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Several employee benefit issues are being brought before the Austin City Council for new regulation such as the Paid Sick Leave ordinance in February. The process for the Paid Sick Leave ordinance was largely seen as destructive and divisive. AIBA would like to help steer the next process to be one where all parts of our community come together to produce better policies.
 
So what is coming? It is called many things, but some of the common names are: “Predictive scheduling”, “fair scheduling” or “secure scheduling”. We will call it “predictive scheduling”.
 
What is it? Predictive scheduling, as it is commonly called, is a policy being proposed across the nation that requires business owners provide employees with their schedule a certain number of days in advance (some municipalities are proposing as much as 60 days in advance). This type of policy can be especially problematic for many on-call employees, including restaurants and  landscaping. The policy says, if the employee is not given their schedule that many days in advance, the business must pay time and a half for those shifts without adequate advanced notice. Since the Austin policy has not been written yet, we don’t know what the advance notice is or the penalty for non-compliance but those are the key provisions. 
 
AIBA conducted a local business survey in July to give local businesses a chance to weigh in and to direct AIBA in our advocacy. 
 
95% do not support the City Council creating an ordinance regulating predictive scheduling.
 
79% of respondents said that scheduling has not been a problem for their employees. Many cited the flexibility as a benefit that their employees liked. While the answers were fairly consistent, they varied by industry. 
 
While 30% said they can and do schedule two weeks out, only 11% could accommodate advanced scheduling three weeks out. 
 
98% could not afford to pay extra for changed schedules.
 
 
This issue leaves us to wonder “What problem are we trying to solve?” There are part-time employee with multiple jobs that might have difficulty with last minute schedule changes since that could affect the schedule of other jobs. It is also understandable that if just one employee changes their schedule, the employer must change the schedule for another employee to fill in the shift. We also saw in our survey that many employees like the flexible shift model precisely because they do engage in other activities. They can take off at will by finding another employee to take their shift. 
 
According to our survey, most local businesses with shift work begin the scheduling with what the employees want and let a voluntary system work for picking up extra shifts when available. This system work most of the time for both employers and employees. It gives employees the flexibility they desire and gives the employer the needed staff for each shift. Sometimes employees work a shift they’d rather not work and sometimes employers fill in short shifts.
 
But some policies plan to penalize the employer by enforcing a possible time and a half wage on any shift that changes. Essentially, if one employee changes a shift, it forces the employer to change a shift for another employee. The employer would be penalized for accommodating the employee. The word affordability comes to mind on all fronts. Many of our respondents said that this penalty would force them to be less flexible on scheduling so as not to invoke the additional costs. In this case, employees lose the flexibility they desire.    
 
But this policy brings to the forefront a question of economic and workplace dynamics. Is it the responsibility of every small, local business to provide a job that suits every employee? Is it the responsibility of each employee to find the job that best suits their needs? If unpredictable shift work is a problem for an individual employee, then isn’t it more reasonable for that employee to find a job that fits their needs rather than change entire industries? What are the unintended consequences of too much regulation on a free market system? A policy tightly regulating employee scheduling has the possibility of denying flexibility options to the majority while delivering stability to the few. 
 
The Austin City Council will be charged with creating regulations and policies that provide our citizenry with the opportunity for a better life. But targeting small local business is not the answer. 

AIBA is excited to welcome three new boad members to the AIBA Board. Michael Searle, Executive Director of The Austin Fund, Hoover Alexander, Owner of Hoover's Cooking and Hill Abell, Founder and CEO of Bicycle Sport Shop have joined us in leadership roles at AIBA. Please join us in welcoming them. We look forward to their perspectives and experience guiding AIBA as we move forward.

We believe that the pursuit of owning a local business is the pursuit of happiness.
 
We believe that locally owned businesses run by people who care about our community are the foundation of a healthy local economy, not by creating commerce over people but by creating commerce with people. 
 
