In a good news/bad news kind of week, Emeryville made the national news for two decidedly different reasons. Mayor Ruth Atkin noted after the unanimous passing of the contentious Emeryville Minimum Wage Ordinance that she was being “courted” by the national media in what she implied to be high praise. Workers-Rights attorney owned The East Bay Express in fact named the MWO the “Best New Law” as part of their annual Best of the East Bay picks & reader poll awards.
The reaction from other media sources thus far has been a mix of caution & curiosity. The Los Angeles Times has taken note of the plight of Emeryville businesses and employees in an article posted today spotlighting Lanesplitter Pizza among a few other local businesses and employees. With Los Angeles’s recent adoption of a $15 minimum wage by 2020, L.A. businesses are paying closer attention to Emeryville and other Bay Area cities as foreshadowing of what’s to come for them in what The Economist publication refers to as “A Reckless Wager“.
While some employees are undoubtedly relishing the raise, small businesses (particularly restaurants) like Lanesplitter Pizza are trying to survive by eliminating gratuities, substantially raising prices (an 18″ Pie now averages about $36) and eliminating lunch hours at some locations according to the article. Owner Vic Gumper notes he’s seen a 25% drop in sales since they implemented the price hikes. “I’m terrified of going out of business after 18 years” he shares in the article.
Heading into the 2016 election, the national debate is shaping up and minimum wage will be a talking point of both ends of the political spectrum. Democratic hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have taken different stances with Clinton supporting a more moderate $12/hr. hike while Sanders supporting the labor-backed “Fight for $15”. While few would argue that those working full-time shouldn’t be afforded the basic needs of survival, how much and how quickly we can implement this without damaging business (most notably small business) and stalling our economic recovery is open to debate. A debate that is increasing becoming about whether it is in fact better to have fewer, but better paying low-skilled jobs and whether consumers can stomach the 20% “tax” on goods and services that businesses are passing along to them.
In more positive news, despite the impacts of the MWO and the recent dissolution of the Emeryville Chamber of Commerce, NerdWallet.com has named Emeryville “The top Northern California city to start a business”. Nerdwallet describes itself as a personal finance, information service and makes money by referring readers to credit card offers. The article posted in SF Gate seemingly focuses on our attractiveness to technology startups and lists its criteria as weighted 65% by “Business Climate” and 35% by “Local Economic Health”.
The City Emeryville is described as such:
Across the bay from San Francisco and just north of Oakland, Emeryville is a small city with a lot going on. Pixar Animation Studios is the city’s largest employer, but small companies thrive here, too. Technology startups in Emeryville include MadeSolid, which sells 3D printing materials, and TubeMogul, a public company that makes software for video advertising. The East Bay Economic Development Alliance supports local businesses by offering site location assistance and connecting businesses with financing options, incubators and other resources.
A minimum wage arms race has broken out in the Bay Area
Vic Gumper and a buddy opened their first pizzeria in Berkeley nearly 18 years ago, expanding to Oakland, Albany and this 1.1-square-mile city best known for Pixar Animation Studios, big-box retailers and a biotech cluster.
Over the years, die-hard patrons of his business have crafted personalized dolls of each Lanesplitter Pizza & Pub employee, which adorn the walls in glass cases, as does one customized Monopoly board. (“Too much Black Sabbath on the CD player. Pay $15.”)
And, since April, along with newly printed menus, every table sports a laminated card explaining just what a “living wage pizza” means.
All workers now earn $15 to $25 an hour as part of an experimental business model that also did away with gratuities and raised prices, making meals at all five locations “sustainably served, really … no tips necessary.”
Read More on LATimes.com →
What Happens When a Small City Raises Its Minimum Wage?
When a big city raises its minimum wage to $15 per hour, local businesses probably won’t lose too much business. A few will lose business to online companies, and a few on the border of the city will lose business to competitors right over the city line, but overall losses will probably be modest. It will be a few years until we know for sure, since most cities doing this aren’t phasing in the full $15 rate until 2016 or later.
But what happens if a small city does this? Emeryville is a tiny place nestled in between Oakland and Berkeley that recently raised its minimum wage to $14.44, the highest in the country.
Read More on MotherJones.com →
Emeryville, South San Francisco are top Northern California cities to start a business
Northern California may be one of the top places in the world to start a business, according to NerdWallet’s Jonathan Todd.
“Northern California is a very special, unique economy, not only in the U.S., but worldwide,” Todd said in an interview. “You look at the opportunity, the businesses that are here. You look at the growth and the number of tech jobs, that’s only going to help grow every other segment of the economy as well.”
The author of “Best Places to Start a Business in Northern California,” Todd located those opportunities are by analyzing 177 cities and towns that have populations of 10,000 people or more. He used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners and American Community Survey. Emeryville ranked No. 1, thanks to its high number of businesses per 100 people (17.8). South San Francisco and Grass Valley rounded out the top three.
Read More on SFGate.com →