WBEZ | Small business http://www.wbez.org/tags/small-business Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Mold-A-Rama-rama! The secrets behind Chicago's plastic souvenir empire http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/mold-rama-rama-secrets-behind-chicagos-plastic-souvenir-empire-113794 <p><p><em>&ldquo;Jack put the coins in and I remember standing with him at the machine saying, &lsquo;Look at how f---king cool this is! Look at those dials moving! This is so bad--s!&rsquo;&rdquo;</em></p><p>How often do you hear a story about a rock star freaking out at a museum? According to Ben Blackwell, head of production at Third Man Records, this was Jack White&rsquo;s reaction when he purchased a John Deere tractor mold from the Mold-A-Rama machine at Chicago&rsquo;s Museum of Science and Industry, which they visited together during some downtime on the White Stripes&rsquo; 2005 tour.</p><p>That&rsquo;s right, Mold-A-Rama: that space-age looking vending machine found at most major Chicago tourist spots, including both zoos, the Willis Tower, and the Field Museum. Here how it works:</p><p>You insert two bucks, and hydraulic arms under a plastic bubble press two halves of a metal mold together.</p><p><img alt="" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/moldarama/moldgif11111.gif" style="width: 479px; height: 270px;" /></p><p>After 60 seconds of histrionic gadgetry, the contraption spits out a polyethylene tchotchke that smells like melted spatula.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/moldarama/moldgif222.gif" style="width: 480px; height: 270px;" /></p><p>It&rsquo;s an old-school 3-D printer, except it&rsquo;s faster, clunkier and makes only one thing.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/moldarama/moldgif333.gif" style="width: 480px; height: 270px;" /></p><p>White and Blackwell liked Mold-A-Rama so much <a href="http://archive.tennessean.com/VideoNetwork/2196183966001/Third-Man-Records-shows-off-its-Mold-A-Rama" target="_blank">they bought a machine for their record shop in Nashville</a>.</p><p>Julie Piacentine, a Californian who became enchanted with Mold-A-Rama when she moved to Chicago, lacked the funds to do that. So instead, she sent us this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>I heard that Chicago has the most Mold-A-Rama machines. Is that true? How did we get so lucky?</em></p><p>As it turns out, the first part of Julie&rsquo;s question is easy to answer because nearly every Mold-A-Rama machine in a public space is owned by one of two companies: Unique Souvenirs in Lake Wales, Florida, and Mold-A-Rama Inc., in Brookfield, Illinois.</p><p><a name="locations"></a>Here&rsquo;s a tally of Mold-A-Rama machines by metro area:</p><table border="1" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 620px"><tbody><tr><td><p><strong>MIDWEST: &nbsp;66 total</strong></p><p>Toledo, Ohio - 12</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/mold-rama-rama-secrets-behind-chicagos-plastic-souvenir-empire-113794#tally"><em>Chicago-area, Illinois - 27*</em></a></p><p>St. Paul, Minnesota - 4</p><p>Dearborn, Michigan - 10</p><p>Milwaukee, Wisconsin - 13</p></td><td><p><strong>FLORIDA</strong></p><p>Miami - 12</p><p>Ft. Lauderdale - 1</p><p>Tampa - 21</p><p>Sarasota - 1</p><p>Orlando - 6</p></td><td><p><strong>TENNESSEE</strong></p><p>Knoxville - 8</p><p>Nashville - 1</p></td><td><p><strong>TEXAS</strong></p><p>San Antonio - 8</p></td></tr></tbody></table><p>Clearly, Chicago wins, with 27 machines. But it was the second part of Julie&rsquo;s question that&rsquo;s intriguing: How did we get so lucky? To answer that, we need to find out how the Mold-A-Rama business in Chicago came to be, and what makes it tick.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The heart of Mold-A-Rama</span></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="550" src="//cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=1N635WIZN1DsMH_aD-AGuRdAS9U7RvaFFMGLZ_82zEQY&amp;font=Default&amp;lang=en&amp;initial_zoom=2&amp;height=550" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;Surrounding Lake Michigan is pretty much the heart of Mold-A-Rama,&rdquo; says Paul Jones, who co-owns <a href="http://mold-a-rama.com/" target="_blank">Mold-A-Rama Inc.