personal service establishments, including nail salons, to locate within 1000 feet of each other. But Mora Zheng says even if competition heats up, that&rsquo;s no reason not to translate the tests. She tells her students if they do their best, they&rsquo;ll be fine.</p><p>&ldquo;Prepare yourself well, (and) you don&rsquo;t need to worry about others,&rdquo; Zheng declared. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why I tell my students, &lsquo;in your heart, always sunshine.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Hyunh said even though most of her students don&rsquo;t speak English as a native language, she&rsquo;s crafted a bilingual curriculum that helps them pass the licensing exams in English. She understands that translating the tests could help some immigrants get on their feet faster, but Hyunh said she won&rsquo;t be changing her teaching methods.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZOutLoud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Nov 2013 17:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/nail-salon-workers-get-access-asian-language-licensing-exams-109099 Loss of Red Line service brings changes to Chinatown http://www.wbez.org/news/loss-red-line-service-brings-changes-chinatown-107365 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chinatown.jpg" title="Near the CTA Red Line stop at Cermak-Chinatown. Workers were out on the tracks Friday getting started on a massive reconstruction project. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F93713993&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Some business owners are worried about a slow summer near the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line stop, but expanded water taxi service may pick up some of the slack. Nine south side stations are closed until October for reconstruction.</p><p>Just down the street from the Chinatown Red Line, Michelle Zhang was ringing up a steady stream of newspapers and lottery tickets in her gift shop. But she said she&rsquo;s concerned about the Red Line.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s no good for the business,&rdquo; she said. The street was hopping with locals getting groceries, tea and pastries -- it&rsquo;s tourist shoppers that may be more of a concern. In another gift shop, Yat Wong agrees.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it will affect me a lot since the station is closed for more than 5 months, I guess, but nothing I can do,&rdquo; he said. And he says his daughter&rsquo;s been rerouted to school, as have other kids he knows. &ldquo;Almost affect everyone in Chinatown, I guess. Every family.&rdquo;</p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F94308827"></iframe><p>Starting Tuesday, commuters looking for an alternate to the Red Line have a new way to travel between Chinatown and downtown: a water taxi. The Chinatown taxi has operated on weekends since 2009, and this year they&rsquo;ve added a new black and yellow boat to the fleet that will be used to provide weekday service.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a great alternative if for no reason other than it&rsquo;s more fun and scenic,&rdquo; said Andrew Sargis, Chief of Operations of the Chicago Water Taxi, which is a private subsidiary of Wendella Sightseeing.</p><p>A boat will depart from Ping Tom Memorial Park every twenty minutes from 10am to 9pm, and tickets are $4 one way. The ride to near Union Station is about 12 to 15 minutes, and a transfer can get you further north or east along the Chicago River.</p><p>But total travel time depends on traffic.</p><p>&ldquo;We can get barge traffic, we can get kayakers, we can get other commercial boat traffic,&rdquo; said Sargis, adding that on the weekends, sailboats can also be trouble.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.15;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;margin-left: -36pt;margin-right: -36pt;"><em><b id="docs-internal-guid-23161088-d872-17fe-5060-74fbae141146" style="font-weight:normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Lew</span></b>is Wallace is a Pritzker Journalism Fellow at WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/lewispants">@lewispants</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div><br /></p> Sat, 25 May 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/loss-red-line-service-brings-changes-chinatown-107365 Temporary business investors worry immigration bill leaves them out http://www.wbez.org/news/temporary-business-investors-worry-immigration-bill-leaves-them-out-106685 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Korean E-2s.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Jong Sung Kang looks like he&rsquo;s been cooking all his life. At his restaurant in a nondescript Schaumburg strip mall, Kang chops refrigerated pork, washes dishes, and tosses vegetables onto a large stove with great efficiency. But in fact, Kang has only had this restaurant for eight months. It&rsquo;s his second business in the U.S. -- the first was a nail salon that he and his wife opened in 2005, soon after they arrived from their native South Korea.</p><p>&ldquo;The business was pretty good,&rdquo; he said through a translator, &ldquo;so we managed to live with no difficulty. But since the economy went down, it&rsquo;s really tough.&rdquo; Kang said business started slowing down about two years ago. &ldquo;We couldn&rsquo;t make money, so actually my wife went to a different shop to work and make some money,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and we used that money to pay our employees at our own nail salon.&rdquo;</p><p>Kang says any rational businessman would have sold that salon, but he couldn&rsquo;t because his family&rsquo;s legal status in the US depends on maintaining his own business.