Mesa Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Sally Harrison

Mesa Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Sally Harrison spoke in support of the business license.  

You need a license to drive, sell real estate or booze or be a nurse.

And now in Mesa, you need a license to run a business.

Not only that, but businesses must show their licenses to “any city official,” upon demand.

The new law goes into effect Dec. 15.

On Nov. 15, Mesa City Council approved “An ordinance amending Title 5 of the Mesa City Code (Business Regulations) by adding a new Chapter 5, entitled ‘Business License,’ requiring all persons conducting business in Mesa to obtain a business license.”

The ordinance goes into effect 30 days after it was passed.

The application for a business license will cost $10, followed by an annual fee of $25.

This is a great deal, city staff stressed, compared to Chandler, which charges $45 each for the application and annual fee, or Scottsdale, where the application costs $62 with an annual fee of $50.

But it doesn’t cost anything to run a business in Phoenix or Tempe; both don’t have business license requirements.

The idea of requiring businesses in Mesa to get licenses had been discussed at various meetings over the course of six months.

As he did earlier, Tim Meyer of the city’s Business Services Department outlined the concept and practice of Mesa’s first-ever license to do business.

He said this will be a centralized database to:

• Support and assist small businesses to comply with local and state regulations

• Help businesses do business in Mesa.

• Make businesses aware of job training opportunities and federal dollars.

• Inform businesses of new ordinances.

• Share important information with small businesses in Mesa.

• Provide contact information for city programs.

Sally Harrison, president of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce, spoke in favor of the business license. She said the database will help the chamber and city to reach out to businesses.

But some bristled at the “centralized database” notion.

One business owner submitted a comment card calling the idea of a business license “a government privacy grab...it sounds to me more like a fee collection than an information collection.”

According to Meyer’s presentation, the city will collect:

• Business name, address, phone number.

• Mailing information.

• Designated agent information.

• Property ownership information.

• Emergency contact information.

• High level business information. 

• Ownership information. 

• Controlling person. 

• Applicants information.

Councilman Mark Freeman, who voted against the ordinance, asked for clarification on what would be made public.

Meyer stressed the city “will limit the data that’s available” for public viewing to business names, type of business, number of employees and expiration date of the business licenses.

But a report provided to council members suggested far wider uses.

“Data collected through the business license will be used by city departments, outside partner organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, and by businesses themselves.

There are multiple uses for the data collected through a business license,” the report stated. 

“Tax Audit will be able to use the data to find businesses that aren’t reporting and remitting transaction privilege tax. Economic Development will be able to know what businesses are here in Mesa and will be able to market city programs to them…Code Compliance will have another source of data to search out property owners.”

And the ordinance has some stern wording, demanding businesses show licenses upon demand and facing fees for noncompliance.

“Any city official may inspect a business during regular business hours...The license or a copy thereof must be kept at every fixed location of the business and must be displayed upon demand of any city official,” according to the ordinance.

“Any person required to be licensed...who fails to obtain or maintain a license in compliance with this Chapter will be subject to the license fee and late fee prescribed in the schedule of fees and charges. The fees imposed by this chapter will be deemed a debt owed to the city and the city may take any legally permissible action to collect the debt.”

“We want to make sure our citizens know we are there to help them and not regulate them,” said Councilwoman Julie Spilsbury.

Councilman David Luna said the Chamber has asked for this “ever since I came on the council in 2012...I think this is a great idea and it’s about time. It’s been a long time coming.”

Freeman was not buying the idea, noting the Mesa Fire Department already has information on businesses.

“This is a simpler way to create a database,” City Manager Chris Brady replied.

Brady said two new employees will be hired to monitor the system.

Applications can be submitted online at mesaaz.gov/business/licensing.

For more information, call  480-644-2316 or email licensing.info@mesaaz.gov

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