</a> with his father, Bill Jones. The company is based out of a small storefront in west-suburban Brookfield, just five minutes from the zoo, and they maintain most of the Mold-A-Rama machines in the Midwest.</p><p>Julie&rsquo;s use of the term &ldquo;lucky&rdquo; is apt, since Bill Jones essentially founded the local company on a whim in 1971. He was a Michigan State grad with a high-paying, but dull job in accounting. His secretary was married to the Mold-A-Rama operator who owned all the machines in Chicago. When she revealed that she and her husband wanted to retire, Bill offered to buy their business.</p><p>&ldquo;At the time my dad made that comment, he did not really know what the business was,&rdquo; says Paul, &ldquo;and having a successful job with five kids, my dad&rsquo;s family kind of looked at him like he was out of his mind.&rdquo;</p><p>The gamble paid off, though, with the business surviving spikes in the price of plastic, sales slumps and the 2008 recession. They&rsquo;ve also been able to raise prices here and there. The figurines originally cost 25 cents; for the past four years, the price has been two dollars. Paul says it will stay there until the price of oil goes up again.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not really movers and shakers, out to take over the world with Mold-A-Rama,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re here to maintain and make a living. I have three college-age kids.&rdquo;</p><p>Paul adds that &ldquo;family&rdquo; is part of the operation&rsquo;s longevity.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/paul%20and%20dad%202015.jpg" style="height: 408px; width: 620px;" title="Paul Jones and his dad, Bill, who co-own Mold-A-Rama Inc. (Photo courtesy Paul Jones) " /></div><p>&ldquo;I get to work with my dad every day, who&rsquo;s one of the coolest and nicest guys you&rsquo;d ever want to meet,&rdquo; he says, adding some of his favorite memories involve early-morning maintenance work at places like Brookfield Zoo. &ldquo;You can walk and watch the animals, and talk to some of the keepers, and you get treated a little differently because you&rsquo;re the son of the Mold-A-Rama man.&rdquo;</p><p>The mold boat is kept afloat by more than family ties, though; it also happens to have a specific business strategy.</p><p>Mold-A-Rama competes with other souvenirs: flashy toys, plush animals, educational videos, reusable mugs and shot glasses. The secret to Mold-A-Rama is that it avoids zoo and museum gift shops altogether. The company has profit-sharing agreements with its hosts, and the machines are scattered throughout client locations, often offering figurine likenesses very near their real-life counterparts. At the Brookfield Zoo, for example, the gorilla figurine is on sale inside the ape house. Clever parents will avoid taking their children to the gift shop for fear of spending too much, only to succumb to a cute, two-dollar figurine.</p><p>Paul claims this strategy was part of Mold-A-Rama from the beginning. &ldquo;The more points of sale you have, the better the retail is,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s an impulse.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/moldfactory.jpg" style="height: 348px; width: 620px;" title="The Mold-A-Rama warehouse in Brookfield, Illinois. (WBEZ/John Fecile)" /></div><p>Another reason why Paul is able to stave off competition is that no new Mold-A-Rama machines have been manufactured since the 1960s. Mold-A-Rama, Inc., and Florida operator Tim Striggow are essentially maintaining the original stocks of machines: cleaning them, making repairs, and adding new parts on occasion. Every Mold-A-Rama machine you can see &mdash; in Chicago or Florida or in Jack White&rsquo;s record store &mdash; is at least a half-century old.</p><p>This is only possible because the machines &mdash; manufactured in Chicago, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/jackpot-chicagos-hold-pinball-industry-and-artistry-110175">along with pinball machines</a> &mdash; were so well-built in the first place.</p><p>&ldquo;In today&rsquo;s world, vending machines are meant to last three to four years,&rdquo; Paul says. &ldquo;They take &lsquo;em out, &nbsp;junk &lsquo;em, make new ones. I think they would laugh if you told them to make you a machine that was gonna last 50 years.