</p><p>Discussion leading up to the introduction of a comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. Senate early Wednesday has largely focused on disagreements over a pathway to citizenship for people here illegally. But there&rsquo;s concern over whether it&rsquo;ll address those immigrants like Jong Sung Kang who are here legally, awaiting permanent status. In some cases, he and other immigrants on temporary visas have poured vast sums of personal money into the U.S. economy in the hope that eventually, they&rsquo;ll be given a pathway to citizenship.</p><p>Kang&rsquo;s family came to the U.S. after his sister-in-law sponsored them for a green card. He said he knew that the petition for a family reunification visa could take more than a decade to be processed. But they would be processed faster if his family were already living in the U.S., rather than waiting in South Korea. So Kang opted to bring his wife and then-five -year-old son to the U.S. on a temporary worker visa known as the E-2 Treaty Investors visa.</p><p>&ldquo;Before the time comes for my [family reunification] visa I want(ed) to adjust my life into the new situation, so that&rsquo;s why i chose the E-2 visa,&rdquo; Kang said.</p><p>The U.S. issued about 30,000 E-2 visas last year, almost 45 percent of which went to foreigners from Asian countries. It&rsquo;s a two-year, temporary visa for people from<a href="http://travel.state.gov/visa/fees/fees_3726.html"> any of the eighty countries</a> with which the U.S. has commerce and navigation treaties. It requires the visa holder to put substantial personal savings into a business. As long as they keep the business going, they can renew their E-2 visas indefinitely.</p><p>Kang estimates he poured about $300,000 into maintaining his legal status here: half of it to open the nail salon; $80,000 to open the restaurant; $17,000 to acquire and renew the E-2 visa; and additional money just for day-to-day survival. He said his considerable savings came from selling his home in Seoul, South Korea.</p><p>Like many other immigrants who are sponsored by their family members, Kang doesn&rsquo;t know how much longer he&rsquo;ll have to keep throwing money into this pit, because he doesn&rsquo;t know when his green card will come: it could be years. Still, he says he doesn&rsquo;t regret his decision to come to the U.S.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not easy to live here, but I (would) still like to live here,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;The U.S. has a better education system, better environment. So, you know, I would like to stay here.&rdquo; But some wonder whether the U.S. is doing itself a disservice by allowing these temporary investors to tread water indefinitely.</p><p>&ldquo;I think the E-2 visa is a good example of a true entrepreneurial visa,&rdquo; said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration lawyer and professor at Cornell Law School.&nbsp; &ldquo;We should try to make it easier for people who want to do that to come to the United States more easily in the future, and to be able to get a permanent green card.&rdquo;</p><p>An outline of the immigration bill does propose easing the way for entrepreneurs, but Yale-Loehr says lawmakers often only think about people in high-tech industries rather than the owners of nail salons or restaurants, like Kang.</p><p>&ldquo;We spent tons of money to keep our status,&rdquo; said Kang. &ldquo;Right now people are talking about immigration reform and people are talking about a pathway to citizenship. I understand that, but also there should be a way to support people like me waiting in line for (a) decade.&rdquo; At the very least, Kang hopes a new bill won&rsquo;t make things any harder for his family.</p><p>In the meantime, he says he&rsquo;ll keep trying to turn a profit and renew his E-2 visa until he gets a green card.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau Reporter. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 17 Apr 2013 10:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/temporary-business-investors-worry-immigration-bill-leaves-them-out-106685 Cyber Monday sales hit Chicago-area small business http://www.wbez.org/news/cyber-monday-sales-hit-chicago-area-small-business-104054 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/computers.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Holiday shoppers turned so-called &quot;Cyber Monday&quot; into one of the biggest spending days ever, according to a new report released Tuesday.</p><p>Research from the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark show online purchases grew 30.3 percent compared to the same time in 2011.</p><p>&ldquo;Cyber Monday was not only the pinnacle of the Thanksgiving shopping weekend but when the cash register closed it officially became<strong> </strong>the biggest online shopping day ever,&rdquo; said Jay Henderson, Strategy Director with IBM Smarter Commerce, in a statement Tuesday. &ldquo;Retailers that adopted a smarter marketing<strong><span> </span></strong>approach to commerce were able to adjust to the shifting shopping habits of their customers, whether in-store, online or via their mobile device of choice, and fully benefit from this day and the entire holiday weekend.&rdquo;<strong> </strong></p><p>But Cyber Monday was not a success for every business.</p><p>According to Northern Illinois and Chicago Better Business Bureau President Steve Bernas, brick and mortar small businesses in the Chicago-area worried before the holiday season that sales would drop as consumers decided to take advantage of Internet deals on Monday.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;On the cyber world, you&#39;re competing on a global marketplace,&quot; Bernas said. &quot;As opposed to a brick and mortar, it&#39;s usually a neighborhood store or an area in a specific neighborhood [...] It&#39;s hard to compete with a worldwide marketplace.&quot;</p><p>Internet purchases typically tend to rise on weekdays, said Andrew Lipsman, Vice President of Industry Analysis with the research firm comScore. He added that that trend is &ldquo;magnified&rdquo; during the holiday shopping season.