Sara Nelson can tell you what it takes to navigate the city’s labyrinth permitting system.
The co-owner of Fremont Brewery and candidate for Seattle City Council Position 9 knows how to renegotiate a lease when dollars become tight. She has felt the practical impacts of government policies.
This perspective is badly needed at City Hall as Seattle continues to dig out of the pandemic, public safety crises, labor shortages and supply-chain disruptions.
The last 20 months have been difficult for businesses of all sizes, but it’s been particularly tough on smaller enterprises, with just a few employees and modest sales.
Businesses with fewer than 50 employees provide nearly 200,000 jobs in Seattle, or 31% of total employment.
Communities of color faced additional challenges, coping with higher rates of COVID-19 and historically limited resources and financial assistance.
Nelson is the only candidate who talks about helping small businesses, particularly Black-owned businesses. She sees helping enterprises grow and thrive as a critical component to tackling Seattle’s persistent wealth gap.
The median net worth of Black households is $23,000. For white households, it’s $456,000.
“Access to the opportunity to build generational wealth is key to transformational change, the key to equity,” she said.
Studies on implicit bias repeatedly show that Black-owned businesses are 20% less likely than white-owned businesses to obtain a loan from a large bank. Nelson wants the city to step in and make a difference. That means everything from offering more loan and grant assistance to leveraging the city’s relationship with its bank, Wells Fargo, to help with financing.
On her website, Nelson calls for targeted business-and-occupation tax relief for small businesses hurt by pandemic restrictions. She advocates for the city’s share of commercial property tax to be reduced for landlords who contribute to tenant improvements so small businesses can open and grow.
When Nelson meets with small business owners across the city, she says the need for increased public safety is a common refrain.
She has heard from Black entrepreneurs who paid thousands of dollars to repeatedly fix broken windows. Others express disbelief that police response times are so long they often disrupt acts of vandalism before cops arrive.
“These are issues everyone in town is talking about, but they impact Black-owned businesses even more because they don’t have the reserves of capital,” she said. “We need a city council that takes crime seriously.”
Nelson has the experience, priorities and values to make sure prosperity is widely shared.
She will be an important and informed voice for those hoping to open a business, hire employees and contribute to the city’s culture and economy.