AIBA Blog
Please update your Flash Player to view content.
Mayor, Council Members and City Manager,
Last Thursday was a very sad day for Austin. Not because there were winners and losers in the Paid Sick Leave vote but because Austin itself lost. With the exception of Council Members Houston and Troxclair, the Council clearly displayed a total disregard for the local business community. In every way possible, you made it abundantly clear that the needs of local business doesn’t matter to the leadership in Austin, Texas. And the business community heard it loud and clear. I’ve been fielding emails from outraged small local business owners for four days, some of whom I don’t know and have had no prior contact with.  
 
I’ve also spent the last four days helping the businesses who signed our appeal despite threats of retaliation from Worker’s Defense Project (WDP). Note the irony that an organization who prohibits a business from retaliation by ordinance (Section 4.19.5,) doesn’t hesitate to use retaliation against those who oppose them. Threats which they have now made reality, advocating boycotts of those businesses who dared to speak up for themselves. They may deny this, but the record is clear and evident. In response, in defense of our local businesses – the engine that sustains our community – we have taken the high road, launching an “I Stand With Local” campaign on social media and through media outlets. We are using this platform to clarify that most of the businesses who signed the appeal DO offer paid sick days. As we’ve always said, it’s not paid sick leave or the employees we’re against, it was this policy and the process that spawned it.
 
The Result
Even though you were informed that these businesses were being intimidated and bullied by WDP, you tacitly encouraged this abominable behavior by accommodating the plan that they set forth. When someone the size of Hoover Alexander is intimidated in a public meeting, we clearly have a problem. The behavior on display Thursday night was some of the worst I’ve ever seen in City Council meeting. Anyone speaking in opposition to this was openly heckled by construction workers packed into the room. You, as leaders, did nothing to quell this outrageously disrespectful behavior. No one was removed, and the behavior continued. By allowing this hostile environment you aided and abetted WDP in intimidating and discouraging any dissenting voice. This is beyond shameful.
 
In addition, I had more than the maximum number of speakers cede their time to me so that I  on their behalf, and the behalf of others to afraid to come forward in public (rightfully so, as it turns out). Yet this was denied me at the meeting and I was cut off at three minutes. Nevertheless the proponents were allowed to add time on the fly to any speaker who wasn’t finished. In the beginning it was announced that the proponents submitted a list of 20 speakers to be called first. It was pointed out that we failed to submit such a list. I have never seen this done so questioned council staff on this. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know this was even a possibility. I had not seen this in more than 10 years of occasional council meetings. These may seem like small details in the greater scheme of things but they show a clear indication of those in opposition being treated with a different set of rules and thus limiting participation. Business owners are left shocked and now angry at both the process and the result.
 
The Process
While AIBA did let our contact list know that this was in the works in November, we had 17 days from release of the draft ordinance until the Council vote. At the time of the vote, most businesses in Austin had no idea this was happening. AIBA has a small mailing list of only about 4,000 local businesses. I have fielded calls from other businesses for days. Until the news media picked this up on Friday, they had no idea this was happening. We tried to slow this absurdly fast process down. We tried to protect the small businesses from such a heavy handed ordinance by asking for an exception for businesses under 100 employees. We even tried to find a way to help the small local businesses by suggesting a risk pool that would help the small businesses pay for this. All of our suggestions were summarily dismissed. The message was, “be happy with 8 days, it started as 21 days.” Again, the needs and voice of local business are completely disregarded
 
By pitting workers against business (the theme of WDP), you have divided our community in very damaging ways. Local business is not the enemy yet the parameters of the process and tone you encouraged vilified small business owners. We’re not Walmart. We’re small business owners who are an integral part of the fabric of our community. Most local business owners don’t have ‘workers.’ They have a team, a crew, a family or at the very least, employees. Yet you’ve positioned them as the enemy by embracing, encouraging and enabling governance by mob rule. 
 
The Problem
We identified a problem in our community. We can debate how large or small the problem is but it’s clearly an issue when someone who works can’t take a paid sick day. In my discussions with business owners, most do offer paid sick days. They also offer a host of other benefits, many that their staff finds more appealing than additional paid sick days. If this is a problem, let’s clearly identify the problem by numbers, industries or any other data that would help guide us a solution that fits the actual problem, not an overreaching policy that harms more than it helps. Then we can work together to find a solution for the problem - together. This broad, umbrella, one-size-fits-all approach has done nothing but move the pain point from one segment of our community and place it squarely in another segment. We haven’t solved the problem. This is an affordability issue, not a worker’s rights issue. 
 
