This is a nearly universal small business truth.
Our firm works in an immense crevasse separating small businesses and government entities. This space never seems to shrink. Many times, certain projects make it feel as if it is actually growing. Great for my job security, not so great for anyone else.
*Disclaimer: There are obviously an assortment of awesome city staff members and elected officials across the country. These generalizations are by no means applicable to everyone, however, as we all know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. So, if you are one of the few and the proud, keep doing what you're doing!
The more projects I am involved in, the more it seems to me that most government employees have absolutely zero comprehension of what starting, building, expanding, moving, or generally profiting in business takes. If they did, if local units of government and municipal level elected officials were able to grasp what business really is, wouldn't they do everything differently? It really begs the question, do they know and not care? Or, have they never been required to grasp some of the most fundamental business concepts?
My hope is that the problem is more attributable to the latter of the two options I presented. If this is the case, is it time that we begin requiring our engineers, planners, economic development staff, building officials, and city administrators to be educated in Business 101 at the very least? Would knowing what a business owner goes through make a city planner better at his job than sending him to yet another "planning conference?" I would bet my paycheck on it.
The more time that goes by, the more projects that I work on, the more cities, counties, states, and businesses that I deal with...the more common the problems get. Slow timelines, extensive red-tape, exorbitant fees, unclear ordinances, no follow-up, poor communication, you name it, it's prevalent. All of these problems are fixable. To be honest, probably easily fixable.
We need staff members and elected officials to start recognizing that they are becoming the single biggest problem in economic development. We need cities, counties, and states to take an objective look at their requirements, fees and processes. Have a staff member open a fictional business that requires the purchase and development of property and walk the entire process front to back and clock how much of a business' time, and how much staff-time it requires. Now convert that time into dollars. Pretty ridiculous isn't it? And to what end?
No one is arguing that there should be ZERO processes, policies, and fees. Businesses just want them to be clear, be fair, be efficient, and make some sense.
Let's take the staff-time that is spent on one of those projects and dedicate it to streamlining processes. Eliminate pointless hoops, and allow more processes to run simultaneously. Assess the formulas that were used to determine fees and their structures. Create processes for handling inquiries and put follow-up and customer services guidelines into place. Make some simple changes to lessen the gap.
If you want businesses to flock to your city it's really quite simple, show them that you have what they need, and then don't waste their *expletive* time.