By Regulatory Reform Team • February 18, 2015

Cities should streamline the permitting and licensing process to ensure a clear and simple route for small businesses to open and prosper in the marketplace. To do this, cities should ask themselves:

  • Which licenses or permits are required to ensure public health and safety?
  • What are the requirements for license or permit eligibility?

What processes are used to issue, renew, and/or revoke permits or licenses?
To ensure a streamlined approach to permitting and licensing, cities should adopt the following best practices:

PRINCIPLE 1

Publish permitting and licensing processes online - include the pertinent contact information, timelines for completion at each stage, cost, and number of procedural steps related to each process

Circulate permit and license process maps amongst city staff and post online for the public. Include details, such as key contact information, average timeline, average cost, and average number of procedural steps.

Value Proposition & Potential Barriers

  • Value Proposition

Process maps will support consistency within city government by helping front-line staff understand their office’s role in the regulatory regime and what the standard times and costs are. This consistency, in turn, will translate to predictability for small businesses, because they will be receiving a unified message on what their next step is from all points of contact within government and will be able to forecast process time and associated costs. Without predictability, small businesses cannot internalize the regulatory burden and are therefore vulnerable, especially in their early stages, to any deviations from standard procedure.

  • Potential Barriers

Lack of technical skills and resources.

PRINCIPLE 2

Provide a "one-stop shop" for licenses and permits to streamline compliance for small businesses

Cities should develop a portal that summarizes the requirements to obtain various permits and licenses. Agencies should be trained on which permits from other agencies go with their own. Checklists should be posted online in multiple languages. As much as possible, small businesses should be able to track requirements and progress and submit their deliverables online.

Value Proposition & Potential Barriers

  • Value Proposition

Distributing checklists to small business owners who are working through the regulatory process will provide a pathway for success. Small businesses will know what is expected of them and plan accordingly.

  • Potential Barriers

Lack of technical skills and resources.

Best Practice Examples in Local Government

  • Denver, CO

Denver’s Business Assistant Center provides an online roadmap for small businesses to use when opening a business in the City and County of Denver. The process, from planning to celebration, is captured in 12 steps that are explained on two pages. n Palo Alto, the Development Services Department launched Civic Insight, an interactive online tool for residents to track the progress of building permits through the approval process via timely email alerts and a user-friendly interface. In Chicago, Mayor Emanuel has budgeted $690,000 towards moving all licenses and permits online by 2016.

PRINCIPLE 3

Enforce a customer service mentality through small business feedback and performance management metrics

Cities should create a customer service culture within city staff, regardless of the regulatory task (issuing permits, performing inspections, etc.), that appreciates the monetary value of time to small businesses.

Value Proposition & Potential Barriers

  • Value Proposition

Providing friendly and helpful customer service will encourage small business and residents to partake in the proper process for permitting, license and compliance, and will motivate entrepreneurs to persist in their potential job-creating business.

  • Potential Barriers

Resistance to systematic change; difficulty of measuring customer service experience.

Best Practice Examples in Local Government

  • New York City, NY

In 2009, the NYC Regulatory Review Plan submitted recommendations to the Mayor and Council Speaker based on small business feedback from the five boroughs. The second core objective, of the four recommended, was, “Provide small businesses with better customer service….”. (The Regulatory Review Panel Report, 2009).

PRINCIPLE 4

Utilize ‘lean approaches’ when implementing regulations by piloting efforts, when possible

A lean approach begins with rules and policies aimed at a sub-set of the end-state effected population. The scope of the rule or policy can be widened as successive iterations yield feedback that leads to its refinement.

Value Proposition & Potential Barriers

  • Value Proposition

A pilot approach to implementation allows cities the opportunity to understand unintended consequences and the time to revise the regulation for greater effectiveness before full roll-out. This approach can save time and money for the city, small business community and residents.

  • Potential Barriers

Lack of ability to pilot in a meaningful way; difficulty in collecting consistent feed-back; and resistance to systematic change.

Best Practice Examples in Local Government

  • Baltimore, MD

In 2011, the City of Baltimore introduced a food truck pilot program that identified a geographic area where the trucks may provide service. Based on the results, the county officials voted to expand the program, in 2014, into other neighborhoods. By implementing this rule in a specific geographic location, assessing its outcomes, making revisions to better achieve the goal, and then widening the effort city-wide, the city of Baltimore was able to limit unintended consequences and small business interruption.

PRINCIPLE 5

Appoint a Regulatory or Small Business Ombudsman to guide small businesses through the regulatory process, advocate on behalf of small business when problems arise, and ensure small business recommendations and feedback are incorporated into the development and implementation process

Cities should appoint a Regulatory or Small Business Ombudsman that can provide leadership on behalf of the Mayor’s Office to drive regulatory reform. This person can liaise between the Mayor’s Office, city agencies, small businesses and residents.

Value Proposition & Potential Barriers

  • Value Proposition

Establishing a leader on behalf of the Mayor will provide a clear statement of the importance of regulatory reform and small business to city agencies, small business and residents. This effort can increase trust, accountability, transparency, and insight related to reforms that small business and residents need most.

  • Potential Barriers

Resistance to change; budgetary constraints; and lack of political support.

Best Practice Examples in Local Government

  • Chicago, IL

In 2014, the City of Chicago appointed a Special Deputy for Regulatory Reform to lead a number of initiatives. One initiative was a ‘regulatory look back’ to review Chicago’s municipal code with an eye to eliminating outdated regulations and ordinances; making the code easily available to small businesses and individuals; and establishing procedures going forward to assure the code stays up-to-date and easily available.