LETHBRIDGE: The City of Lethbridge is set to review its business licensing fee policy, after a contingent of home-based business owners came to city hall Monday. They told council a discrepancy in costs for home licensing versus commercial licensing could discourage entrepreneurship in the city, and may be the reason many home business owners operate without a license.
"Your entrepreneurs are by far the fastest-growing business segment in Lethbridge. I think it's really, really important to help your home-based business owners and be a resource for them instead of a barrier to entry," group spokesperson Rod Leland told council at the meeting. Currently, the city charges home-based business owners on a sliding scale dictated by the kinds of the services they offer out of their homes and the number of customers they receive in their office space. Fees are as high as $495 a year. The lowest is $295.
When these costs are compared to the average general business license for commercial and industrial store front operations - which is less than $100 - the gap is noticeable. Leland pointed out that half of city revenue from business licensing comes from home businesses, even though they make up just 29 per cent of all businesses in town. He argued council should review the system, set up a flat $150 annual fee for all business licenses across the board and create more awareness among home business owners so they'll be more proactive about becoming licensed.
"We're essentially saying that removing barriers to doing small business and doing business out of your home benefits all. And we want to focus on growing the business that Lethbridge has, not punishing the innovation," he said.
Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce president Randy Tremel supported the home-based business group's request to review the fee system. "We believe anything that clears the way for entrepreneurship, including home-based businesses, is something that we should support," he said.
"Many of the home-based businesses are the start up of many of our storefront businesses down the road, and we see the importance in that."
Council voted to refer the issue to city staff for review. They've asked them to report back by November 21, 2011.