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Editorial: Come on government, help businesses succeed!

Jay Albrecht
Thursday, Jun 6, 2013

Well, I’ve done it! I’ve gone and opened a new business in partnership with my wife, Seanaree – a restaurant, nonetheless, in Cookeville’s historic West Side district called Seven Senses Food & Cheer. Yes, call me crazy now – I’ve heard it many times already!

Talk about the ultimate business lesson, this has been it! From financing the deal down to the codes requirements involved with actually opening a “place of assembly,” it’s been one heck of a ride. I believe our running the place day in and day out may end up being the easy part compared to all the rest.

On one hand, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. It’s been a great learning experience and one that has properly prepared my wife and me for being in the food business. On the other hand, however, and as a business person/journalist, it made me realize just how much harder it is to open a new business than it really needs to be.

First and foremost, our federal and state government should work together to make it easier for new businesses to open, and for existing businesses to operate. They should cut much of the red tape between federal and state and think about the needs of local businesses first, hopefully to encourage even more businesses to open and/or relocate to Tennessee. The unnecessary hoops between federal, state and local government are not only a waste of time, they are also confusing and hard to manage unless someone directs your every step – which doesn’t often happen with federal or state government. I’m not convinced they even know all the steps required – so how can business owners!

Moreover, state and county governments, including municipalities, should figure out a way to consolidate some of the requirements they place on new and existing businesses. In our case, a few examples immediately come to mind. As with virtually any business, we have to pay business taxes to the city and the county in which we’re doing said business; however, all of that must be handled with separate forms, even though it’s almost exactly the same information. It only seems logical that the state could and should be responsible for filing, billing and collecting all business privilege taxes in one fell swoop and divvying up the revenue accordingly. There’s no need for businesses to have to answer to at least two requests – it’s a waste of time and paper and encourages mistakes.

The same holds true for achieving liquor and beer license approvals for our restaurant – we had to jump through seemingly a dozen hoops at the state level to qualify for and ultimately receive our liquor by the drink license, deservingly so, but then go through a separate process at the city level to qualify for our beer license. Shouldn’t these be one in the same and under one umbrella? How is it possible that we can satisfy the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission for sales of liquor on premises but still have to prove to additional parties at the city level that we also qualify for a beer license (sales of beverages of a lesser percentage of alcohol)? How did municipalities ever get control of beer licensing when the state maintains the most stringent of measures regarding liquor? If we quality for a liquor by the drink license, shouldn’t we automatically be more than qualified to sell alcohol of a lesser percentage (beer and wine)?

And don’t even get me started on building codes and all the requirements associated therein, especially for places of assembly. The most frustrating example was being forced to place a new cooling system in our building (all of 2,300 square feet) just because codes require it, not because it’s needed. That system will stay in the “off” position, otherwise, our dining room would effectively become a walk-in cooler in which we could hang meat, even during the hottest weather.

Tennessee has long been known as one of the better states for doing business and I can’t disagree with that notion. I’ve done business in other states and, no doubt, Tennessee is a gem compared to some others. I’m happy to say that almost EVERYONE we’ve worked with along the way has been extremely accommodating and friendly in helping us achieve our goals – that has made this process so much better than it could have been otherwise. But it doesn’t erase the obvious inefficiencies that exist in our government at all levels – inefficiencies that negatively affect the ability for new businesses to start, existing businesses to operate and our government to streamline.

It’s time government looks at ways to make doing business easier, especially for small businesses. Business owners have their hands full and are providing a much-needed function in the form of jobs and services – government should appreciate that fact and work hard to be supportive and return the favor as much as possible!

Jay Albrecht is the publisher of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. He can be reached at jay@ucbjournal.com or (931) 528-8852.


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