Working and living in Baker City

November 13, 2001 11:00 pm

Baker City isnt the place you open a business to make a killing.

You do it to make a living.

Certainly, people go into business for themselves for myriad reasons. Some succeed. Others fail.

However, in a tight economy, paying rent or mortgage on a house or apartment and renting a retail space can be a double whammy for small business people working on a narrow profit margin.

Some small business people answer that dilemma by establishing home-based businesses in residential areas.

That approach can work fine for small manufacturing or Internet-based businesses. But for operations that require more foot traffic than is available in a residential area, a retail space is a must.

It could soon be easier to turn the home-based business approach on its ear, however, by basing your home in your business.

For financial or personal reasons, some business people are returning to a way of life their predecessors employed living above their business.

The idea of shopkeep as store resident in Baker City is as old as our town.

There are even stories of department store employees renting apartments above the downtown stores where they worked.

Now, Baker City may have the opportunity to encourage more vertical housing downtown for business owners and other workers alike.

The City Council should pursue participation in this new state program allowing property tax abatements for development of residential space on the upper floors of buildings after it takes effect at the state level in January.

Tax abatements for vertical housing will be another tool for downtown development and should dovetail nicely with the work building and business owners have already done to develop building facades.

And it is a natural companion to work already being done by the Baker Enterprise Growth Initiative (BEGIN) to grow local entrepreneurs.

Encouraging small business ownership is a worthy goal in and of itself.

Consider the findings of the National Federation of Independent Businesses: Small businesses create two-thirds of the new jobs in the United States, they report.

But thats not all.

Our members tend to have an interest in politics, and 95 percent of them vote in elections, the federation notes.

And we know that many of our members are the movers and shakers in their hometowns. They are the ones who run for local office and support local schools, churches, scout troops, ball teams and the arts.