We believe that local business is more than the exchange of money for goods and services. It is the action of needs being fulfilled, of human to human interaction. The “hello, how are you doing?” from a clerk, the smile from a waiter or a warm greeting from your favorite barista give us connectivity and a sense of place. Yes, I do need a cup of coffee. But I also need your smile, the chatter of other customers, the scent of warm pastries. 
 
We believe that connectivity means more than 100 people in a room exchanging business cards. That’s an exchange of information. True connectivity comes from shared experiences, shared struggles, shared hopes and dreams. Local business owners share a connectivity because of who they are—they all had the ambition and courage to pursue a talent, a passion, a dream.
 
We believe in sharing while competing. Competition makes us all better at what we do. It compels us to push harder and strive longer. But competition should not be at the destruction of others. We all benefit from a healthy local business ecosystem and helping others is part of that. 
 
Come join us in these beliefs. Come join your peers. Become an AIBA member.

We are pleased to announce exciting changes at AIBA. We’re doing a bit of rebranding to bring greater attention to local business and to buying locally. We began by redesigning our logo. Of course Indie the armadillo is still our icon but he’s cleaned up a bit and given a sharper, fresher look. We changed the “i” to help emphasize that we’re not ABIA—the airport and bolded INDEPENDENT BUSINESS to bring greater attention to the focus of our organization.
 
In advocacy and marketing for local business, I often talk about why local business is so important to Austin. What are we to Austin? There’s the economic impact and healthy local economy side, but there’s also the cultural side of our importance as local businesses. ‘We’re local’ gives us a geographic place but doesn’t embrace the uniqueness of this amazing city called Austin. We’re more than a location. We are a way of life. We’re AustinTRUE®.
 
How do you get to be Certified AustinTRUE? Glad you asked. Join us in the only organization in town that now represents more than 1,000 locally owned businesses. We certifiy our members as AustinTRUEwith a certificate saying so and a door sticker let your customers know that you are Certified AustinTRUE. Display them proudly!
 
Know other local businesses that need to be Certified AustinTRUE? Spread the word and share the attention! Bring your colleagues into the AIBA Community through www.ibuyaustin.com/join. And tell them to put your name as referred by so we can publicly thank you for the connection. 
 
We also have new member “Local Spoken Here” door stickers. Get yours now!
 
In addition to the new branding, we’ll soon have a sparkling new website that will showcase our members even better and engage viewers on a whole new level. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.
Last year, AIBA attended meetings of the Visitor Impact Task Force to present the idea that our unique local businesses are a huge tourist draw. Not only are tourists seeking the unique Austin experience but dollars spent at a local business puts more than three times the money into our local economy. This benefits us all without tourists spending more money—just spending it at a locally owned business.
 
We were successful in getting the Austin City Council to allocate a one-time $200,000 grant to marketing local business to tourists. The money comes for the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) that visitors pay when they stay at an Austin hotel. This is also called the bed tax since it is charged per night. We are the only city in the nation to devote some of these funds to promoting local business. This was quite an achievement.
 
AIBA did submit a proposal for this grant but we were not awarded the grant by the City Council. We have been unable to obtain a copy of the proposal from LookThinkMake, LLC so have no idea what they intend to produce with the grant. But the time frame for completion was only a few months so the execution of the project should be very visible very fast. Look for a new campaign around Austin promoting local business.
Since 2012 the City of Austin has imposed or facilitated mandatory recycling programs. This is part of an effort to comply with Austin’s Zero Waste goal to reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills by 90% by 2040. 
 
The Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO) supports Austin’s Zero Waste goal by requiring affected property owners to ensure that tenants and employees have access to convenient recycling. The ordinance is intended to increase the life of local landfills, reduce harmful environmental impacts, and encourage economic development. Since last October, all commercial properties are subject to this policy. Read more in this quick and easy chart.
 
The Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO)’s Organics Diversion standards also support Austin’s Zero Waste goal by requiring food permitted businesses to reduce or divert organic material (e.g. wasted food, yard trimmings) from the landfill. The URO intends to increase the life of local landfills, reduce harmful environmental impacts and encourage economic development. While this was instituted in October 2016, all businesses must comply by October 1, 2018. Read more in this quick and easy chart.
 
