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Story Retrieval Date: 4/17/2015 12:00:24 PM CST

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Laurel White/MEDILL

"The job of a small business person is not to try to figure out how City Hall works," Emanuel said.

Emanuel creates go-to center for launching small businesses

by Laurel White
Mar 7, 2013

Sarah Chazin had the idea to open an independent art boutique on the North Side seven years ago – in November seven years ago, to be exact.

The shop, Sacred Art, welcomed its first customers the next February.

“It happened pretty fast and very seamlessly for me,” Chazin said.

Some small business owners aren’t so lucky -- starting a business in Chicago involves navigating a fair amount of red tape.

For starters, Chicago has 49 different license types. Cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta and Philadelphia average less than 30.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said that he’s committed to making starting a small business in the city easier. Last fall he dropped the number of license types to 49 from a whopping 117.

And Thursday he announced the roll out of the Small Business Center in City Hall.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the lifeblood of our neighborhoods,” he said.

The new Small Business Center is on the 8th floor of City Hall. Adorned with banners sporting Chicago’s baby blue stripes and red stars, the office is meant to be the go-to place for Chicagoans interested in starting a business.

It’ll handle permitting, licensing and offer counseling and financial assistance.

“For too long City Hall has been the problem,” Emanuel said.

The mayor also created a new job in City Hall -- Chief Small Business Officer. He appointed Roxanne Nava to the post this morning.

“Small businesses need to focus on customers, not City Hall,” Nava said, citing a commitment to making her office “a partner, not an obstacle.”

The mayor’s impetus for opening the Small Business Center was the success of the city’s Restaurant Start-up Program. The program launched nine months ago and, according to City Hall, has served about 200 businesses and cut their start-up times in half.

Allyson Scrutens, program manager at the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, echoed Sarah Chazin’s sentiments – she said it hasn’t been too difficult for prospective business owners to get licenses in her community, either.

She did say, however, that the new City Hall office will be helpful because it will provide prospective business owners with direct access to the city workers processing their paperwork.