&rdquo;</p><p>During a recent walk-through of his warehouse, Paul shows off has a dozen machines in various states of repair. He&rsquo;s nervous about us or anyone else taking photos, though, and maybe he&rsquo;s right to worry; if someone got the details of how his machines function, he says, they could build their own, and that would blow this whole thing wide open. A Disney &ldquo;imagineer&rdquo;, James Asher, <a href="http://ashermade.com/2015/08/07/mini-molder-finished-photos/">actually reverse-engineered his own mold machine</a>, and, while he maintains the project is just a hobby, it&rsquo;s possible to imagine mouse-shaped clouds on the horizon.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The future of mold</span></p><p>What does the future hold for this niche of all niche industries? Costs are low, Paul says, and the strategy is already laid out: keep selling figurines at two dollars a pop. According to him, sales this year are better than ever.</p><p>He feels the company will keep up the momentum, since people just enjoy seeing something tangible made right before your eyes.</p><p>&ldquo;Mold-A-Rama machine is America 20 years ago, maybe 30 years ago, when we were all about manufacturing,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It just brings people back to probably a simpler time.&rdquo;</p><p>We&rsquo;ve been learning that there are more reasons behind the souvenir&rsquo;s longevity, though. An active online community shares photos and stories about the figurines, and our own call for Chicagoans&rsquo; experiences with Mold-A-Rama show people notice &mdash; and even love &mdash; the figurines&#39; quirks: the colors, the designs and, of course, the smell.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/moldarama/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/roundupembed.png" style="height: 378px; width: 620px;" title="Click to explore Curious City's Mold-A-Rama roundup." /></a></div><p>As you can see in the responses, nostalgia&rsquo;s part of the souvenir&rsquo;s ongoing success. Mold-A-Rama fans are a multigenerational bunch, from grandparents who encountered the machines decades ago to grandkids experiencing it for the first time. Collectors often shell out <a href="http://www.ebay.com/itm/VTG-Weeki-Watchee-Florida-Springs-Mermaid-MOLD-A-RAMA-Mold-A-matic-Souvenir-/121794113040?hash=item1c5b7eae10:g:G-EAAOSwrklU9MWs">more than $200 for a rare figurine</a>, and some pay up to $15,000 for their own machine, like Jack White.</p><p>Fifty years of accumulated memories is part of the Mold-A-Rama legacy and a major reason that Mold-A-Rama&rsquo;s &ldquo;luck&rdquo; is unlikely to run out any time soon.</p><p><span style="font-size: 24px;">About our questioner</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/qaskerandmoldville.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Questioner Julie Piacentine and Mold-A-Rama Inc. co-owner Paul Jones at the businesses' headquarters in Brookfield, Illinois. (John Fecile/WBEZ)" /></p><p>University of Chicago librarian Julie Piacentine grew up in California, but lucky for us, she moved to the Mold-A-Rama heartland as an adult.</p><p>&ldquo;I first learned of them in Michigan,&rdquo; she recalls, &ldquo;but it was really in Chicago where it occurred to me that they are thing.&rdquo;</p><p>After telling coworkers that she was heading to the Brookfield headquarters of Mold-A-Rama, Inc., to help report this story, co-workers flew out of their offices with Mold-A-Ramas in hand to share their own stories.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s clearly this persistent love for Mold-A-Rama machines,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Julie herself may have missed out on this quirky regional obsession as a kid, but now she says that she finally has that childhood memory she was looking for, albeit in adulthood.</p><p><em><a name="tally"></a>Special thanks to coin-op history wizard Dave Slabiak for research help.</em></p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this report misspelled the name of a farm implement manufacturer. The correct spelling is John Deere.</em></p><p><em>John Fecile is writer, filmmaker, and current intern at Curious City. Follow him @johnfecile.