</p><p>And for Madison Street Shoes in Forest Park, business fell Monday despite a busy weekend.<br /><br />&quot;Today is extremely quiet. Now Monday is typically our slowest day here, but not this slow. I mean this is highly unusual for us,&quot; said Julie Lane, who works at the store.</p><p>Lane credited the slowdown to, in part, online sales. But she said the store tries to match or beat online prices in order to compete with Internet retailers, along with &quot;the personal touch, the customer service.&quot; &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 27 Nov 2012 16:23:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cyber-monday-sales-hit-chicago-area-small-business-104054 Emanuel proposes new lending program for small businesses http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-proposes-new-lending-program-small-businesses-94658 <p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants aldermen to approve a new organization aimed at helping small businesses.</p><p>On Tuesday, the mayor unveiled his plans for the Chicago Microlending Institute, which he says will train potential lenders on how to advise and give loans to people starting small businesses. The proposed institute will be run by ACCION Chicago, an area small business lender. Emanuel said ACCION will administer grants from a $1 million loan pool funded by the city to small business owners.</p><p>The lender training program will also be run by ACCION and cost $245,000, funded by third-party grants. Citibank is also contributing $100,000 to help set up the institute.</p><p>Emanuel said small loan institutions are important, because small businesses sometimes struggle to get traditional loans from banks.</p><p>"That's the hardest first step, that's the hardest loan," said Emanuel. "You don't have a proven model. You don't have a proven record. You don't have credit that they can look at. That's what makes microlending a unique space to operate in."</p><p>Jonathan Brereton, ACCION's executive directors, said the organization's average small business loan is $7,500.</p><p>Emanuel's proposal still needs City Council approval.</p></p> Tue, 06 Dec 2011 22:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-proposes-new-lending-program-small-businesses-94658 Rustbelt city wants immigrants, skilled or not http://www.wbez.org/content/rustbelt-city-wants-immigrants-skilled-or-not-0 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-30/2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-30/3.JPG" style="width: 605px; height: 404px;" title="Deserted houses like this one mar Dayton’s East End. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)"></p><p style="text-align: left;">Lifelong Dayton resident Monica Schultz, 36, brings me to the East End block where she grew up. “This whole street was full of families,” she says. “Kids were running around playing, all within my age range.”</p><p style="text-align: left;">Now no kids are in sight.</p><p style="text-align: left;">Schultz points to a half dozen abandoned houses, including one right next door to her family’s place. She says the city has boarded it up a few times but stray cats keep finding their way in.</p><p style="text-align: left;">“We had a flea infestation problem,” she tells me. “People walking by could see the fleas or feel the fleas or get the fleas. All of the yards in the neighborhood here were becoming infested with fleas.”</p><p style="text-align: left;">Schultz says the city can’t keep up with houses like this. “It’s one of many that need to be bulldozed,” she says. “But it’s on a list.”</p><p> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 0pt 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted rgb(170, 33, 29); margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; }ul { margin-left: 15px; }li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 0pt 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-06/FC-logo-sm_0.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 38px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-28/great-lakes-workers-faring-better-canadian-side-border-94389">Workers faring better in Canada</a></strong></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/using-sound-find-leaks-and-save-dollars-94303">Using sound to find leaks and save dollars</a></strong></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/gas-drilling-could-take-air-out-offshore-wind-93875">Gas drilling could take air out of offshore wind</a></strong></li></ul></div><div class="inlineContent">&nbsp;</div></div><p>Dayton’s population has been shrinking since the 1960s. Most of the area’s factory jobs are long gone. To save the city, Schultz has embraced a new idea: Help immigrants and refugees lay roots in Dayton.</p><p>Schultz, who owns a small marketing firm, helped lead community meetings that generated a 72-point plan called “Welcome Dayton.” City commissioners approved the plan this fall. The points range from better immigrant access to social services, to more translations of court materials, to grants for immigrants to open shops in a dilapidated commercial corridor, to a soccer event that supporters envision as a local World Cup tournament.</p><p>Schultz tells me the plan could revive a Dayton entrepreneurial spirit that sparked inventions ranging from the cash register to the airplane. “You would have small businesses,” she says. “You would have coffee shops and you would have bakeries and you would have specialty grocery stores.”</p><p>Dayton is among several rustbelt cities suffering from population loss and brain drain. To create businesses and jobs, some communities are trying to attract immigrants, especially highly educated ones. Dayton stands out for the attention its plan pays to immigrants without wealth or skills.</p><p>The plan even addresses people without permission to be in the country. One provision calls for police officers to quit asking suspects about their immigration status unless the crime was “serious.” Another point could lead to a city identification card that would help residents do everything from open a bank account to buy a cell phone.