News Story

Detroit Repeals Some Burdensome Business And Occupational License Mandates

City piled its own rules and regs on top of state ones

Starting a business or entering a profession in Detroit can be costly due to onerous fees, regulations, and penalties for failing to comply. The city also imposes its own occupational licensure mandates on trades, even on individuals already subject to state licensure mandates.

But decades after some of those requirements first appeared, city officials have repealed a few of them, with an eye toward removing disincentives to work in certain trades or open a business in the city.

Michigan Capitol Confidential reported in 2016 that Detroit imposed licensure mandates on individuals in 265 separate occupations, compared to 200 such regimes at the state level. It also noted that a home-based business needed “70 or so building or equipment permits to get started.”

In 2013 the city increased these burdens with an enforcement campaign it called Operation Compliance. Over a two-year period, officials closed 383 businesses and threatened to shut down 898 more for falling short of various requirements.

But at a Nov. 23, 2021, Detroit City Council meeting, officials repealed some of these extra license requirements. The canceled mandates included ones imposed on landscapers, dance studios, vending machine owners, housing rental agencies, dry cleaners, laundromats, movers, auctioneers, junk collectors, trash haulers, snow removal services and transportation companies. Thirty-four small business licenses will be discontinued, according to a Feb. 23 DBusiness story.

The repeal also extended to the city’s most expensive add-on requirements, including the following licenses and fees, as identified in a city report last updated in 2010:

  • Arcades $863
  • Bowling Alleys $223
  • Junk yard dealer $432
  • Snow Removal $223

The Detroit City Council did not respond to a request for comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.