</em></p><hr /><p>*Our count of Chicago&rsquo;s Mold-a-Ramas included <a href="http://mold-a-rama.com/index.php?p=1_17_Molds-in-Production" target="_blank">machines operated by the Jones family in the city proper and the Brookfield Zoo</a>, as well as privately-owned machines at the <a href="http://volocars.com/">Volo Auto Museum</a> and the Chicago toy boutique <a href="http://rotofugi.com/">Rotofugi</a>, featuring <a href="http://www.roto-a-matic.com/">molds designed by artist Tim Biskup</a>.</p><p>If you know of any other Mold-a-Rama machines in public places that we missed, please notify us by leaving a comment on this page or by emailing <a href="mailto:curiouscity@wbez.org" style="font-size: 10px;">curiouscity@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 17:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/mold-rama-rama-secrets-behind-chicagos-plastic-souvenir-empire-113794 Amazon takes aim at Etsy with new craft site http://www.wbez.org/news/amazon-takes-aim-etsy-new-craft-site-113253 <p><p>Amazon is firing yet another shot at a competitor. This time it&#39;s a mega-artisanal shot, at Etsy &mdash; the popular craft site. The e-commerce giant on Thursday launched Handmade, a new marketplace for, well, handmade goods. This could be wonderful news for the artisan movement, or terrible news for Etsy, its staunchest supporter to date.</p><p>Valerie Nethery got a message out of the blue, from Amazon. &quot;They emailed me directly. I&#39;m not sure how they found me.&quot;</p><p>She&#39;s runs a little shop called&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lilyemmejewelry.com/about" target="_blank">LilyEmme</a>, and guesses &quot;maybe they found my Instagram, or maybe word of mouth.&quot;</p><p>Or maybe through&nbsp;<a href="https://www.etsy.com/shop/LilyEmmeJewelry">her page on Etsy</a>.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/torchwork-8fc73b4454f008b4994535624ace5cb8ce12ea58-s1200.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 600px;" title="Valerie Nethery's LilyEmme Jewelry is among the first artisanal stores to be featured on Handmade, Amazon's new marketplace. (Courtesy LilyEmme Jewelry)" /></div><p>Nethery sells 14-karat gold jewelry that&#39;s handmade and ethical, using eco-friendly stones such as moissanite and ethically sourced conflict-free diamonds.</p><p>She&#39;s sold enough on Etsy (and through her own advertising) to make this her full-time job. And like many small-business owners, she wants to grow. So she couldn&#39;t ignore that email.</p><p>&quot;Well, it&#39;s Amazon,&quot; she says. &quot;It&#39;s such a big company. I really am passionate about what I do, so &mdash; I wanted to be at the forefront of something that I knew was going to be really big.&quot;</p><p>Amazon Handmade went live Thursday and Nethery was among the first artisans showcased on it. She says so far, she hasn&#39;t seen a flood of orders but a few inquiries asking how quickly LilyEmme can get items out and what options are available for custom orders.</p><p>Amazon is giving artisans a very seductive offer: a chance to reach more than&nbsp;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&amp;node=8445211011" target="_blank">240 million Amazon customers</a>&nbsp;globally. The store debuts with about 80,000 items from 5,000 sellers.</p><p>Amazon&#39;s definition of&nbsp;<a href="http://services.amazon.com/handmade/handmade.htm" target="_blank">definition of handmade</a>&nbsp;is quite strict. Items have to be completely factory-free &mdash; no help at all from manufacturers or a kit.</p><p>Etsy, the incumbent,&nbsp;<a href="https://blog.etsy.com/news/2015/the-next-phase-of-responsible-manufacturing-at-etsy/" target="_blank">lets its artisans use that extra help</a>&nbsp;to scale up. Vanessa Haim, a business owner who&nbsp;<a href="https://www.etsy.com/shop/Dopedoll" target="_blank">sells on Etsy</a>, says it&#39;s unclear which business will woo and retain more sellers &mdash; and buyers &mdash; over time. She asks, &quot;Well, are people going to now just want to go to Amazon for these kind of products?&quot;</p><p>It&#39;s an open question.</p><p>Etsy went public in April and is under pressure from investors to grow. This move by Amazon could cut into Etsy&#39;s bottom line.</p><p>Or, Haim says optimistically, the money Amazon pumps into marketing could make the pie bigger for the handmade industry &mdash; bringing in customers who didn&#39;t know to look before. &quot;Maybe instead of, you know, buying this product new, I can get this maybe handmade,&quot; she says.