</p><p>City Manager Tim Riordan, Dayton’s chief executive, says welcoming all types of immigrants will make the area more cosmopolitan. “I think there would be a vibrancy,” he says. “We’d start to have some international investment of companies deciding they ought to locate here.”</p><p>Foreign-born residents so far amount to 3 percent of the city’s 142,000 residents. For a mid-sized U.S. city these days, that’s not many.</p><p>But Dayton’s immigrants and refugees are increasing their numbers and, Riordan says, they’re already making a difference. He points to a neighborhood north of downtown where some Ahiska Turks have settled. “They were refugees in Russia," he says. "Here they’ve bought houses. They’ve fixed them up. And, sometimes when I talk to hardware store owners, people will come in and they’ll buy a window at a time. ‘I’ve got enough money to put in another window.’ It’s slow-but-sure change.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-30/2.JPG" style="margin: 4px 18px 2px 1px; float: left; width: 275px; height: 280px;" title="A Dayton pizza parlor run by Ahiska Turks adds life to a decaying neighborhood. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)"></p><p>Not everyone in Dayton is on board with the plan.</p><p>In a corner tavern on the East End, a 62-year-old bartender serves the only customer what she calls his last can of beer for the night. It’s a Friday, just 11 p.m., but she’s closing. “The owner can’t pay me to stay any longer,” she tells me, speaking on condition I don’t name her or the bar.</p><p>The bartender says the tavern could be on its last legs and tells me what happened to three other East End bars where she worked. They all shut down. She says that’s because many of the neighborhood’s Appalachian families, who arrived for manufacturing jobs after World War II, have moved away.</p><p>“NCR closed down, Dayton Tire and Rubber closed down, GM and Delphi and Frigidaire,” she says, pausing only when her customer slams down the beer and bellows something about a “last paycheck.”</p><p>The bartender tells me she doesn’t like how Riordan and other Dayton officials are handling the exodus of families who’ve been paying local taxes for generations. “Why won’t he try to keep those kinds of people here?” she asks. “He wants to welcome the immigrants to come in here. What can&nbsp;they&nbsp;do? Where are they going to get the money to fix up anything? What jobs are they going to get to maintain what they fix up here? There are no jobs here. None.”</p><p>It’s not just locals like the bartender who have doubts about “Welcome Dayton.”</p><p>Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington group that pushes for strict immigration controls, acknowledges that attracting immigrants would increase the size of Dayton’s economy. “But that’s different than arguing that there’s a benefit,” he says. “Growing an area’s gross domestic product, but not the <em>per capita</em> GDP, doesn’t mean anything. It wouldn’t be very helpful. In fact, there might be problems with that.”</p><p>Camarota says the low-skilled immigrants would put downward pressure on wages for workers on Dayton’s bottom rungs.</p><p>But Italian-born economist Giovanni Peri of the University of California, Davis, says low-skilled immigrants would bring what Dayton seeks—and more: “One, they will increase the variety of local restaurants, local shops. Second, they will provide a variety of local services, such as household services, care of the children, of the elderly. Third, they will also develop and bring an atmosphere of diversity and higher tolerance.” Peri says these low-skilled contributions would all help Dayton attract immigrants with more resources.</p><p>The willingness of many immigrants to perform manual labor for low pay, Peri adds, could create jobs for longtime residents. He points to landscaping companies: “They will need people who mow the lawn but also they will need accountants, salespersons, a manager and drivers.”</p><p>Dayton’s approach—welcoming immigrants with and without skills—is the “optimal strategy,” Peri says.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-01/4.JPG" style="margin: 4px 18px 2px 1px; float: left; width: 275px; height: 219px;" title="A Dayton church translates sermons to Spanish through headphones. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)">Whether a city’s immigrant-integration plan can actually attract many people is another question. About an hour east of Dayton, the city of Columbus launched an immigrant-friendly initiative in 2002 and saw its foreign-born population grow fast. But that city’s economy is much more robust than Dayton’s. It had already been attracting immigrants for years.</p><p>The results of “Welcome Dayton” could depend on how it works for city residents like a 25-year-old mother whom I’ll call Ana López. (She&nbsp;doesn’t have papers to be in the country so I agreed not to use her real name.) López says she came from the Mexican state of Puebla as a teenager at the urging of a friend who had arrived in Dayton earlier.</p><p>López says her first job was in a restaurant with a big buffet. “We didn’t come to take work away from anyone,” she tells me in Spanish. “Rather, there are jobs nobody else wants.”</p><p>Now López and her husband have three kids, all U.S. citizens. The family has managed to buy a house. And it’s found a congregation, College Hill Community Church, that provides simultaneous Spanish interpretation through headphones.</p><p>But Dayton hasn’t always been hospitable. López says police officers caught her brother-in-law driving without a license and turned him over to federal officials, who deported him.</p><p>Looking at the “Welcome Dayton” plan, López says providing the ID cards and removing the police from immigration enforcement could make a difference for families like hers. “These families would tell their friends and relatives to move to Dayton,” she says.