Mom and pop lose their voice - Page 3

The recession-rocked small business community feels neglected by City Hall and used by downtown corporations

"Michael is very disappointed about what happened, but I don't think it reflects a lack of commitment to small business on the part of the city or the Mayor's Office."

Matz said the challenge to the SBAC came from the Board of Supervisors — not the Mayor's Office — when they considered revoking the center's funding. She also contends that the Small Business Commission's voting record doesn't demonstrate a downtown vs. small business split.

From January 2008 to this January, commissioners voted unanimously 34 out of 38 times, the record shows. But it's on the divisive issues where small and big businesses differ that can have the most impact.

Sup. Chiu served on the Small Business Commission before being elected to the Board of Supervisors. He said commission members usually saw eye-to-eye on most items that came before the commission regardless of whether they were board or mayoral appointees. But for him, the frustration was that "it didn't feel that either the mayor or the Board of Supervisors were focused on small business."

In his new capacity as board president, he said measures that aid small businesses will be moving up on the list of priorities. For example, he has asked for a hearing on why the report on streamlining small business regulations, which Prop. I required the Office of Small Business to complete by 2007, was never done.

Although doubts about the commitment to small business seemed to be cast on all sides, everyone we spoke with seemed to agree on one point: in these stormy economic times, San Francisco's small businesses need all the help they can get.

Two reports released in December by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Automatic Data Processing (ADP) provide some insight into the challenges facing small businesses nationally. BLS reported that 524,000 jobs were lost during December, bringing the 2008 total to 2.6 million lost jobs — the highest since 1993.

The ADP report showed that 281,000 jobs had been shed from companies with fewer than 50 employees. This signifies a drastic increase in job losses from this sector: between October and November, small businesses cut just 79,000 employees, according to ADP, and between September and October, they let go of 25,000 employees.

"That was the first time since 2002 that small businesses had net job losses," says Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California.