</p><p>Etsy says in a statement that it has spent a decade learning how to support artisans and sellers in a way that &quot;no other marketplace can.&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/10/08/446980229/amazon-takes-aim-at-etsy-with-a-new-craft-site-handmade?ft=nprml&amp;f=446980229" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 16:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/amazon-takes-aim-etsy-new-craft-site-113253 What’s filling the gap in small business lending? http://www.wbez.org/news/what%E2%80%99s-filling-gap-small-business-lending-111115 <p><p>Since the financial crisis, small business owners have had greater challenges getting loans. Traditional banks rarely lend those small amounts, and the community banks that typically serviced those loans have shrunk significantly.<br /><br />That lending gap has been a boon for a rapidly growing financial product called a merchant cash advance. Business owners can quickly get the money they need, but it can come at a very high price.</p><p>Edgar Jones explained that many in his position don&rsquo;t have other options. Jones asked to change his name for the story. He owns a company that cleans commercial sites. With less than 15 employees, the company makes about $500,000 in revenue each year. After booking a big job to do post-construction clean-up, Jones needed fast cash to buy more equipment. But the bank wouldn&rsquo;t approve the small loan he was looking for. So he turned to a merchant cash advance, or MCA.</p><p>&ldquo;At that time, you be so vulnerable you take it because you really need the money at that time. After that, that&rsquo;s when things either go uphill or downhill,&rdquo; Jones said.</p><p>The MCA company deposited the money in Jones&rsquo; account and began collecting on that debt the next day.</p><p>&ldquo;When the checks don&rsquo;t come on time, then they hit your account and then your account is in the negative,&rdquo; Jones said.</p><p>So when the repayment period was up, Jones said his bank account was still being drained. In order to pay off his most recent advance, he had to take on side jobs.</p><p>Jones&rsquo; credit score wasn&rsquo;t much of a factor in getting approval for the merchant cash advance. What mattered most was his daily cash flow.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s how it works. The MCA firm will deposit a lump sum into the business&rsquo; account, and then repayment can happen one of two ways. The MCA firm could collect by taking a cut of the business&rsquo; daily credit card sales. If there&rsquo;s no credit card sale that day, there&rsquo;s no collection.</p><p>With the other repayment plan, the MCA firm takes a daily withdrawal from the business&rsquo; account. If there&rsquo;s no sale that day, the MCA firm still debit the account. The repayment period is usually a short amount of time, like 90 days.</p><p>Sean Murray with the Daily Funder, a merchant cash advance forum, said it&rsquo;s the business owners&rsquo; responsibility to comb over the fine print. He hasn&rsquo;t heard of bad actors in the industry, but said he&rsquo;d be disappointed if the contract wasn&rsquo;t fully explained.<br /><br />&ldquo;At the end of the day, if they don&rsquo;t get back their money. It hurts them, too,&rdquo; Murray said.<br /><br />Merchant cash advances first came on the scene in the late 90s, but really took off after the financial crisis. Murray expects this industry to be worth about $5 billion for 2014. That&rsquo;s small compared to the personal lending industry, but it&rsquo;s big growth from the millions MCAs earned before the financial crisis.</p><p>Murray said the interest rate on an APR basis does seem high, upwards of 80 percent.</p><p>&ldquo;But what&rsquo;s important to note when we&rsquo;re talking about costs that are high like that---these loans sound really, really high--is that these loans amortize daily. And so the actual cost of the money might only be 20 percent. Let&rsquo;s say I give you $10,000 and the cost is $2,000, so that&rsquo;s 20 percent,&rdquo; Murray explained.</p><p>The MCA might be referred to as a loan, but it isn&rsquo;t the traditional personal loan with which most are familiar. It escapes the scrutiny of regulation.