There is a very real cost to this policy which no one wants to talk about and that is how this will be paid for. Continuing with the workers=good, business=bad mentality, the divisive dialogue says that all business owners are wealthy and greedy. They could provide 8 paid sick days but they choose not to. For most, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. But no help or consideration has been given them. Being law-abiding citizens, they will find a way to comply with this. But that path to compliance will lead many to lay off staff, cut back hours, not advance with planned new hires, cut services, close or move out of Austin. 
 
I have one business owner who was on the verge of a $100,000 upgrade to his retail shop. He’s now halted that and is considering relocating outside of Austin. Most of the consequences of this ordinance will never be truly known. There is no survey that a planned remodel covers. Another started his business out of his house and can now hire two employees and open an office. With the unsigned lease on his desk, he has decided to open in Cedar Park instead. I know, small stores. The sacrifice of the few is worth the gain of the many. But it’s not just a few. Multiply these by thousands. How many ‘workers’ are going to lose jobs or opportunities because small business can no longer afford them. How many won’t get raises they didn’t even know they were going to get because their employer can’t pay for both? We may never know.
 
A Better Solution
Instead of ramming a policy down the throats of local business in record breaking time and fostering a hostile environment for our local businesses, imagine a different scenario. What if, as our city’s leaders, you identified a problem and asked who is affected by this? What if we bring big business, small local business, employees across multiple industries and other local leaders together and ask how we, as a community, can solve this problem? What role should government play? Small local business, you’re going to be hit hardest by this. How can government help you help your employees? Wouldn’t that be progressive!
 
Where We Go From Here
Frankly this has set the tone for the next WDP initiative. We all know this is only the beginning and there will be many more. Will mob rule seize the day again? Will you be the leaders who unite our community rather than divide it? I would like to say I hope so. And I do. But the events of the last week tell a different story. And I cannot say that I expect it. I hope you surprise me, and show the courage and wisdom to bring all voices to the table, and find a solution that helps more than it harms. One that protects workers and businesses, and that makes Austin a better place to live, work, and do business. Because that’s the Austin I want to live in. I hope you do too.
 
Most sincerely,
Rebecca Melançon
Executive Director
Austin Independent Business Alliance
The City of Austin has proposed a policy that requires all businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees. The draft ordinance is now available and is scheduled for City Council action in mid February. Read the ordinance here.  AIBA polled our members to determine our position by asking for a support or oppose vote on the draft ordinance. If the respondent was against the ordinance, we asked what changes would make the ordinance acceptable. In addition, we asked for verification of business name to assure that the answers were being provided by existing businesses. The poll was conducted January 25 and 26. Read the results and comments here.
 
AIBA is a nonprofit organization of local businesses. Most of our members are small businesses who understand that taking care of their employees is both a philosophical value and a necessity. They cannot succeed without a dedicated, reliable and happy workforce. Turnover in any business is costly. We do not view the world as workers against business or business against workers. As small local businesses, we are the workers. We see all of us in this together. Businesses provide jobs and workers help local businesses to grow. We are a team. The health and well being of the team is important. But the team is the best source for business benefits, not local government.
 
88% of respondents opposed the ordinance. The vast majority who opposed had no changes that would make the ordinance acceptable. As the voice of local business, we will follow our members’ lead and oppose this ordinance. 
 
• This is a serious overreach of local government. The study supporting this was a national study conducted several years ago. There is no indication that the study eliminated independent contractors. Following a national trend, Austin has a large and growing number of independent contractors. Paid sick days cannot apply to independent contractors as it jeopardizes their standing as independents. 
 
• The study conducted by Public Policy Polling for Work Strong Austin interviewed 600 Austin voters. 49% of those interviewed aren’t even subject to paid or unpaid sick days because they don’t work. According to the study, 29% are retired, 13% are self employed and 7% are students and homemakers. Of course they have an opinion. But should our City Council make decisions based on the opinion of those unaffected by that policy? We think not.
 
•  Let’s assume there is a problem with some in our community not being able to afford to take a day off when they are sick. These are primarily construction, maintenance and lower-wage hourly workers. If this is a problem, let’s find a way to fix the problem. Mandating a citywide policy has the potential to degrade or destroy the systems already in place by the majority of employers doing the right thing. Doing the right thing for employees and employer is a benefits policy that works to the benefit of both. Many AIBA members voiced that they have a system in place that provides the benefits their employees wanted which may or may not include specified sick leave. A broad policy like this destroys the ability for Austin’s entrepreneurs to be flexible and accommodating.
 
• Since this cannot by law apply to independent contractors, are we opening up a loophole that will encourage unscrupulous employers to reclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid compliance? The unintended consequences could be the loss of benefits enjoyed now by their employee status.
 
