published Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

And another thing … Small business, Bebb and the Lookouts

Small business boosters

To the casual observer at Chattanooga-based Lamp Post Group, the venture incubator on the second floor of the Loveman’s Building is a bit of a calm frenzy.

In corners, in glassed-in office cubicles, in walled-off individual offices, young people (mostly in their 20s and 30s) are making deals. A bicycle someone rode to work is parked over here, an employee in shorts and T-shirt is sitting over there. The atmosphere is casual, but the business is serious.

The incubator, founded by the former owners of Access America, a logistics company, provides companies with a space to work and human resources and accounting support. The idea is that a company gets a little help to get off the ground, is eventually able to leave the nest and then a new start-up comes in to take its place.

Chattanooga is fortunate to have several business start-up models, and it’s about to get another one in SwiftWing Ventures, which plans to house several new businesses in the former Fleetwood building on 11th Street when renovations are completed.

This venture capital model, according to founding partners, will be a next assistance step for promising start-up businesses.

Small businesses create two out of every three new jobs in the United States and employ half the country’s workforce. If the country is ever to regain its strong economic footing, small businesses must thrive and be given an atmosphere in which to do so.

The Obama administration, despite its lip service to the contrary, has not been such an advocate. Regulations, taxes, government spending and the administration-backed increased cost of energy are among the reasons cited in surveys for the country’s poor small business climate. And, among other things, two-thirds of Americans who work at a small business (some 11 million people) will see health care premiums increase under Obamacare, according to the nonpartisan Office of the Chief Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

But no matter the president or the economy, starting a small businesses requires taking risk, and the unstable economy of the last six years has made many people wary of risk. So Chattanoogans should appreciate those risk-takers and the venture capitalists who want to help the next generation of American small businesses grow.

Bye-bye, Bebb

A new chapter soon will unfold in the 10th Judicial District of Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties.

The present district attorney, Steve Bebb, decided not to run for a third term and now has told Gov. Bill Haslam’s office he will resign June 30, two months prior to the end of his term.

The district attorney, described as personally popular, gracious and respected, has seen controversy swirl around his tenure.

A 2012 Times Free Press series detailed allegations of financial and prosecutorial misconduct involving Bebb, which included retaliatory acts, improper tax reimbursement claims and the protection of friends, among other things. Eventually, the state attorney general’s office found no prosecutable violations, but a special House oversight committee this year recommended the district attorney be removed from office. When a corresponding Senate panel took no action, the issue died when the Legislature adjourned.

Only Bebb himself knows exactly what went on and why, but we hope incoming district attorney Steve Crump (who also may be appointed interim DA) will conduct himself in such an even-handed manner that no one will have to wonder about him.

Look out for the Lookouts

Anyone who has dealt with wills and trusts and inheritance understands Frank Burke’s complex need to divest himself of the Chattanooga Lookouts (following the death of his father in 2011). But the owner, having put almost 20 years of his life into the team, doesn’t want to see the team leave the city.

So when a potential deal to sell the team to a Warner Robins, Ga., businessman fell through this past week, a deal in which no one could definitively say would keep the team in Chattanooga (but probably would), Lookouts fans may have breathed a sigh of relief.

On Friday, Times Free Press reporter David Paschall said a three-member group that includes state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, would be interested in buying the team if the bid from the Warner Robins businessman fell through.

Now, while we wait to see how serious that bid is, we appreciate the desire of Burke — despite whatever financial pressures he may be under to sell the team — to keep the Los Angeles Dodgers farm team in the right hands and see it remain in the Scenic City.

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Plato said...

The assertion that the Obama administration has not helped small businesses is patently false. That is particularly true in our community.

The 1 Gig fiber optic network and smart grid which are attacking small technology oriented start ups, the kind that the aforementioned Lamp Post Group specializes in cultivating, was paid for from the Obama stimulus package. A bill that created or saved over 3 million jobs nation wide and helped bring us out of the Bush recession.

Another misconception that this piece is asserting is that Obamacare is causing health care premiums to go up. Health care premiums have gone up for the last 20 years, but recently they are leveling off. Much of the reason for that is contained in the Obamacare law. Insurers are now required to return 80-85% of premiums to benefits. Also, the exchanges have created competition among the insurance companies which has put downward pressure on rates. Small businesses with less than 50 employees are exempt for the mandate to provide health care coverage, however due to the exchanges, small business owners who want to offer coverage to their employees now have an affordable means for doing so.

The only regulation to my knowledge that has impacted small business development is the Dodd-Frank Bill that reformed lending requirements for banks. While it's true that the bill makes it more difficult for small businesses to get funding especially startups, it came about as a result of the deregulation under the Bush years that lead to the economic melt-down of 2008, and is designed to prevent another one from occuring.

June 10, 2014 at 12:25 p.m.

I see where the special judge has appoint DA elect Steve Crump to prosecute the Valentine Day's Massacre case in Bradley County.

I hope that Bradley County can leave behind the prior inept DA's performances of Fisher and Bebb and the corruption of Bebb and his Drug Task Force. Politics in Nashville may have save Bebb from prosecution but the smell lingers.

How many innocent people were railroaded by Bebb? How many people had cars and money stolen? How many real crooks were not prosecuted by Bebb?

Let's hope that the ethically-challenged Bebb and his underwhelming prosecutions are not repeated by the new DA.

Time for fresh air after a real stinker.

June 10, 2014 at 2:59 p.m.
timbo said...

Plato..I know about small business because I is one. What Obama did was like you said, place draconian lending rules because of the mortgage crisis. That might have been need in real estate loans but it boiled over into small business loans and credit lines. For awhile, getting financing was near impossible. When you did get it, it took forever which put your business in more peril. It has been devastating.

As far as heath care, I provide 70% of the health care costs for my employees. Before Obamacare I provided 100 %. It went up 40% because of Obamacare. If that keeps going, I will eliminate insurance or lay people off. That is no theoretical, it is what is happening.

June 10, 2014 at 4:28 p.m.
Plato said...

^When we were discussing Climate Change you claimed to be a scientist, now we are on business and you claim to be a small biz owner. Dude you change professions faster than a chameleon changes colors :)

BTW I founded two small businesses, have BBA and an MBA and spend much of my time counseling small business start ups. There IS funding available from a variety of sources including SBA guaranteed loans, The Patriot Program, and community banks but the credit requirements are now higher. There is also investment capital available from several local venture capitalist groups and angel investors, as well as grant money for certain non- profits. Peer-to-peer lending is another option and crowd funding is coming very soon. So if there is a will there is usually a way.

The health care I was able to provide my employees had caps which is the only way I could swing it. Now caps are not allowed under the ACA - so the premiums are going to be a lot higher. I'll bet dollars to donuts that's the same thing that happened to you. But you get what you pay for.

June 10, 2014 at 7:43 p.m.
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