Panel to help foster small businesses

by Tanya Fogg Young, The State

January 14, 2005

Its members have no voting or veto power, but a new committee of small-business leaders will have the ear of city government.

Eleven small-business owners — from a political consultant to a restaurateur — make up the Columbia Small Business Regulatory Review Committee. The members were announced Thursday by Mayor Bob Coble and City Councilwoman and attorney Tameika Issac Devine.

A task of the committee is to review regulations and procedures that could adversely affect the climate for growing and creating small businesses in the city, Coble said.

The committee’s chairman is Frank Knapp Jr., president of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a very important step, giving businesses the opportunity to be involved in the regulatory process of their jurisdiction in an advisory role,” said Knapp, also owner of The Knapp Agency, a marketing firm.

Committee member Nigel Mahaffey, a political consultant, said he hopes to help others avoid the frustrations he faced in opening a business two years ago. Mahaffey and partner Tige Watts are co-owners of Campaign Research & Strategy.

“We started on a shoestring,” Mahaffey said. “And later we found out that if we had opened just two blocks down, we would have been entitled to a lot of (funding) assistance.”

Committee member Dean Cook, president of Foster Cook Commercial Interiors, said he did not know where to obtain a license, tax certificate or what to pay delivery truck drivers when he started in business four years ago.

Since then the business has grown from “ground zero to $1 million in sales in 2003,” he said.

“I want the committee to advise on the steps needed to open a small business in the city of Columbia,” said Cook, whose store was the site of Thursday’s announcement. “I believe Columbia is a very fertile ground economically for small business.”

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