• Small employers will be hit hardest by this policy. Many struggle with rising property taxes and unaffordable leases. A small employer must juggle all aspects of their business just to survive. Most have told us in our surveys that they would be laying people off or cutting back hours to pay for an extensive sick leave policy. How will this help the most vulnerable business and employees when they no longer have a job?
 
• The unemployment rate in Austin is so low that employers are having to compete to attract qualified employees. This policy will tie their hands in bringing innovation to that competition. Let the marketplace drive better benefits. As an employee, if you’re not satisfied with your current benefits, another job is not hard to find. Look at local businesses…they’re looking for you.
 
• Many employers utilize Personal Time Off. It’s flexible, it’s measurable and it’s honest. By mandating paid sick time, our local government is encouraging a deceptive relationship between employer and employee. Have sick days but haven’t used them? Why let your coworkers get time off that you don’t get? Just call in sick. It’s dishonest and a system that encourages this shouldn’t be forced on businesses who are building honest relationships with employees.
 
No  one wants to go to work sick. No one wants sick employees sharing their illness in the workplace. But this heavy-handed ordinance is not the answer. AIBA opposes this ordinance, as currently written, on behalf of local business. 

Happy New Year! As we close 2017 and look forward to 2018, AIBA is focused on ways we can bring more business in your doors, programs that educate the public on the values of shopping locally and becoming an even stronger organization for our members. 

We begin the new year with a new marketing campaign: LOCALIZEIt! You may have already seen billboards throughout Austin with this slogan on them. These billboards are generously donated by Regan Outdoor Advertising. (If you're thinking of using billboards to promote your business, go to the company that supports AIBA and you!). But this campaign goes much farther than billboards. Look for it in social media, print and broadcast. No matter what you're purchasing—LOCALIZEIt!

While we're getting customers to LOCALIZEIt!, we're asking you to do the same. So what about you, local business owner? Now that you see the value in your customers shopping locally, do you? Where do you buy all the goods and services needed for your business? Granted, you can’t buy everything locally but you can shift as much as possible to your fellow local businesses.

Need office supplies? Localize It. Need an accountant? Skip the national firms and Localize It. Same with employee benefits, insurance and payroll services—Localize It. Office furniture, vending services, decor—Localize It! Most of your needs can be taken care of by a local company.
 
And this is what the AIBA Community is all about—supporting one another and growing all our businesses. Before you make that next purchase, from paper clips to cars, Localize It!
1. Love Your Locals—Including You!
We're declaring February Love Your Locals Month. Share the Love! AIBA has created this Love Your Locals program to build identity and customer loyalty for you with February as the kickoff of a year of love. Take advantage of this free promotion now. AIBA members can showcase their business online! Send us a photo and 100 words to promote your February specials and offerings. We'll post it to the website and promote your business through all our social media. It's just one more benefit of membership in AIBA. This program is is for retailers and consumer services only. Email your photo and text to Rebecca to participate.
 
 
2. Donate products or services for the 2018 Armadillo Awards Raffle.
The 5th Annual Armadillo Awards are coming up fast on April 26. Nominating begins in February and Voting is in March. Donate something for the raffle from your business so we can promote you for months! This is a fundraiser for AIBA so give what you can so we can keep promoting you! This can be anything. We will organize the items into fun collections for the raffle. Just let us know what you would like to donate. Email Dixie and we'll take it from there. Your name and item will be listed for your generous donation. This is an easy way to support the organization that supports you!
 
What? Not a member! Join us now to take advantage of these great promotions and all the other benefits of membership.
 
You may remember last spring the City of Austin partnered with e-commerce giant Alibaba to help Austin companies get in front of Alibaba TaoBao store owners to see if there was interest in their products. The experience was a positive one by all eleven companies who participated! We are ready to do this high energy livestream event again during SXSW 2018 with more Austin area companies.
 
If you are a product based company or know one, please share and APPLY NOW! Applications close January 12th. It is a quick application. Couple important things to note: product type & process…
 
Products of Interest: Beauty, health & fitness, milk, baby & maternity, spirits/liquors, apparel (sneakers are of particular interest), electronics, and natural based products
 
Process: City of Austin & Alibaba teams will be entering into close support with you to get your product ready for export as soon as we make final selections in mid-January. We will be setting you up with an Alibaba SP (service provider) who will handle all your exporting and importing into China for Alibaba platforms; they will essentially act as your distributor. This work will be provided at no additional cost to you, but will require your time and participation. This work will be completed before the actual pitch night so you can accept orders right away after the pitch. More info on this can be found on our website.
The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website. 
 
