Sutherlin should begin issuing business licenses, as long as city officials are prepared to be pro-business about it.
Most cities require businesses to obtain licenses from city hall. Some, including Sutherlin, don’t. City Manager Jerry Gillham has brought up the subject for discussion.
Councilors should proceed with the idea, but not with the intention of issuing business licenses to raise revenue. That would be a mistake. If the business succeeds, the city will profit. If the business fails, no sense in adding to the misery by having required an expensive license.
The city should charge the smallest fee possible. A large fee justified by the city administration “recouping its costs” will ring hollow.
Secondly, business licenses should be issued on the spot after the applicant fills out a short form and swears everything is true.
Facts, such as the applicant’s criminal record, can be verified later. If the applicant lied, the business is shut down. A backlog of processing applications shouldn’t hold up the opening of a business.
As long as applicants leave city hall saying, “Gee, that was easy,” the benefits of issuing icenses will outweigh the drawbacks.
All businesses already must register with the Secretary of State’s Office. The state registry provides the public with a handy reference for the people who manage, own and represent businesses.
Plus, many types of businesses require special licenses. A person can’t wake up one morning and decide to go into business wiring houses or styling hair.
Plus, there’s the matter of letting the tax man know what you’re up to.
Neither the Internal Revenue Service nor the Secretary of State’s Office, however, checks on matters that would concern city hall, and residents.
Is the business following zoning laws and fire safety regulations? Does the business have enough parking? Is it handicapped accessible? Is it following rules regarding door-to-door solicitations and outdoor signs? Is this a fly-by-night outfit roaming from town to town? Does the owner have a history of fraud?
A record of who’s doing business in the city would seem indispensable to enforcing these rules, which are important to orderly development.
Best of all, obtaining a business license could be an investment in success.
The city would have the opportunity to hand out information about resources available to businesses, particularly small businesses. Plus, the city would have the chance to make business owners aware of city rules. The city could even assemble a packet stuffed with fliers and coupons from businesses that provide business services. Businesses that want to be included in the packet could pay the city a small fee, driving down the cost of issuing a license.
If Sutherlin approaches this right, a city business license could be quite a bargain.