If you have any questions about wither of these policies, please contact the Business Outreach Team at 512-974-9727 or CommercialRecycling@austintexas.gov.
It’s complicated. Like everything in CodeNEXT. But there may be some good news for local businesses depending on where you are located and how your property is zoned. It will take a bit of research on your part to find what your new parking rules will be but here are some links and information to help you.
 
CodeNEXT’s changes to parking can be summarized as requiring less parking yet prescriptive in the location of parking spaces.  Some of the specifics, however, are not as straightforward as in today’s code.  
 
Number of Parking Spaces
• Parking requirements are determined by zoning category (check your zoning), size of the retail space, as well as by use.  In contrast, today’s parking is determined by use only.  
• Main Street (MS), for example:  Restaurants, retail, offices and bars require no parking if a business (not structure) is smaller than 2,500 sq. ft.  Zilker Neighborhood Association has compiled a helpful chart for all zones
• If a property lies within a Regional Center zone, it will require no parking.  Regional Centers are indicated on the Imagine Austin map and include downtown. 
• In addition, there are maximum parking restrictions for some zones, including developments over 10,000 sf in Main Street (MS).  
• Commercial uses are eligible for additional cumulative reductions of up to 40% for reasons such as location in the “urban core,” providing a shower at work or providing additional bicycle parking. 
 
Parking Placement
Placement of parking spaces is very prescriptive.  
• Creates requirements for setbacks
• If parking does not meet these requirements then parking is possibly nonconforming although this is not clear like with structures and uses
• Below is an example from the requirements for MS2C. 
 
ADA Parking
If no parking is required, such as for businesses less than 2,500 sf, then ADA parking is not required.  This fact was affirmed by the city’s Legal Department.  
 
This is the third articke in a series to help you better understand CodeNEXT. Read the other blogs
Originally Published in The Hometown Advantage Bulletin, ILSR
 
Amid all the news from the U.S. Supreme Court in recent weeks, two rulings in particular have important implications for independent businesses and the future of efforts to check the power of big companies, especially tech giants like Amazon. In this episode of our Building Local Power podcast, ILSR's Stacy Mitchell and Nick Stumo-Langer dig into these two cases.
 
In the case Ohio v. American Express, the Court's 5-4 ruling has both immediate and long-term implications for monopoly power. Its direct impact is to give credit card companies wide latitude to extract fees from merchants and consumers, while its broader impact is to advance a theory that will make it more difficult for the government to bring cases against "platform" monopolies like Amazon. Nick and Stacy discuss the case, and where the anti-monopoly movement goes next.
 
In the case South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., the Court granted states the authority to require out-of-state and online retailers to collect state sales taxes. It's a victory for independent businesses, but Nick and Stacy discuss how the decision is long overdue, and how significant its delay has been in Amazon's growth and dominance of e-commerce.  Listen to the Episode
 
If you enjoy these conversations, make sure that you don't miss an episode — and help us reach more people — by subscribing in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Several employee benefit issues are being brought before the Austin City Council for new regulation such as the Paid Sick Leave ordinance in February. AIBA is seeking to engage our members and the larger local business community in dialogue about possible upcoming issues with the intent of having a voice in the larger community debate. 
 
The process for the Paid Sick Leave ordinance was destructive and divisive. We want to help steer the next process to be one where all parts of our community come together to produce better policies.
 
So what is coming? It is called many things, but some of the common names are: “Predictive scheduling”, “fair scheduling” or “secure scheduling”. We will call it “predictive scheduling”.
 
What is it? Predictive scheduling, as it is commonly called, is a policy being proposed across the nation that requires business owners provide employees with their schedule a certain number of days in advance (in some municipalities it is X days and others are proposing as much as 60 days in advance). This type of policy can be especially problematic for many on-call employees, including restaurants and  landscaping. The policy says, if the employee is not given their schedule that many days in advance, the business must pay time and a half for those shifts without adequate advanced notice. Since the Austin policy has not been written yet, we don't know what the advance notice is or the penalty for non-compliance but those are the key provisions. 
 