When Ariel Zaurov first opened his pharmacy in downtown Jersey City’s Paulus Hook neighborhood, in 2005, he was one of just a few businesses in the area. It was a tough start — there weren’t a lot of people who lived in the neighborhood, and the store, called Downtown Pharmacy, didn’t get much foot traffic — but Zaurov dug in, joining the board of the neighborhood association, donating to school groups, and working with local vendors.
 
Now, 12 years later, Zaurov has opened a second location that’s one stop away on the light rail, and he employs 20 people full-time at both locations. The Paulus Hook neighborhood is thriving, too, with a growing population, increased development, and new businesses, many of which are independent. “Most places are run by the people who own them,” says Zaurov.
 
As the neighborhood has grown, chain stores have also become more interested in it. In early 2017, CVS signed a lease for a 20,000-square-foot location two blocks up the street from Zaurov’s pharmacy.
 
It’s a familiar story, one that plays out in cities across the U.S.: Independent business owners sink roots into a place, meet community needs, and foster neighborhood growth, and then, as the area becomes vibrant, chain stores sweep in to open their own locations.
 
What’s different about the story in Jersey City is that there, the city has taken proactive steps to check this common cycle, and instead, build a model that allows for more opportunity for local READ MORE.
The Austin City Council recently approved a resolution calling for the City Manager to collect input from stakeholders about policies that would require businesses to provide paid sick leave for their employees. A set of specific proposed policies has not yet been announced. 
 
As the voice of local business, AIBA is part of the conversation shaping this policy. We surveyed our members last week seeking opinions, ideas and concerns. We received 111 responses to the survey. Read the entire survey report. This policy would apply to employees only since applying it to independent contractors could jeopardize their status as independent contractors. The discussion does include part-time and seasonal employees as well.
 
A 2013-2015 study shows that 37% of Austin’s total workforce does not have the benefit of paid sick days. The vast majority of this is in service and construction sectors. The number drops to 29% for full-time employees. Most are low-wage workers. What is not clear is whether independent contractors were included in the study. In some sectors of construction and maintenance, an estimated 30-50% of the workers are classified as independent contractors. 
 
The majority of respondents said they offer some form of paid time off (PTO). Many offer PTO which could be used for any time-off needs. 51% offer specific paid sick days. Because the policy has yet to be defined, we did not ask for a yes or no in supporting a city mandated ordinance. Yet many people answered this in the comments. The vast majority are against the City of Austin regulating paid sick days in any form. 70% of those who did not already offer paid sick days cited cost as the reason they are unable to offer it. A few are in favor of the this regulation. Although most who are in favor already offer PTO. 
 
Many who do offer PTO are against a city policy. A consistent view was that the market should regulate this. That business needs the flexibility to offer benefits that best suit their employees. If an employee wants a benefit that is not offered at a particular company, they can find employment with another company offering the benefits they seek. With an unemployment rate of 3.2%, Austin is an employee’s market. 
 
The concerns about a policy were many.
• Cost was the biggest concern. Many businesses said that they would need to cut other benefits such as planned raises, overtime opportunities or schedule flexibility to pay for paid sick days. Others would lay off employees to comply with this policy. Some even stated that they would move out of Austin city limits, citing this as the final straw from a city they don’t believe supports them. 
• Some businesses have highly customized benefits packages. They are very concerned that a single-issue policy would infringe on their own benefits already in place.  
• This policy will destroy the ability for business owners to customize whole benefits packages.
• Compliance enforcement is a concern. How will this be administered and what kind of time and resource commitment will that require of the business owner?
• Concern about tracking, accounting and managing came mostly from businesses who have hourly employees. A restaurant owner commented that just calculating how much waitstaff earned per hour was difficult with tips.
• Some reported that they offer hourly employees the opportunity to make up the time taken off. How would a city policy address this?
• Some businesses, including retail and restaurants, must bring in replacement staff when an employee is absent. Requiring them to pay for the time off doubles their cost for the hours missed. 
• The estimated cost is .25 per hour per employee. One member surveyed his hourly employees and asked if they would rather have a .50 per hour raise or a .25 per hour raise with five paid sick days. 80% chose the .50 per hour raise.
 
The ideas were few.
• Small business (under 100 employees) should be exempt.
• The city should offer some assistance in paying for this either through tax rebates or other means.
• A policy should offer comparable options such as the ability to make up the hours missed.
• Perhaps this should be PTO and not paid sick days.
• This should be defined as earned time off, not given time off.
• Should be for full-time salaried employees only.
 