<br /><br />&ldquo;Merchant cash advances are business-to-business transactions. They don&rsquo;t involve consumers. The consumer protections that exist elsewhere in the market don&rsquo;t really apply to businesses. It doesn&rsquo;t mean there are no laws, and it&rsquo;s a free for all. But the laws are generally pretty lax,&rdquo; Murray said.</p><p>There&rsquo;s not really a central office these companies report to. It&rsquo;s not something that state lawmakers are keeping an eye on either.</p><p>Murray said people can certainly file any complaints with the Federal Trade Commission. He said the general industry consensus is that self-policing is the best option.<br /><br />&ldquo;Regulators come in and have a tendency to see part of the picture. It makes things more difficult for everyone else in the long run. It ends up hurting the customers they&rsquo;re trying to protect rather than helping them,&rdquo; Murray said.</p><p>Kevin Daleiden is the owner of Flange Advantage in Waukegan. He and two other men sell nuts and bolts out of a warehouse. Daleiden&rsquo;s taken out at least seven merchant cash advances. He said he&rsquo;s planned carefully for each one, but has still been caught off guard by fees he didn&rsquo;t notice in the contract terms.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the hardest things to get out of people at the very front is give me the payoff information. Give me the way I pay this back to you. There&rsquo;s not a one of them out there that will tell you the facts upfront. And they won&rsquo;t put it in writing until you&rsquo;re signing the documents,&rdquo; Daleiden said.</p><p>He said he&rsquo;s constantly getting calls, emails and letters from MCA firms trying to get him to sign a deal.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know how they get my name, but there&rsquo;s hundreds of these companies out there and I think they call me everyday. I&rsquo;ve had one gentleman that yelled at me, says &lsquo;you need to give me all your business.&rsquo; I said &lsquo;I&rsquo;ll give my business to who I feel comfortable with,&rsquo; and he actually yelled at me on the phone,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Daleiden is trying to move away from MCAs and toward microloans. He&rsquo;s now working with the Chicago non-profit Accion for his latest deal.<br /><br />Microloans are what they sound like, smaller loans to small businesses distributed by a qualified non-profit. Accion services amounts $100,000 and less.<br /><br />CEO Jonathan Brereton said it&rsquo;s a better loan option with less than 5 percent defaulting, but MCA firms can distribute the money faster. Brereton admits meeting the demand is a big challenge.</p><p>&ldquo;We think the market has a need and supply, there&rsquo;s still an enormous gap. So we think we&rsquo;re only serving about 15 percent of the market demand in Chicago,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Brereton said this past year has exploded with clients like Edgar Jones and Kevin Daleiden trying to get out from under merchant cash advances. He&rsquo;s even seen people layering them.<br /><br />&ldquo;So they take one, cash flow gets tight. They take another. We&rsquo;ve seen people take five or six loans from different lenders. All in the 100-190 percent interest range. But no where on any of the agreements does it specify the actual interest rate,&rdquo; Brereton said.<br /><br />The gap in small business lending left behind by the financial crisis allowed merchant cash advances to thrive. The product has helped some businesses increase their revenue when they otherwise wouldn&rsquo;t have.</p><p>But Kevin Daleiden said it&rsquo;s also the reason why some businesses have failed.</p><p>&ldquo;My merchant advances have made them more money than I&rsquo;ve taken home this year, and I&rsquo;m doing the work. But I did that knowing it would be expensive. I had a goal,&rdquo; Daleiden said. &ldquo;If you don&rsquo;t&rsquo; have a long term goal, a way in and a way out, the merchant advances will kill you.&rdquo;</p><p><br /><em>Susie An is the business reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/soosieon">@soosieon</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 06:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/what%E2%80%99s-filling-gap-small-business-lending-111115 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