The City Council will likely address this issue with specific parameters that must be adhered to or penalties will be applied. The specific ordinance is yet to be written but it will determine specifications such as how much advance notice is required (could be a few days to several weeks), what happens if an employer needs to change the schedule after it is set and what penalties will apply.
 
We would really value your input on this issue. Please take a few minutes to give us your thoughts. We will share your voice with our elected officials.
 
 
This survey was created by AIBA's Better Process Committee. The Committee seeks to add civility and respect to the governance of our city and the creation of its policies. The information gathered in this survey will help us advocate for local business. All indetity and contact information will be kept confidential.
On February 15, the City Council passed the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance mandating specified paid sick days for all employees working within the city limits. (See City of Austin Mandated Paid Sick Leave Ordinance). The ordinance takes effect on October 1, 2018.
 
The Rules for Investigation of Complaints and Assessment of Penalties has been issued and it appears to be more cause for concern. The administrative rules are the details of how the city will investigate complaints regarding the paid sick leave policy and what they will do about it in what time frame. 
 
One large looming question is what defines a violation. I called Jonathan Babiak, City of Austin contact for this issue, and posed a scenario question. If an employee is sick for four days and thinks that they have earned those four days as paid sick leave but the employer thinks they haven’t, is this one violation or is it four violations (one per day). They answer was that a violation wasn’t defined so the city doesn’t know. This has been logged in as an official question now. 
 
It’s important because the business could be fined and increasing amount per incident. According to the Rules (Section 6) the business could be fined $150 the first day, $300 the second day and $500 for each day thereafter. I’ll keep you posted on the official answer.
 
But the more alarming language comes in Section 6B which states that the Administrator(the city employee who oversees the complaint) can increase or decrease the amount of the penalty under certain circumstances. Examples cited are a demonstrated hardship to the business or, on the increased side, a repeat offender. However Section 6B(1)c, states “the Respondent’s (the business) indifference toward...its obligations...” In other words, you can face an increased fine because of your attitude. The ordinance was very punitive to business but this is the only case I know of where fines can increase because of attitude. 
 
This may not be what was intended. Mr. Babiak repeatedly stated that it was for people who clearly weren’t going to follow the policy. But this is one of the results of unintended consequences from an ordinance passed in 17 days. As with so many city policies, what is intended is not necessarily what is implemented. Or is it?
 
I urge every business to read these rules and comment to Jonathan Babiak, 512-972-3200, jonathan.babiak@austintexas.gov. You have the opportunity to ask questions and leave comments but the deadline is 5pm, July 19. 
This is the second in a continuing series on how CodeNEXT might affect your business. Te see how your property is zoned, please see the first article: CodeNEXT will affect local businesses. Here's what you can do. Austin’s current code includes “safe harbor” provisions that allow structures and uses to be grandfathered even if the new code disallows them. This allows older buildings developed before setback and other requirements to be legal. These “safe harbor” provisions are not included in CodeNEXT.
 
Instead, CodeNEXT includes:
  • Language that explains how and why structures and uses will become nonconforming.
  • Minimums and sometimes maximums in setbacks, height, parking placement etc.
  • New commercial zones that do not match uses currently on the ground, such as many existing auto-related businesses not allowed in the proposed Main Street (MS) zones. 
 
Below is an example of prescriptive setbacks in Main Street 2B (MS2B) (mapped for parts of South Congress, Lamar and Burnet, among other places)
For instance, if your MS2B zoned property is less than 5’ or more than 10’ from the front property line, it will be nonconforming under CodeNEXT.  
 