Our conclusions drawn from survey results indicate that this is a complicated policy due to the wide variety of businesses that would be subject to such an ordinance. We caution the city in approaching this as a “one size fits all” solution. It’s going to be nearly impossible to create a policy that serves everyone, even every employee. No one wants people to work when they’re sick but there is a serious cost to a policy that demands specific benefits to employees. A strict policy will preclude businesses from finding innovative ways to secure happy employees and force businesses to make necessary cuts to pay for it. We hope the City Council has listened carefully to all the comments gathered through all means and proceed cautiously.
 
We will keep you posted on the resulting policy details and developments on this policy.
While most independent retailers say the growth of Amazon is negatively affecting their businesses, a large share also report being better positioned than many national chains to weather the seismic shifts underway in the retail industry.
 
A new national survey of independent retailers finds that shifts in the retail sector are playing out differently for independents than they are for chains.
 
Click on the image to download the full report.
The survey, which was conducted by Advocates for Independent Business, gathered data from over 850 independent retailers in 49 U.S. states. Their responses yield valuable insight into how independent businesses are responding to the changing landscape — and about how they perceive the way their distinct attributes set them apart from retail chains and from Amazon.
The survey comes as national chains are declaring bankruptcy, malls are going dark, and e-commerce continues to grow. Headlines have started referring to a “historic tipping point” for American retail. Reporting on the issue, however, has focused almost exclusively on national chains.
The survey’s findings include:
 
Two-thirds of survey respondents report that, despite their smaller size, they have been able to respond to shifts in their sector as well as or better than national chains have.
Independent retailers identify distinct characteristics that they say give independents an advantage over chains as the retail landscape changes. Survey respondents cite four qualities as especially important: Personalized service, connection with community, product expertise, and ability to create experiences.
83% report that there have been chain store closures in their area that have left behind vacant spaces, and 17% describe the extent of these closures as “significant.” A majority of survey respondents — 51% — report that they see opportunities for independents in widespread chain store closures.
While respondents believe that independents are better positioned to survive Amazon’s growth, 90% of respondents also report that Amazon is having a negative impact on their business.
Despite the ways that these shifts are poised to impact local economies, only 9% of survey respondents say that there has been “a lot” of discussion and coverage of the issue locally, and 43% say that there’s been “very little” or “none.”
 
 
 
The survey report also includes vivid comments from independent business owners that capture their experiences in their own words. Advocates for Independent Business is available to connect reporters with nearby independent business owners for interviews about how they’re seeing these issues play out in their businesses and communities. READ MORE.
Did you know that where you spend your dollar counts?  Did you know that spending your money with local merchants means better schools, jobs, and services for your community?  
 
A new company, Spendindie (www.Spendindie.com) will help you redirect 13 trillion dollars in consumer spending back to your local community and the things you care the most about…All by shopping online.  
 
What is Spendindie?
Spendindie is a new online marketplace, connecting the incredible world of independent and local merchants with conscious consumers around the country.  By choosing to spend with independent and local shops, you build a much stronger economy and drive widespread prosperity.  
 
The Spendindie Impact:
Spendindie’s mission is to make local shopping accessible to everyone, everywhere.   This is the Spendindie imP.A.C.T.:
 
Partnerships: with local and independent social-minded businesses 
Awareness: for the communal benefits of local spending
Community:  Better communities through the economic change and widespread prosperity
Technology: that links local and independent businesses all over the country to conscious shoppers

 
This November 17th - Impact Your Community by Spending Indie 
On November 17th, Spendindie is open for local business in Austin.  Just go to www.Spendindie.com and shop like you normally would.  You’ll be making a difference in your community and enjoying the best goods and services from around Austin.
 

Spendindie is a proud partner of the Austin Independent Business Alliance.  think local, be local, buy local.

How much did your electricity cost you yesterday? Approximately 1,800 Austin Energy commercial customers are never surprised by their electric use and costs, thanks to their decision to use the Austin Energy Web App.This browser-based application allows you to monitor the energy usage of your business from your computer or smart devices. Usage can be viewed by cost or by kWh, and in daily or monthly increments – or even 15 minute increments if an interval meter has been installed at your business. You can also register for email or text alerts that will notify you of higher than anticipated usage.

The Austin Energy Web App can pay off in a significant way by helping small business customers avoid the demand charge, which is assessed when demand for power reaches 10 kilowatts or higher over the summer months. Even if that demand for power lasts just a few minutes, Austin Energy must purchase power and build its infrastructure to serve that demand. Tracking usage with the Web App, combined with minor changes in energy consumption habits – like unplugging coffee makers or staggering the time when the air conditioning system and other machines are turned on for the day – may allow commercial customers to avoid the demand charge.

