Commentary by Adam Aasen
There’s been a lot of talk during this election about helping small businesses in Carmel. And with good reason. Small businesses are vital to a city’s economic success. A greater percentage of their tax dollars stay right here in the community, and they give our city character.
I’m happy to say that Carmel is a great place to start a small business.
About a decade ago, my father and I were going on a bike ride along the Monon Greenway. Usually we would go south from the Nora area down to Broad Ripple, but we decided to go north instead and see what was going on in Hamilton County. We stumbled upon a festival on Main Street in Carmel. The road was closed and families were walking up and down the street listening to live music and enjoying food and drinks. There was an electricity in the air, and when we saw a vacant storefront, an idea was hatched to open our new business in Carmel.
My father has always been in the restaurant industry, and he was recruited to be part of opening a new venture in downtown Indianapolis. But he noticed the happy people walking through Carmel. Instead of spending an arm and a leg on advertising, customers could discover the business during a festival or on an evening walk.
We made the right decision in choosing Carmel.
Shortly after we opened Donatello’s Italian Restaurant, we began to notice customers were walking to dinner from their homes in the neighborhood north of Main Street, along with new residents who moved into Sophia Square across the street. The Palladium opened a few months after we did and theater goers would stop by for dinner before a show. Many of these private-public partnerships that the City of Carmel has championed were driving traffic to our mom-and-pop eatery in those early days.
In the past four years, we’ve seen the business community take another huge leap forward. There are now more than 126 corporate headquarters in Carmel, and when many of these businesses expanded in or relocated to Carmel, it meant hundreds of additional high paying jobs. These employees spend lots of money at our local small businesses and many buy homes in the city. We know this and we’ve seen the impact.
Throughout the year, we see events bring people to Carmel and those people end up spending money at our local small businesses. These events include CarmelFest, the Carmel Christkindlmarkt, the Carmel Marathon, the Carmel International Arts Festival, PorchFest, Artomobilia, Art of Wine, the summertime Late Night on Main concerts, the Carmel Farmers Market and much more.
And when we see circumstances that negatively affect our small businesses, the City of Carmel does its best to address any problems. When there is heavy snow, the Carmel Street Dept. is out salting and plowing roads and clearing sidewalks so people can still go frequent their favorite businesses. When road construction makes it slightly more difficult to reach a local business, the City of Carmel uses its marketing and economic development teams to remind people to support these businesses. During the U.S. 31 construction, which was a state project, the City of Carmel launched a campaign called #31Bites to encourage people to support these businesses.
I also appreciate the regular Carmel Small Business Network meetings at City Hall. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions of our elected officials and find out about upcoming road projects long before they begin.
Yes, there are times when small businesses go under and it breaks my heart to see it, but sadly that’s part of the free market. While the city does a lot to help small businesses, ultimately the entrepreneur is mostly responsible for a business’s success or failure.
I, for one, want to thank Mayor Jim Brainard and our current city council for their focus on the small business community. Current councilors Jeff Worrell and Kevin “Woody” Rider are small business owners themselves, so they get it. Councilors Ron Carter and Bruce Kimball have also been very responsive to business owners.
I believe Carmel is on the right path and I’m excited to see what the future holds.
Adam Aasen is co-owner of Donatello’s Italian Restaurant and a candidate for Carmel City Council’s southeast district.