</p><p>That’s exactly what city leaders want to hear.</p></p> Thu, 01 Dec 2011 11:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/rustbelt-city-wants-immigrants-skilled-or-not-0 Immigrant entrepreneurs: New Chicago office should cut red tape http://www.wbez.org/story/immigrant-entrepreneurs-new-chicago-office-should-cut-red-tape-90722 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-17/forweb.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago has a reputation of being a tough place for small business owners.&nbsp;Everything from obtaining a business license to hanging an awning requires time and a tolerance for red tape.&nbsp;Well, navigating these difficulties can be even more trying if you’re new to the country.&nbsp;Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised to fix that by creating an “Office of New Americans” to identify and clear barriers to immigrant entrepreneurs.</p><p>Two things. The Office of New Americans, or “ONA,” is still just a concept. There’s no director, there’s no staff, there’s no budget yet. And second, it’s not just about businesses.</p><p>It’s supposed to help immigrants adjust to all aspects of Chicago life. Whether that be using the library, or navigating the city’s school system. But the business component will be a big part of it.</p><p>Matt Fischler is a Policy Associate in the mayor’s office.</p><p>FISCHLER: Actually, immigrants are 50 percent more likely to start new business in the city of Chicago than current Chicago residents.</p><p>Fischler’s helping create the office. He says other cities have them, and he’s looked to them for guidance: Boston, Los Angeles, Houston and especially New York City.</p><p>You can tell how important immigrant businesses are in Chicago just by visiting the neighborhoods. Many are defined by their unique ethnic flavor.</p><p>Emanuel says encouraging mom and pop shops is just as important as wooing the General Electrics and Boeings.Small businesses help drive job growth in the City of Chicago.</p><p>FISCHLER: if you’re an immigrant come to our shores, you want to start new business, that you either have the educational opportunities available, the mentoring available, and the easiest process available to get the licenses you need, the permitting you need to start your business.</p><p>Here’s where those entrepreneurs go when they want those licenses. Chicago’s office of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. It’s lunchtime on Monday, and it’s busy. Three-quarters of the seats in the waiting area are taken. People are watching local news on a television screen as they wait to be called up.</p><p>Efrat Stein is the office’s spokesman.</p><p>STEIN: If there are individuals that have special needs with language, we have 6 business consultants that speak Spanish, we have one business consultant that speaks French which particularly is helpful to Haitian and African business communities, we have one employee that speaks Mandarin, we have an emploiyee that speaks Cantonese, and we also have an employee that speaks Polish.</p><p>And if someone comes in speaking Gujarat? Hindi? Vietnamese?</p><p>STEIN: Typically here we’re seeing somebody who may have a language barrier is preparing themselves by bringing an interpreter with them.</p><p>Stein says sometimes on-site translation is a challenge. But it’s not the only challenge.</p><p>NGUYEN: Most of the people, the problem is they don’t know how to do the paperwork.</p><p>This is Tam Van Nguyen. He’s helped hundreds of Vietnamese businesses get started in Chicago.&nbsp;This used to be his paid job. It isn’t anymore, but people in the community still go to him for help.</p><p>Nguyen says the license forms are pretty simple. The problem is that they’re in English. In fact, the only foreign language that the city offers the forms in, is Spanish.&nbsp;So Nguyen helps Vietnamese entrepreneurs fill the forms out in English, and then he has to coach them on what to do when they bring them to the city.</p><p>NGUYEN: “be careful when they ask you this question, this question, this question, you know. And if when they ask the question you should answer something like that.</p><p>Nguyen actually used to be able to go to the BACP office himself and file the paperwork on behalf of those businesses, but in 2008 things got complicated. The city started requiring people like Nguyen to have a something called an expediters license.</p><p>Since Nguyen does this on his own time, and doesn’t get paid, he doesn’t have the expediters license. But he’d like to see the city get rid of that requirement. Barring that, he'd like to at least get the paperwork translated into Vietnamese, and have Vietnamese-speakers in the BACP office.&nbsp;If those are things that the ONA will help to start, Nguyen thinks it’s a grand idea.</p><p>NGUYEN: If the City of Chicago to do like that, maybe it (will) make many different ethnic groups, many different immigrant groups feel comfortable and feel happy to do the business with the City of Chicago. That’s my opinion like that.</p><p>Nguyen says for immigrants, this whole process can be confusing and scary, and more than anything, it can just drag out.&nbsp;The city has promised to hire a director for the Office of New Americans at the end of this month, and have the office launch this fall.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 24 Aug 2011 10:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/immigrant-entrepreneurs-new-chicago-office-should-cut-red-tape-90722 Venture: an Oprah endorsement - blessing or curse? http://www.wbez.org/story/venture-oprah-endorsement-blessing-or-curse-86807 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-May/2011-05-23/oprahbrownies.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago's pondering life without Oprah--or at least without her show--as Oprah wraps up her talk show this week after 25 years. She'll also be shutting down an economic engine.</p><p>Over the years, Oprah's&nbsp; shared her Favorite Things - usually food - and plucked hundreds of businesses out of obscurity.