Unusual spikes in energy use may also be a symptom of a malfunctioning air conditioning system or other large equipment. Regular usage monitoring with the Web App can give you a chance to find and correct the problem before you receive a high bill.

To use the Web App, just go to austinenergyapp.com and login using your City of Austin Utilities username and password or the account number and address on your utility bill. The Web App is also available for residential customers, so try it both at work and home!

AIBA, in partnership with Distance Learning Media, has been engaged to conduct a needs assessment survey of local businesses for the City of Austin. I’m asking that you take just a few minutes today and fill out the survey. 

You have the opportunity to shape the menu of business development tools the City of Austin offers small local businesses. What business development services do you need? What could you learn that would help you manage and grow your business? What information would help you thrive? Here’s your chance to help determine the services, resources and classes the City of Austin provides through the Small Business Program. Speak out now and reap the benefits.

The survey is short and won’t take much time. Help us help you by giving just a few minutes!

Take the survey now: HelpAustinThrive.com

I would also ask that you help by sending this to your business contact list or sharing it on your social media. Please use the text above and feel free to use the image as well.

Last night’s City Council meeting (August 31) provided a big win for local business by unanimously passing the resolution that diverts Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds from Visit Austin to other community assets including local business. The resolution sets aside $500,000 for “Local Business Marketing and Programming.” 
 
While that is a significant amount of money, the real value of this vote was the groundbreaking, official acknowledgment of the value of local business to tourism. Equally important is Austin’s leadership in the nation for innovative policies. To the best of our knowledge, Austin is the first city in the nation to devote HOT funds specifically to local business. Across the nation, no other independent business alliance has been involved in such an achievement.
 
Thank you to our City Council for approving this resolution. A very special thank you to the resolution’s sponsors, Council Members Ellen Troxclair, Ann Kitchen, Leslie Pool and Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and their staff. Without their leadership and fight for this, the resolution never would have passed. 
 
While AIBA led the initiative for the local business component, the resolution also included parks, preservation and music. In particular, Bill Bunch, Director of Save Our Springs Alliance was a major force in propelling this to victory. 
 
AIBA members John Kunz, Waterloo Records; John Dorgan, Spiderhouse, I Luve Video and I Luv Vintage; Keith Miller, Authorized Credit Card Systems and Lynn Raridon, Forbidden Fruit came to City Hall to speak in favor of the resolution and in support of AIBA. The discussion began at 4:15. Four hours later, when we were called to speak, only John Kunz was able to remain and speak to the council. Thank you to all to came in support of AIBA.
 
What happens next?
This plan has a long way to go. It has to survive the rigors of upcoming budget discussions. It is not yet clear who and how this money will be administered and distributed. While we hope that AIBA plays a major role in the marketing and programming efforts, it is not designated to AIBA. The plan will be defined in the coming months.
 
But on this day, local business in Austin Texas won. 

As an independent business owner, making energy efficient upgrades to your space might seem too costly. Keep reading, because your luck is about to change for the better! If your business is on the Secondary Voltage 1 or 2 rates, it may qualify for an additional 30 percent bonus on 20+ standard commercial rebates through the Austin Energy Small Business Rebate Program. The rebated upgrades include air conditioning systems, roof insulation, reflective roof coating, window replacements, window tint, solar screens, Power Partner Wi-Fi enabled thermostats and much more.

 

Lighting system upgrades through the Small Business Rebate Program are a popular offering among businesses on the Secondary Voltage 1 or 2 rates. This program covers up to 80 percent of the cost of installing new energy-efficient lighting in your business. Below are a few more reasons to sign up today:

  • • State-of-the-art lighting can improve the effectiveness of your merchandise displays, attract shoppers and customers, engage employees and increase sales.
  • • Easy, convenient process with one contractor who will work around your schedule to avoid any disruption in your business.
  • • With Austin Energy paying for a majority of the project cost, your payback is usually around 12 to 24 months.

So, what are you waiting for? For more information about how you can make your business space more energy efficient and save money, visit austinenergy.com/go/commercial.  

I can’t help but notice the local change in Austin. Ten years ago, you might have seen an ad with “Family Owned and Operated” in tiny print at the bottom. Today, we shout “Locally Owned” from the top of our lungs in all forms of marketing. Why? Because local business owners recognize that local is a value embraced by their customers. Why? Because AIBA has been enlightening, educating and wooing your customers for more than fifteen years. 
 
So what about you, local business owner? Now that you see the value in your customers shopping locally, do you? Where do you buy all the goods and services needed for your business? Granted, you can’t buy everything locally but you can shift as much as possible to your fellow local businesses.
 
