Strength in numbers: East Side Area Business Association advocates on behalf of vital main streets

Together, ESABA's members make their voices heard in city government and ensure visibility for the area


When members of the East Side Area Business Association came together to compare their solid waste bills, they were shocked to find that some of them were paying $60 in environmental charges, while others were paying only $15.

Even businesses with the same hauler had  discrepancies in cost  regardless of the amount of service.

Together, they pooled their purchasing power to get a group deal on a new, shared hauler, who promised complete transparency, a dedicated customer service representative for East Side businesses, and a group discount. All ESABA members are now eligible to participate in the group’s Preferred Hauler Deal. 

That’s the power of ESABA: 100 voices can do what one can’t.

From expanding public transportation to a potential minimum wage increase, new initiatives that will affect East Side business owners are being introduced every day. The association’s goal is to  educate its members on these issues and have them work together to make their voices heard. It’s a group focused on preserving the vitality and human scale of the East Side’s main streets. 

“How do you get your hands around a 25-year planning arc and have it land where you want it to, for your own particular concerns?” asks ESABA Executive Director Paris Dunning. “You’ve got to have somebody sitting at that table.”

Dunning, along with the association’s board, has spent years working with the City of St. Paul. They’ve sat on committees for the Gold Line and Rush Line; they’ve built a connection with Visit Saint Paul and helped increase the East Side’s visibility in the tourism industry.

When a business owner has concerns surrounding a particular issue, Dunning knows the person to contact in local government. ESABA acts as a conduit, getting information from City Hall to its members and bringing members’ concerns and ideas back to City Hall.

In addition to representing members’ interests within the city, the ESABA team  creates regular workshops around topics that members have said they would like to learn more about. At the events, members have come up with creative proposals like health care pooling and property tax relief, access to operating capital and cooperative buying for to-go containers. ESABA and its members are always actively looking into new ideas with the help of their established connections and experienced business owners.

Additionally, the  association has partnerships with various micro-lenders and is able to connect local businesses to financial resources.

“If you want to develop something, or renovate something,” says Dunning, “we can be one of those one-stop calls for you to figure out what resources might be available.” On top of everything, at monthly meetings, members build relationships with eachother.

Business owners are often in what Dunning calls “a peerless operation.” Collaborating with neighbors and learning from eachother in an informal setting has been invaluable. From navigating the newest East Side developments to navigating the challenges of being a small business owner, 100 voices can do what one cannot do alone. 

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