In order to figure out if your property will be nonconforming:
1. Look up on the map what the proposed zoning will be under CodeNEXT
2. Examine the corresponding section of the code to find the requirements for setbacks, height, impervious cover, uses, etc.  
3. Look at another section of CodeNEXT, 23-4D-5050*, that applies to “narrow interior lots less than 65’ wide” to see if your property is exempt from the setback requirements (so therefore would be grandfathered in setbacks)
4. Measure your property to see if it meets the requirements of the new zoning  
 
The impact of being nonconforming 
  • CodeNEXT itself states that the intent is to “discourage the long-term continuation of nonconformities by limiting investments in them and restricting expansions and alterations”
  • Cannot do additions unless bring entire building into compliance
  • May be more difficult to get loans
We all know local business is, by nature, nonconforming and it's a good thing. But this nonconforming is not a good thing. Shaping how our city looks and functions is an important and crucial endeavor. Getting rid of local business properties because they don't conform to new ideas is an unfolding tragedy. Added to the alreay in full swing unaffordable Austin and we're making it harder and harder for local business to just survive. 
 
Please take the time to see how this affects your business and communicate your concerns with the City Council directly by email (http://www.austintexas.gov/email/all-council-members). 

UPDATE: When first presented with the direction and concepts of the new 380 economic development package, I applauded the efforts to focus some light on the businesses that were here and not just recruiting big business to Austin. I wrote this blog, City of Austin Redesigns 380 Incentive Policy. And It’s Good News! in support of these concepts. It appears I spoke too soon.

 

In the article I stated that the devil is in the details, details not outlined at the time. Now I find many devils in the details and I can not support this policy. I do not believe this is to the benefit of small local business at all. In fact it may very well be yet another harming policy. 

 

Frankly, it’s using small business to solve a community issue in the chronically unemployed. I question this initiative since our unemployment rate is now 2.8%. Whats left are the people who are essentially unemployable. To call on the small, local business community to take on this huge risk, compensate them with $1,000-$3,000 a year and call it a benefit for local business is wrong. This policy is not for the benefit of local business at all. I believe the local business community is being used as a sales point for a policy that holds no benefit for them. There are multiple devils in those details.

 

In addition, I have not seen the policy section details myself but have heard that many of the small business benefits will be available only to Soul-y Austin businesses initially. No other businesses or business districts need apply.

 

While these policies are a work in progress, this one seems to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Shame on me for believing. In March 2017, Austin’s City Council passed a resolution to initiate a stakeholder consultation process and develop recommendations for revising the City of Austin’s current Chapter 380 Performance-Based Contracts Policy (or the “incentives policy” as it is more commonly known.) The results of a year of community involvement are now realized in a New Economic Development Policy. I’ve met with city staff and attended a presentation of the new policy and I have to say, “Bravo.” 
 
ORIGINAL BLOG-JUNE 8: AIBA has advocated for more than 15 years to turn at least some of our economic development policies to benefit the small, local businesses that are here and not just to attract the next big business to Austin. This policy is the first real sign of that new direction. Our goal has never been to totally cease offering incentive packages for strategically selected companies but to have a balance that helps local business too.
 
Is it perfect? No. Is it all it will ever be? No. But to come from a policy that was 100% focused on recruiting big business to Austin to one that is focused on growing businesses that are here...well it’s impressive. To even find the words ‘local business’ in the policy is a major departure from the existing global business recruitment practices.
 
You still have time to respond and comment on this policy. You can review the policy here: http://www.austintexas.gov/investinaustin. Go to http://www.austintexas.gov/online-form/proposed-new-economic-development-policy to leave your comments. If you are so moved, email your City Council member. Find your council member’s email here: http://www.austintexas.gov/government.
 
What’s to like? 
 
The original 380 Policy was totally based on return for investment, hence the big numbers from big business. An incentivized business had to show substantial gain to the tax base above and beyond the incentive. The large incentives are still based on this. But now a new measurement based on enterprises that support local, creative identity and culture has been included in the policy. This is a major paradigm shift.
 
There are grants that local business could take advantage of for hiring and growing. We’re even talking about adding some relief on permitting and code compliance for small business.
 
