SBA helps cities put entrepreneurs on the fast track

SBA helps cities put entrepreneurs on the fast track

The Small Business Administration hopes to help local governments around the nation make the permitting and licensing process for entrepreneurs easier and less time consuming through $1.6 million in funding for competition winners.

The “Startup in a Day” initiative, led by the SBA and the White House, awarded 25 cities and two Native American communities with $50,000 each as winners in the Start Small category. Los Angeles came away with $250,000 as the winner of the Dream Big model.

The permitting process can be a major barrier for aspiring business owners. The idea of enabling an entrepreneur to apply for all permits and licenses in one day sparked the competition.

“Entrepreneurs spend about six days when they’re trying to start a business in some of our cities, and we found that as a big obstacle,” said Chris James, the associate administrator for SBA’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

The competition called for proposals for a “Startup in a Day” online tool that could be created and deployed in 12 months in support of a streamlined, business-friendly online permitting process.  

“We really wanted the cities to get what they needed out of this funding, “ said James, "so they’re the ones that had all the power and came up with all the solutions of how to implement."

Besides rewarding creativity, the SBA wanted to fund diversity by selecting cities with different populations, from various regions with unique needs. Priority points were given to solutions that helped expand diversity, target Department of Housing and Urban Development zones or cities below the poverty line, address the Veterans Economic Community initiatives or focus on cities with a population of 50,000 or less. Start Small model winners ranged from smaller cities like Brookings, S.D.; Riverside, Calif.; and Peoria, Ill.; to metropolises of Washington, D.C.; Seattle; Atlanta; and San Francisco.

The Dream Big winner needed to provide an open source solution that could be shared and used by cities nationwide, regardless of size.   Los Angeles  offered “an open source solution, they had a timely implementation and they were leveraging their resources and partnerships,” James said.

According to James, the diversity of cities applying translated into an equally broad range of solutions -- from simple and basic websites to enhancing complex systems already in place.

For example, one of the winning cities did not use business licenses, so it proposed using the funding to innovatively enhance other permitting processes, like applying for a liquor license.  

“Just because they didn’t necessarily have a standard business license they had other processes that they were able to use the money to improve upon,” James said.

The remaining 80-plus applicants are not left on the sidelines. While those cities did not receive funding, by taking the “Startup in a Day Pledge,” they vowed to improve licensing and permitting systems and help entrepreneurs.

Those cities will receive assistant packages and support from the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and its strategic partner, the National League of Cities, according to James.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.

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