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Los Angeles - Before the Mayor's Office renewed their focus on small business needs through the Small Business Initiative in October 2010, business owners like Curtis Fralin of the iconic Maverick Flats, wanted direct assistance when doing work in the City of Los Angeles. Earlier this month, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, joined by First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner, signed an Executive Directive to enact the Business Inclusion Program, making it easier to do business in and with the City. The Program also prioritizes assisting minority owned businesses."As a result of the Directive, for the first time I am setting explicit City contracting goals (25% of total contracts allocated for small businesses) that will help increase the amount of minority businesses that contract with the City," said the Mayor. "Leveling the playing field for businesses in LA has been a top priority of mine."According to the Mayor's office, the City has more small businesses than any other city nationwide, around 325,000. Of that number, the majority are minority owned. However, while data is inconsistent, approximately only 7% of city contracts go to minority businesses. The City aims to increase this number by establishing goals, changing policies, monitoring progress and holding General Managers accountable for their results.Beutner, who led the effort to implement the small business inclusion and heads the Mayor's Office of Economic and Business Policy, plans to communicate the changes directly with constituents. "Meeting with business owners is important. It is our job to listen to them so we can respond to their needs," said Beutner who delivered the keynote address at the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC) Annual Kick-off Breakfast. He will also attend the formal opening of Maverick Flats on February 3.The Mayor's Office of Economic and Business Policy also assembled a 25 person Advisory Committee of small business owners. This diverse committee is comprised of five African Americans, four Asian Americans, three Latinos, seven women, and 1 veteran. The committee focuses on prioritizing issues integral to the small business community and assisted in the development of the small business progam. The story of Maverick Flats is a prime example of how the City's efforts are helping minority businesses thrive in the City. Fralin purchased the property five years ago, but had difficulties navigating the City's permitting process, which almost prevented it from opening. It was not until the City's Minority Business Opportunity Center (MBOC) reached out directly, when he started making progress and was finally able to reopen the Leimert Park landmark a few weeks ago. By streamlining and simplifying city services, Maverick Flats was able to open in a short amount time."It is safe to say that without the help of the City, Maverick Flats would not be open for business today," said Curtis Fralin. "They listened to my problems and responded by appointing a dedicated case manager to assist me in navigating the City's processes. The MBOC case manager worked with DWP to get a much needed water line installed and helped secure $405,000 from the Valley Economic Development Corporation and with the assistance of Councilman Parks they secured an additional $605,000 from Community Development Department for final renovation for a total of over $1 million!"