There are loans for creative venues and healthy food programs; cultural and heritage business preservation programs and social enterprise programs.
 
The devil is in the details and they’re aren’t many details in the documentation. But this is the framework for a completely new approach. It holds the promise of our city actually supporting the local businesses that built this city and continue to make it thrive. It’s a seat at the table.
CodeNEXT has been much debated. AIBA has not taken a position on this but we do think there are a few things you should know about. City Council plans to vote on first reading on June 13th, with second and third readings in August.  Please take the time to see how this affects your business and communicate your concerns with the City Council directly by email (http://www.austintexas.gov/email/all-council-members). CodeNEXT will affect local businesses although the changes to residential have overshadowed the impact Austin’s code rewrite will have on commercial properties.  
 
Top Six Changes in CodeNEXT

1. No “safe harbor” provision for structures and uses, meaning a number of commercial properties will become nonconforming. This meand your property won't be "Grandfathered" in under existing code.  (More on this in an upcoming blog)

2. No direct translation from current zoning to proposed zoning

3. CodeNEXT is more complex and less intuitive with 58 zoning categories as compared to our current 39. (See map link below)

5. More discretion given to city staff. This means city staff will be determining seciding factors instead of the code.

6. Parking requirements
     • Decreased (for the most part), eliminated and sometimes assigned maximums
ADA parking not mandatory if parking not required
     • Placement of parking is prescriptive. (More on this in an upcoming blog)

What does this mean for our local businesses?

1. Businesses could become nonconforming and expected to be redeveloped
 
2. Increased property taxes through increased entitlements (More on this in an upcoming blog)
 
3. More time-consuming
     • Understanding the CodeNEXT zoning applied to your business and your commercial district is complicated
     • Interpreting new categories and rules that are not straightforward
 
4. Unpredictability and confusion
 
To find out what is proposed for your business, look at this map for zoning then look at this uses chart for what will be allowed.  Also see this unrevised* table for building dimensions that includes a comparison with current zoning. This is complicated but understand that grandfathering will no longer protect your business. It also enables substantial new developement as existing businesses that no longer comply with the new code may not be able to repair or grow without coming into full compliance. In many cases this will be financially impossible. 
 
*Does not include changes made after draft 3 released.
We’ve had a few exciting changes on AIBA’s Board of Directors. Our longtime president, Steve Bercu, has retired. Steve was the lead founder of AIBA and has served as president of sixteen years. We honored Steve at the 5th Annual Armadillo Awards on April 26 with a special Lifetime Dillo Award. The award included a book, “The Legend of Steve” that told (tongue-in-cheek) the story of Steve. Steve is also retiring from his post as the CEO of BookPeople. We wish him a warm farewell and good tidings on his next adventure.
 
Our new president is Kevin Lewis, Whole Earth Provision Company, who has served as vice president for several years. Jeff Heckler, Texas Solutions Group, stepped forward to be our new vice president. Shirley Sturdivant, The Sleep Center of Austin, remains our secretary and completes our leadership team on the board. 
 
We are excited about new directions the board leadership will shepherd AIBA through. Although we are expecting no drastic changes, the new leadership is energized and ready to help grow AIBA.
 
Speaking of the board...we now have three board positions open. If you are an AIBA member and would be interested in applying for a board seat, please contact Rebecca at rebecca@ibuyaustin.com.

Our longtime president, Steve Bercu, has retired. Steve was the lead founder of AIBA and has served as president of sixteen years. We honored Steve at the 5th Annual Armadillo Awards on April 26 with a special Lifetime Dillo Award. The award included a book, “The Legend of Steve” that told (tongue-in-cheek) the story of Steve. 
 
All great movements have a beginning—that moment when a spark ignites and takes hold in peoples hearts and minds. At that moment, a leader emerges. If successful, in time the leader becomes a legend. Robin Hood, Joan of Arc, Steve Jobs, all forged a new path onward through the forest, through the trees, through technology and through the fog. For the localist movement in Austin, Texas, that moment, that spark, that leader...was Steve Bercu. 
 