Need office supplies? Localize It. Need an accountant? Skip the national firms and Localize It. Same with employee benefits, insurance and payroll services—Localize It. Office furniture, vending services, decor—Localize It! Most of your needs can be taken care of by a local company.
 
And this is what the AIBA Community is all about—supporting one another and growing all our businesses. Before you make that next purchase, from paper clips to cars, Localize It!

Austin is a great place to live and run a business, but, let’s face it, the summers are brutal! Austin Energy has an easy way to better control your energy usage, save on your utility bill and put money back toward your bottom line with the Power Partner Thermostat Program. 

 

Austin Energy’s Power Partner Thermostat Program gives commercial customers up to $110 back for purchasing and installing an approved, Wi-Fi enabled thermostat and enrolling that thermostat in the energy cycling program.

These state-of-the-art thermostatscan give you the ability to control the temperature of one or more business facilities anywhere and anytime using your smart devices or computer. Some thermostat models also detect room occupancy for optimum energy usage, provide free monthly reports on energy savings and offer humidity control options.

Once you purchase and install your thermostat, apply for a $25 Power Partner Thermostat Installation Rebate. To receive an additional $85, sign up for the Power Partner Thermostat Energy Cycling Program and voluntarily allow brief adjustments to your thermostat’s temperature settings when demand for electricity is highest, like very hot summer weekdays between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. These adjustments occur no more than 17 days between June and September and help prevent outages community wide. Austin Energy does not perform energy cycling on weekends or holidays. 

To learn more about the Power Partner Thermostat Program for commercial customers, visit austinenergy.com/go/thermostat.

Survey available through August 25th
Through the end of August 25th, the City of Austin is asking for your input on the development of the Chapter 380 Performance-Based Contracts Policy that will establish goals and strategies to help increase workforce choices for all Austinites.
Click this link to take the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/coaincentivesurvey
Hard copies of the survey can be obtained at City Hall or by calling 512-974-1357.
The survey will remain open until 5:00pm, August 25, 2017.
Learn more about the City’s Economic Development Policy and input process here: http://austintexas.gov/investinaustin
We welcome the locally owned Bank of Austin as Texas’ first new bank since 2009. The Bank of Austin helps fill the void of local banks here in Austin. Founded by a diverse group of Austin’s business leaders and financial professionals, this is a strong local bank focused on bettering our community and building vital business relationships. As true strategic partners, they cultivate long-term, loyal relationships. They are the local bank with customized financial solutions to help Austin businesses grow, manage risk and optimize cash flow.


We’re all business. The Bank of Austin is here to provide you with technologies and capabilities of a big bank, with the personal signature service of a hometown bank. “Our promise is to provide you, your business and our community with a better bank for business. Just what you’d expect from a bank based on local ownership and local management.”
 
AIBA has been educating customers for 15 years about the benefits of shopping locally, preferably with our members. Isn’t it time you bank local?

Like clockwork, energy bills usually go up during the hot summer months, especially as air conditioners work overtime.  Austin Energy wants to help! The first step in managing high energy bills is to learn how much electricity you are using.  Austin Energy’s web app helps you do that—it tracks daily energy use and alerts customers when usage approaches a higher-priced commercial rate class. Registration is simple—all you need is your City of Austin Utilities username and password or the account number and address on your utility bill. From there, you can access the web app and start tracking your electricity usage patterns.

Of course, reducing energy usage can also help you manage your utility bills. Tips like setting thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs or compact fluorescents, and powering down unnecessary business equipment when not in use can help you save every month. You can lower inside temperatures by taking easy steps such as using fans in occupied spaces and drawing the window shades. Consider setting the thermostat to 85 degrees when your business facility is unoccupied or after business hours to help keep your energy costs lower.

You can also increase the efficiency of your air conditioning unit by making sure condenser coils are clean and removing tall grass or debris clogging the unit. Austin Energy’s Commercial Rebate Program offers 20+ rebates and incentives to assist your business in replacing AC systems and other energy-saving upgrades, such as roof insulation, reflective roof coating, window replacements, window tint, solar screens, Power Partner Wi-Fi enabled thermostats and more. 

There are really only three reasons to be an AIBA member. 
1. Because you believe in what we’re doing.
2. Because we can help you and your business.
3. Because we can embrace you in a community of your peers—the AIBA Community.
 
Everything we do, everything we offer, everything we are, falls into one of these three reasons. But these are three powerful reasons to belong to a community.
 