<br> <br> So Venture headed out to west suburban Geneva to meet some brownie bakers whose lives and business got caught up with Oprah.</p><p>Here, at the Moveable Feast bakery,&nbsp; it smells like heaven. Owner Matt Lennert says when you get a couple of hundreds of pounds of his fudgey brownies baking, the smell is intoxicating.</p><p>The neighborhood must love those intoxicating smells from Matt and Kim Lennert's shop in Geneva.</p><p>That's where the couple runs their café and catering business.</p><p>A while back, the business transformed from storefront café to a national mail order food company - in the span of about a month.&nbsp; Matt tells the story:</p><p>LENNERT:&nbsp; We were catering for Oprah and she tried these brownies that we make and she fell in love with them. It was quite a while passed by, maybe a year and a half - and then one day a producer called and said they wanted to put us on favorite things.</p><p>BOODHOO: So did you think at the time, when you got the call - and said - hey we want to put the fudgey brownies on the show - did you think yay, or did you think yikes - this might be a bad thing?</p><p>LENNERT: We definitely thought both.&nbsp; We were of course really excited. But we were concerned - we wanted to make sure could sort of insulate our existing customers - we had heard horror stories from some business who had been featured and they weren't ready for it and they weren't able to handle the volume.</p><p>The Lennerts had 10 workers. They were making brownies in small batches, stirring by hand about 20 pounds at a time. They knew they would have to be ready to make hundreds - it actually turned out to be thousands of pounds - of fudgey brownies.</p><p>LENNERT: Well, we're a really small business. We're in an old house, kind of a quaint little historic neighborhood. And, we at the time we sold the brownies on a plate, in our shop. So we had to actually come up with a whole retail package so we could offer the whole shipping and fulfillment side. We didn't have a commerce web site so we had to put that in place, and then call centers to take orders. And all of those things had to happen in a really short period of time.</p><p>BOODHOO: So this was back in 2005. What kind of impact did it have on your business back then?<br> LENNERT: Back then it was immediate. The phones starting ringing, literally immediately. We brought a TV in the kitchen to watch it, and we had champagne and it was great. But they said our name and literally, the phones literally starting ringing off the hook.<br> BOODHOO: Now that it's been five years. What kind of effect has it had?<br> LENNERT: We had the immediate boost in sales for the first year, and then the year after that too. Um in the long term it's been exposing so many people to our business, has been the huge value to us.</p><p>At the peak in 2006 Moveable Feast had 50 employees, including at call centers and doing shipping.&nbsp; Business has calmed down some since then and a smaller staff is back to baking brownies in the café kitchen.</p><p>But Matt Lennert says mail order customers are still adding about 10 percent to the company's sales.</p><p>Going from a neighborhood café to a nation-wide mail-order business is risky. It takes planning and, according to economist Craig Garthwaite, a savvy business strategy.</p><p>That's what he teaches at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. We met up to talk strategy at the Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread and Wine in Lakeview.</p><p>Garthwaite is a big fan of their cheese. So is Oprah--it's made O magazine's Favorite Things list two years running.</p><p>GARTHWAITE: The benefit to being on Oprah is that it's for a small business in particular is that it is an advertising buy that they could never do on their own.</p><p>That's an opportunity, Garthwaite says, and a critical juncture of success or failure. &nbsp;</p><p>GARTHWAITE: I think it's hard to understand the increase in demand that we're talking about. Garretts Popcorn in Chicago was featured in 2002, and they had a 100,000 hits on their web site the day they were featured on the show, and their December sales increased 100 percent from the year before. That type of increase in demand is really hard for a small business to adjust to. Even the largest companies. Yum Brands owns KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, this is a huge American company, to be candid, they underestimated the amount of demand that they would have. And as&nbsp; a result, they ended the program early. Well, a lot of people were upset by that. They went to use their coupon at the store, they were told they can't have the chicken, and there's a class action lawsuit against Yum brands about this right now.</p><p>The lesson?</p><p>GARTHWAITE: Make sure you have the ability to have a large number of hits on your website. Make sure you have more than two or three phone numbers um and make sure you have the inventory to satisfy people, because you don't want the people coming to your store and being perpetually unable to get the product what they want. BOODHOO: From the Oprah opportunity, which I guess, that window's closing a little bit.<br> GARTHWAITE: Oprah is a multi-spot celebrity. She has her cable network, she has her TV show, it's not just her name, she also has this monthly magazine. So if the Favorite Things list exists there, it's not going to have the same reach that it has on the daily talk show, but it's certainly going to have a lot of impact on businesses going forward.</p><p>And now for our Windy Indicator - where we pick an unlikely place to gauge Chicago’s economy.<br> &nbsp;<br> Like how many people are stopping in for a car wash? Looking Good Hand Car Wash near Cellular Field is a throwback to the days before robotic brushes soaped and rinsed off your chariot. Here, actual human beings spray and scrub.<br> &nbsp;<br> But when reporter Ashley Gross was there, they had time between cars to just hang out.