It all began in 2001 when Steve, then just a bookstore owner, returned from a conference where the value of local business was discussed. The spark was ignited. Steve gathered local business owners for happy hour (of course) at the now-departed Momo’s. Locally owned publications advertised the event and a great crowd gathered. 
 
Steve explained that it might be a good idea to organize and create a nonprofit that represented locally-owned, independent businesses, not the giant corporate chains. What a concept from the mind of Steve! The crowd cheered. “We could do a website and a brochure!” said Steve. And the crowd roared. “We could promote shopping locally!” he yelled. And the crowd went wild. Thus the Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) was born—not just an organization but a movement. 
 
It took another year and finding his way through some very dense fog to form the nonprofit and recruit a Board of Directors. But Steve persisted. 
#HePersisted #OnwardThroughTheFog
 
Now the organization needed members. Remember, at this time Steve was a mere bookstore owner. How was he to get the masses of independent businesses to join in his crusade? How does this go from a few like-minded business owners to a movement? Call to Arms? Riots? Marches? No, these tactics were just too...too...big...too soon. Being a leader, (Yes, Steve was now a leader) Steve knew the answer. More importantly he had the wisdom and the technology to proceed. In a blaze of progressive thought, Steve declared “I’ll call them!” And so he did.
 
What happened next is what ultimately happens in every great crusade. The people come to the call of the voice of a leader. The Voice of Steve launched the Voice of Local. They came individually at first. Then by the tens, then by the hundreds. All finding their way onward through the fog answering the call of Steve.
 
Still, questions lingered. What is this AIBA? Is it a chamber of commerce? Technically yes, but no one wanted to be THE chamber or even chamber-like. Friendly? Supportive? Yes. Still something was lacking. But what? Steve came through the fog and in a blinding bolt of thought, he said “Weird. We should Keep Austin Weird.” Of course we know that a man called Red had first uttered those words. But now we had a mission—To Keep Austin Weird through independent business. The fog thinned. 
 
AIBA became known throughout the land as a badass organization. For years, Steve traveled throughout the land telling others about the local movement. Sharing his enlightenment, he persisted and the local movement grew. 
 
As word spread, Steve, the bookstore owner then leader, became a Legend. 
You asked and we listened! Based on stakeholder feedback we have introduced a 7 business day review for small commercial remodel permit applications.  The shorter review allows small commercial projects to receive a quicker review when they do not qualify for the Quick Turnaround program. Applicants can now submit for change of use, school remodels, portable classroom buildings, medical offices, minor revisions and food service establishments to be reviewed within 7 business days. These all formerly required a 15 business day review. The updated Quick Turn-Around (QT) and 7-Day Permit Process & Checklist info sheet incorporates a checklist for the applicant to self-qualify per project type to assess eligibility.

Originally Published by Independent We Stand

Amazon isn’t known for losing, but there’s at least one way that local brick-and-mortar businesses undeniably outperform the online mega-retailer. Just two weeks after Amazon’s quarterly earnings report showed huge growth, a new study by Civic Economics reveals what those earnings mean for communities and local economies across the country – and they don’t mean much. The 2018 Home Sweet Home: Locals vs. Amazon study reports that local hardware and home improvement retailers recirculate 676 percent more of their revenue in the local economy than Amazon.

For the study, Civic Economics compared three retail segments: independent retailers; national chain retailers, such as Lowe’s and Home Depot; and Amazon, as an indicator of online retailers. Specifically, the study measures how independent hardware and home improvement stores stack up against their larger competitors when it comes to recirculating money to local communities through labor, procurement, profits and charitable giving. READ MORE.

IndieAustin, our membership magazine, is published twice a year with 30,000 copies distributed throughout Austin. It's a great way to both promote your business and support the organization that supports you. The deadline for the Spring issue is fast approaching on May 31. For more information or to reserve your space, contact Donna Nelson, donna@ibuyaustin.com or 512-441-2123.

