Friday, March 04, 2011

Pity Bloomberg's Poor Immigrant

City Room is reporting that Mayor Bloomberg is looking to devise a program to aid in the formation of immigrant businesses-this from the is he kidding department: "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced a competition Thursday aimed at helping immigrant entrepreneurs finance their businesses and overcome language barriers and other obstacles hindering their growth.The program comes as part of the city’s wide-ranging push to assist immigrant start-ups, which fail at a higher rate than businesses begun by native-born Americans. Roughly half of the city’s self-employed workers are immigrants."

Perhaps the mayor should start with discarding initiatives that put existing immigrant businesses at risk-like the Willets Point development that will shunt scores of mostly Hispanic business owners into the gutter. Or maybe, instead of encouraging the entry of Walmart into the city, he should tell the giant retailer to stay away rather than put thousands of immigrant food store operators in jeopardy.

And while we're at it, how about cancelling Flushing Commons before that mega development harms hundreds of Asian store owners in that hub of immigrant commerce? In fact, the involvement of EDC in this faux pro immigrant effort gets the Chutzpah award, since it is that agency that has launched scores of mega developments that have made it more difficult for small, mostly minority, businesses to survive. Remember the Bronx Terminal Market that housed 22 minority food wholesalers? EDC quite expeditiously dispatched these hapless little guys to make way for a Related mall.

NYC has become a center of successful immigrant entrepreneurship-in spite of city policies that have retarded its growth.The reality is that the best way for NYC to encourage immigrant entrepreneurship is to reduce the tax and regulatory burden here-something that the mayor has made much worse in his nine year tenure. In fact, the Bloomberg administration has been the most anti-small business governments we have seen in our thirty years of representing these role models.

If you own a supermarket you are a piƱata for the Department of Consumer Afairs and its army of useless inspectors. How about a Korean or Mexican restaurant? Watch out for the DOH's regulators looking to brand you with a scarlet letter. If you run a fast food outlet-one of the most successful minority business niches-you have to spend thousands of extra dollars to comply with the ineffective menu labeling regulation-and so it goes. And we haven't even mentioned the mayor's jacking up of the commercial real estate tax in his first year-a huge rent increase for all neighborhood retailers.

So our advice to the mayor-and those that uncritically report his grandiose plans of misdirection-is to follow the Hippocratic Oath, and simply do no harm. Pilot programs of questionable efficacy are no substitute for sound economic, small business friendly, policies. Focusing attention on this kind of grandiose non sequitors, only serves to help Mike Bloomberg camouflage his anti immigrant business record.