<br> &nbsp;<br> CHARLES RUCINSKI: What’s actually killing us is all the rain.<br> &nbsp;<br> Manager Charles Rucinski says the rainiest April in 50 years kept customers away.<br> &nbsp;<br> RUCINSKI: They figure why wash the car if it’s raining, they might as well wait, you know?<br> &nbsp;<br> But, he says, people also just don’t want to spend money these days. He says regulars used to come two or three times a week, and now maybe just twice a month. Rucinski says it’s a big change from nine years ago when he got hired:<br> &nbsp;<br> RUCINSKI: when I first started working here, I was actually a washer and after a while you end up going home wanting to just sit in a bathtub and relax. And now it’s a lot slower.<br> &nbsp;<br> He says now they’re lucky if they wash 100 cars on a Saturday. Till a few years ago, they’d sometimes do double that.<br> &nbsp;<br> And people must be more tolerant of stinky cars these days. Rucinski says they stopped carrying most air fresheners because no one was buying them.<br> &nbsp;<br> Next week, our Windy Indicator gets its chakras balanced.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 23 May 2011 05:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/venture-oprah-endorsement-blessing-or-curse-86807 Venture Extra: Small business owner says aldermen can help navigate city government http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-04-04/venture-extra-small-business-owner-says-aldermen-can-help-navigate-ci <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-April/2011-04-04/IMAG0636.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/alderman/venture-do-aldermen-have-too-much-power-over-small-businesses-84648">Venture</a>, we explore the question of whether small business owners feel like they’re under the thumb of their alderman, particularly when it comes to obtaining licenses and permits. But small business owners’ views and experiences vary widely, and some say their alderman’s office can be a resource they don’t even realize they can use.</p><p>Take Tracy Kellner, for example.&nbsp;</p><p>Her business, <a href="http://www.provenancefoodandwine.com/">Provenance Food and Wine</a>, faced paying $11,000 this fall to the city of Chicago to renew two general business licenses and two liquor licenses. Paying all of the license renewals at the same time was going to be very tough financially. She described the dilemma in an interview at her Lincoln Square shop, where she sells everything from black lava salt to French plum pickles to “drunken goat cheese” - Spanish goat cheese soaked in red wine.<br> <br> "Out of desperation, I thought, `I don't know if I'm going to be able to keep this location open,’” Kellner said.<br> <br> It hadn’t occurred to her to call her alderman. But that’s exactly what her colleague on the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce did after Kellner described her situation. Two days later, she got a call from Alderman Eugene Schulter’s office.<br> <br> The alderman’s staffer said, “Go down to the Department of Business Affairs, talk to this person, and they’ll put you on a payment plan,” Kellner said. “That was a tremendous relief.”<br> <br> What Kellner does find frustrating, though, is that the information came to her by chance. And in this way, her story highlights the fact that in many ways, most small businesses have to go through their alderman’s office to navigate city government.<br> <br> “For many businesses, the frustration is there's no cut and dried set of processes to achieve things. No matter who you talk to at the city, you get a different answer, and people don't want to document things in writing,” Kellner said.<br> <br> “It’s only because I work with the Chamber and mentioned it to someone who works closely with the alderman, that this came about,” she said. “If someone was in another ward and didn't necessarily have rapport with the alderman's office, they may have to close because they don't know [a payment plan for business licenses] is an option. Most businesses like myself – we want to do things the right way. We just don’t always know how.”<br> <br> That’s something the incoming 47th ward alderman, Ameya Pawar, says he wants to address.<br> <br> “In many ways, aldermen have served as gatekeepers to many types of service, virtually all service, and that's led to an inefficient way of doing things,” Pawar said. “As a city we need to take a look at every process and identify ways to not only streamline them but also centralize them, so aldermen can be legislators rather than gatekeepers to service delivery.”<br> <br> Kellner says she likes what she hears from Pawar, but she’s waiting to see what happens.<br> <br> “Transparency is something everyone says they want, but I do get the jaded cynicism that says, ‘Okay, that's what they say, but two years from now is anything going to be different?’” Kellner said. “I've lived in Chicago long enough to know change doesn't happen quickly.”<br> <br> <br> &nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 04 Apr 2011 14:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-04-04/venture-extra-small-business-owner-says-aldermen-can-help-navigate-ci Venture: Do aldermen have too much power over small businesses? http://www.wbez.org/story/alderman/venture-do-aldermen-have-too-much-power-over-small-businesses-84648 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-April/2011-04-03/IMG_3573.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The biggest economic news in Chicago this week may be what happens in politics.<br> <br> On Tuesday voters in Chicago will choose almost a third of the city council. And for small business owners, that has big ramifications. They know their success can hinge on who their alderman is.<br> <br> In Lincoln Square, just north of Lawrence on Western Avenue, a block of small business owners learned firsthand a few years ago how powerful an alderman can be. Alderman Eugene Schulter of the 47th ward pushed forward a proposal for the city to acquire their properties and sell them to a private developer to turn into condos and retail stores.