If you are already an AIBA member, your listing, including name, address, phone, website and description, is already included in IndieAustin as a benefit of membership. However you can purchase cost-effective ad space to showcase your business.

If you are not yet an AIBA member, what are you waiting for! Join us before May 25 to be included in the spring IndieAustin.

Last week I sent out a request for help to our members. We don’t often ask for help but we need it now. If you are an AIBA member, you received the email. The outpouring of support left tears in my eyes. We asked you to step up and help with placing your ad in IndieAustin because Donna Nelson, our longtime sales person, was in the middle of a family emergency. Not only did AIBA members step up for ad placement, you sent an abundance of well wishes, concern, help and more. This is what the AIBA Community is—a place where we help each other. Thank you.
We added a fifth year to our Armadillo Awards on April 26 and what a grand celebration it was. More than 1,000 nominees, 35 finalists, 7 awardees, 3 Hall of Fame inductees made for a great celebration. Add in World Famous Bob, our new MC; Rick “Daddy” McNulty spinning tunes and the Texas Roller Girls and it made a great program.
 
But what made it an amazing evening was you. The Armadillo Awards began as a way to acknowledge, honor and celebrate local business. Five years later it has truly become the indie biz party of the year. More than just a party, it’s a gathering of the tribe of local business. Nowhere else do we see so many new and iconic local business owners in one place. If you missed this year, put this on your calendar for next year. The AIBA Community is alive and well.
 
The evening isn’t all about the award recipients but of course it’s a big part of why we gather. See all finalists and Dillo recipients.
While AIBA was involved with advocacy on this issue, we have no role in the resulting lawsuit.
 
TPPF seeks temporary injunction preventing implementation of city paid sick leave ordinance
 
AUSTIN – Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation filed a lawsuit against the City of Austin challenging the sick leave ordinance set to go into effect Oct. 1. TPPF, through its litigation Center for the American Future, represents a coalition of Austin businesses and business associations, including the Texas Association of Business, the National Federation of Independent Business and the American Staffing Association.
 
“With its mandatory paid sick leave ordinance, the City of Austin once again violates Texas state law and infringes upon the rights of Austin businesses protected by the Texas Constitution,” said Robert Henneke, general counsel and director of the Center for the American Future at TPPF. “The City’s ordinance is preempted by the Texas Minimum Wage Act. Furthermore, the City lacks evidence to support any legitimate governmental interest that would support imposing this regulatory burden on all business owners.”
 
The undue strain put on businesses was a thought echoed by the lead plaintiff.
 
“The Texas Association of Business is proud to be lead plaintiff and to partner with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, NFIB and several staffing agency members in filing this lawsuit against the City of Austin,” said Jeff Moseley, CEO of Texas Association of Business. “Austin and Texas business leaders know how to run their businesses and can do so more productively without over-reaching regulations that stifle the economy and cost jobs.”
 
The nature of the ordinance could be especially burdensome for small businesses.
 
“Local measures purporting to regulate employment practices, like Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance, create a patchwork of rules and regulations that are difficult for small businesses to navigate, especially for companies with mobile employees,” said Nation Federation of Independent Business state executive director Will Newton. “These ordinances create extra work and significantly drive up the cost of doing business in Texas.”
 
Stephen Dwyer, general counsel of the American Staffing Association, concurred, stating, “In enacting the Texas Minimum Wage Act, the Texas legislature specifically sought to relieve Texas employers of the burden of keeping track of and complying with myriad burdensome local laws.”
 
Other problems include the one-size-fits-all nature of the ordinance and the inability for businesses to offer flexible solutions for sick leave.
 
The mandate, if it goes into effect, will require businesses with more than 15 employees to provide eight days of paid sick leave and businesses with less than 15 employees to provide 6 days of sick leave.
 
For more information, please contact Alicia Pierce at apierce@texaspolicy.com or 512-472-2700.    
 
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit free-market research institute based in Austin that aims to foster human flourishing by protecting and promoting liberty, opportunity and personal responsibility.
 
Primary website: www.TexasPolicy.com