Owners of small businesses need information in their own language, not that of government officials, an Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce official told village leaders this week.
Jim Platt, the chamber's business development director, presented his first report Monday on the joint effort between the chamber and village focusing on small-business retention, education and assistance. The village last year agreed to give the chamber $50,000 a year for three years to boost small-business efforts, allowing village staff to concentrate on larger companies.
Platt his job so far is mainly to listen to business people and urge them to take advantage of services offered in Arlington Heights from the village, library, park district and chamber.
"A business that is looking to come into town wants to know how do I finally get open now that I've signed a lease," he said.
Charles Witherington-Perkins, the village's director of planning and community development, said the partnership already has produced small results. For example, a business owner concerned that construction equipment was taking parking away from potential customers worked with village staff to find a solution.
Platt said he has not spoken with any businesses on the verge of closing shop and moving out of the village, but a number of people indicated they might not open their business in the village if they had it to do over again. Platt tried to explain to them that it wasn't the town that frustrated them but a process that would be similar elsewhere.
Trustee Jim Tinaglia said he hopes the program produces ideas on how the village should address issues facing small businesses.
"We can find relatively quickly that certain businesses have certain needs in things like parking or signage," he said. "Maybe there will be opportunities for adjustments in the village code or ordinances to fix these things."
Trustee Bert Rosenberg suggested the village could educate landlords to tell prospective tenants about expenses, permits and headaches in their future when they open a business.
Platt, who was an owner of Sylvia's Flowers for many years, said entrepreneurs are different.
"Sometimes we speak a different language. Our ears are tuned more creatively," he said. "I understand what they're feeling and understand the effort that it takes to do what they do every day."
He said he has ideas on how to make it easier for business owners to get the information they need when they need it, and in the future if village officials ask he will discuss these.
The organizations define a small business as having fewer than eight employees and 2,000 square feet.