<br> <br> Tim Van Le owns Decorium Furniture in the targeted block. Now, three and a half years later, he still heaves a sigh when he describes how it felt knowing he might have to relinquish his store.<br> <br> “Absolutely we feel so hopeless,” Le said. “We really felt like we had no word.”<br> <br> Just next door is Chicago Soccer, which sells cleats and other soccer gear. Imre Hidvegi is one of the owners. He led the campaign to fight Alderman Schulter's plan.<br> <br> “It steamrolled so quickly we didn’t even have a chance to sit down and ask wait, why, how, what’s going on here? I equate it to a violent attack,” Hidvegi says with a laugh.<br> <br> He can laugh now because they rallied enough protesters to get Alderman Schulter to drop the idea. Schulter didn't respond to calls seeking comment.<br> <br> That attempted land grab was pretty brazen, but every day aldermen are asked to sign permit applications for things like awnings and sidewalk cafes. And they get notice from the city for every building permit and license application. That can have business owners feeling like they have to make nice with their alderman.<br> <br> George Fink is president of the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce. He says he senses fear on the part of small business owners.<br> <br> “That’s the general feeling in the public that oh well, we can’t do anything unless we go through the alderman to do it,” Fink said. “Is that a good feeling for free people? No, I don’t think so.”<br> <br> Elizabeth Milnikel agrees. She's researched the regulatory environment in Chicago as part of her work as director of the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago. It’s a law clinic with a libertarian bent that works with lower-income entrepreneurs. She says Chicago's political system vests too much control in each individual alderman.<br> <br> “It puts a lot of power in one person and that person can be the gatekeeper for a business that’s really trying to get started, trying to flourish in a community,” Milnikel said.<br> <br> Milnikel says making things easier for small businesses is even more important right now as the city tries to pull out of the recession and create jobs. But she says some businesses can’t even get off the ground if they don’t have buy-in from the alderman. She cites the case of one of her clients who wants to open up a day care but was told by the alderman there were already enough day cares in the area.<br> <br> “She has held this building and paid property taxes for over a year now, [but] she hasn’t even been allowed to start building it up as a day care,” Milnikel said. “Meanwhile this block has yet another empty building sitting there.”<br> <br> Alderman Vi Daley, who’s leaving the 43rd ward, says she worked hard during her 12 years to fill empty buildings. Still, she says it’s the alderman’s job to make decisions.<br> <br> “I mean an alderman certainly knows their community, knows the street and you could probably reach out to chambers and get their input if they’re active on the street, but I guess, who would then make that decision?” Daley said.<br> <br> In Lincoln Square, where those small store owners pushed back, Alderman Schulter is leaving office after more than 35 years.<br> <br> Small business owners say they’re excited about his replacement – a young Northwestern University staffer named Ameya Pawar, who ran as an underdog and won. Pawar says what’s needed for local businesses is more transparency.<br> <br> “I think this is probably endemic in the city of Chicago where campaign contributions are linked to things actually getting done – to signs or awnings processes getting taken care of,” Pawar said. “And I think moving forward what we need to do is create a climate where businesses in the ward and all wards in the city of Chicago feel like they understand how to get a license, how to get a permit, and I don’t think we have such a climate at this point.”<br> <br> Entrepreneurs say they like what they hear from Pawar, but after years of doing business in Chicago, they’ll believe it when they see it. And in 14 wards across the city tomorrow, small business owners will be watching election returns closely to see who will be their new gatekeeper.<br> <br> Each week on Venture, we bring you something called our Windy Indicator – a fresh way to understand the climate of the economy.<br> <br> It could be sunny. Or it could be stormy.<br> <br> One person who’s banking, literally, on April showers is Jeff Hodgson, founder and president of Chicago Weather Brokerage - a brokerage for precipitation. He says the amount of rain we get can be a strong indicator for all sorts of sectors of the economy.<br> <br> “A lot of people talk to me and they talk about speculating. ‘Wow, I can’t believe you can trade rain or snow. Now you’re betting on the weather,’” Hodgson said. “And the answer I always get back to people is, ‘You’re investing all this money into a marketplace where the main revenue driver is something you cannot control. You’re the one speculating here.’”<br> <br> The Chicago Mercantile Exchange started selling rain contracts six months ago. The whole idea is that farmers, golf courses, outdoor music venues, and fertilizer companies could treat the rain contracts as a sort of insurance. Heavy rainfall could be an economic disaster for those businesses. But so far – it’s been a hard sell.<br> <br> “Farmers understand how to trade crops – crop futures. You know, wheat, corn, soy beans, things of that nature,” Hodgson said.<br> <br> But Hodgson says it’ll take some time to get customers used to the idea of putting money on the weather – something you probably don’t think about buying.<br> <br> Next week – our Windy Indicator goes premium at the gas pump.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 04 Apr 2011 05:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/alderman/venture-do-aldermen-have-too-much-power-over-small-businesses-84648