And another thing ... Small business, Bebb and the Lookouts

And another thing ... Small business, Bebb and the Lookouts

June 10th, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

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.