Businesses call for regulation changes

Nick Wicker

Majdi Wadi came to the United States from Jordan in 1987 with a dream of taking over his family’s business.
In 1994, Wadi took over the business, Holy Land Bakery, which now has two locations in Minneapolis. In his time running the stores, he’s faced numerous problems with city rules and regulations, including filing permits and preparing for inspections — all while struggling to complete documents that are provided in his non-native language. 
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges announced a new initiative after she took office last year, called Business Made Simple — a plan that aims to eliminate many of
the hurdles business owners face in the city. In addition, the initiative offers additional resources to non-native English speakers by providing new staff members to guide those confused by city processes.
City Attorney Susan Segal organized the plan at Hodges’ request last year. Since then, she said she’s heard concerns from different types of Minneapolis businesses. Many of the more than 40 businesses that attended the meetings were food-related small businesses, she said, with owners who spoke English as a second language.
Segal said the plan, which includes simplifying and minimizing certain city ordinances and licensing protocols, will require approval from the full City Council in coming weeks and months.
“Some things can be done really quickly, like eliminating some of these license types,” Segal said. “It’s a matter of bringing it through the council process, and that’s a relatively quick change.”
She said one of the main issues business owners brought forth was receiving conflicting information about requirements from various city departments. 
Wadi, who attended one of the meetings between businesses and city officials, said he often gets frustrated with city regulations, which require him to visit several departments and spend “hundreds of thousands of dollars” complying with ordinances.
Wadi said his experience with local government officials overseas have been more helpful than in Minneapolis, though he said the city staff are accommodating and walk entrepreneurs through each step of licensing processes. 
He also said many city business owners, like himself, don’t know many of the basic elements of running an operation in the U.S., including sales tax regulations and worker’s compensation. 
Wadi said he knows many people who would bring business to Minneapolis if there were fewer regulatory barriers. 
Randal Gast, owner of Qdoba Mexican Grill and the vice president of Dinkytown Business Alliance, said many businesses often receive conflicting advice from city inspectors. 
In recent years, this has led to inconveniences for Gast’s establishment, which made him hope the city reforms its processes and remove some of the difficulties he has faced.
“I fundamentally believe in the system, but I know that sometimes mistakes get made. … If I don’t like it, I need to talk about it; I need to push back,” Gast said. 
He said the proposal sounds good in theory and he hopes city officials will follow through and make the changes.
“It looks like a good idea, but the proof is in the pudding,” Gast said. “Let’s see what happens.”