1. Because you believe in what we’re doing.
From advocacy for local business to educating the public about shopping locally, we focus on the needs, interests and concerns of our members. Fifteen years ago, when AIBA was born, no one talked about locally owned as a value. Now it’s part of our community’s value system and part of their decision making as a consumer. Ten years ago local business was bidding against out of town and out of state companies to get contracts with the City of Austin. Today, local businesses get 10 extra points for being locally owned—often enough to get the contract. Five years ago there was little conversation at City Hall about local business. There was a nod to small business but little recognition to the economic powerhouse that locally owned businesses represent. Today the dialogue has shifted to the impact and concerns of local business owners. None of this happened accidentally.
 
Advocacy is the one thing that we cannot do alone. It take a community of voices to achieve change. If you believe, as we do, that local business is the bedrock of our economy, culture and community, you must be a member of AIBA.
 
2. Because we can help you and your business.
What is it that you need? What does your business need? The answers will vary from more customers to employee advice to a fresh perspective to favorable loan terms and more. We work to provide what you need both personally and for your business. Need an introduction to another member? Just ask. Need a little education on social media trends. Just ask or come to one of our luncheon events. Need to gain more customers? Whether you are B to B, B to C or both, we’ll spread the word to potential customers for you. In fact, we are the only business organization (actually we are a Chamber of Commerce for local business) that markets our members to customers. 
 
Looking to triple your business? We don’t have a magic wand (although we think our community is pretty magical). Only you can grow your business. But AIBA is a great tool to have in your toolbox.
 
3. Because we can embrace you in a community of your peers—the AIBA Community.
Look up the definition of community and you’ll find “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” That certainly describes the AIBA Community. The fellowship of your peers provides more than a sense of well-being, although that is hugely important. It provides insight, feedback, understanding, advice, a laugh when you need it and shoulder when you seek it. 
 
Perhaps my favorite definition is a scientific one. “A group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat.” We are all different businesses. We are all in the Austin community. Most importantly, we are all interdependent. We support one another, both in using other local businesses for our own business and personal needs (you do, right?) and referring business to one another. By being interdependent while we’re independent, we are not alone. 
On July 17-19, AIBA asked members what they thought about the proposed expansion of the Convention Center. AIBA has always been the advocate for local business in Austin and we ask our members' opinions when the direction isn't apparently clear. As usual, local business spoke out clearly and difinitively about this issue. Read the results and comments here.
 
89% voted against expanding the Convention Center.
 
Following is the text introduction to the survey:
In order to better represent the local business community, we need to know where you stand on this issue. This is a complicated issue, so to help you consider this, we've pulled together a few bullet points and some links to more information. 
  • The Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds collected are expected to be $92 million this year and projected to reach $100 million next year.
  • 80% of these funds go to the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB—recently renamed Visit Austin).
  • Only 2% of Austin's visitors attend a convention at the Convention Center and SXSW accounts for one third of those.
  • Visit Austin claims that the expansion is needed to compete for larger conventions but SOS Alliance claims that the convention industry is flat and not expanding.
  • The Convention Center lost $24.3 million in 2016.
  • The expansion is projected to cost $600 million but does not include land purchases, lost property taxes or Convention Center loses.
  • The appropriation of the HOT funds has little to do with the expansion of the Convention Center. 
 
Additional information can be found in the Austin American Statesman's article, the Mayor's Press Release and the SOS Alliance Fact Sheet.
 
In full disclosure, AIBA has been petitioning the City Council to appropriate .5% of the HOT funds to create programs with local business for tourism. The impact of local business on tourism in undeniable yet local business does not benefit from the funds generated by visitors to our city. Local business is the creator of our local vibe, culture and local experience and should be recognized as such. 

As previously reported, I attended the Visitor Impact Task Force meetings representing local business and AIBA. My goal was to illuminate the significant, dare I say dominate, role of local business in attracting tourists. Local business and the very Austin scene we create is what people come here for. Tourists want to eat at our local restaurants, shop at our local businesses and tap a toe at our local clubs while listening to local musicians (local businesses one and all).Local business is also the economic driver of tourism. While tourists visit parks and gawk at the capitol, they spend money in businesses...local businesses to be precise. Obvious right?

While the Task Force was directed to review appropriation of the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT), AIBA was asking ofr .5% of HOT funds to create programing that tourists could partake of and promote local business to tourists. Yes, that's one half of one percent. Doesn't sound like much considering we're the cornerstone of the local economy. But the Task Force didn't see fit to include local business at all in its recommendations to City Council.

I've been busy in June visiting with City Council members about the importance of local business to tourism. It's not a hard sell. It's pretty obvious. The response has been very supportive. But, as you know, talk is cheap. The Task Force is making their recommendations but they are only that...recommendations. City Council can choose differently. Let's hope they choose local business.