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F1 and F2: Supporting Small Business Owners & Revitalizing Downtown

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2019 12:22:09 -0800

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Dear Council,

I'm traveling, so cannot appear before you tonight. Below are some comments related to topics F1 and F2:

  1. Small Business Roundtable:
     * Suggest recruiting from all MP commercial corridors and businesses, especially downtown, District 1 and the Willows.
     * Make more public the planned process and who will be invited. Perhaps a series of these meetings would be helpful and/or meetings supplemented with surveys. What will be the outcome of the meetings? How can interested parties help those efforts?
     * Hold multiple roundtables at different times.
     * Also ask about ways the City could help local small businesses to stay informed and to bring their perspective to Council and advisory commission meetings.

  2. MP Chamber of Commerce
     * This quasi-government body is a very important institution in Menlo Park. However, I'm not sure who (if anyone) provides oversight into the role of the local Chamber of Commerce. I would consider the current role, staffing model and how performance is evaluated and rewarded. Are their term limits? Notice: I'm not suggesting that anything is wrong. However, I am asking questions. There is also always room for improvement, no matter how well something might be working.
     * I would like to see the Chamber's role more explicitly support small retail and service businesses throughout Menlo Park. This might require the City's subsidizing Board memberships.
     * Review the composition of the Chamber's 2019 Board <http://menloparkchamber.com/about/staff-board-members/> Are small businesses adequately represented? If not, why not? Do the businesses feel that serving is not a good use of time? Have they not been asked? Or, does the fee model structure inhibit their participation in even belonging to the Chamber? Answers might be helpful.
     * I also suggest consciously designing a board to reduce the presence of large developers and large companies. I'm concerned that Chamber service could be giving an opportunity to magnify the influence of "special interests" in Menlo Park's land use decisions. Maybe have an overall board more focused on small business owners, with a special interest board composed of developers and large companies such as Facebook and any former Menlo Park City officials who now work as consultants to these companies. That might also help to attract more small business owners to want to serve on the Chamber Board. Right now, small businesses may feel that the topics do not pertain enough to their interests.
     * Studying best practices in neighboring cities could be useful. The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives<https://secure.acce.org/> also has ideas.

  3. Other suggestions:
     * Shop local campaign. I remember this from an earlier period and it still influences me to try to buy in person and downtown!
     * Consider kicking off a visioning process for Downtown. Cafe's help, but more is needed. Redwood City just kicked off theirs. At a recent panel discussion, I also heard the RC panelist say that adding a movie theater in downtown Redwood City was a purposeful act to start the revitalization process of their downtown.

Lynne Bramlett
Received on Tue Nov 12 2019 - 12:14:24 PST

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