Cities have tried various methods for helping and engaging local small businesses. Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, though, thinks his city has found a winning solution.
Chicago received a $6 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to create an “Innovation Delivery Team”—a model a few other cities are trying as well. The idea was to create a special entity in city government devoted to finding new ways to help small businesses, Emanuel told CNN.com.
Along with establishing this team, Chicago has taken other steps in recent years, including appointing its first “Chief Small Business Officer,” creating a micro-lending program, and setting up a new Small Business Center.
One early success of the city’s new Innovation Delivery Team: reducing the amount of time it takes to open a new restaurant in the city from 66 to 44 days.
“The program identified and eliminated bottlenecks, created new materials in five languages, designed training programs to improve transparency, and implemented team-based building inspections in restaurants, which were previously reserved for large buildings,” Emanuel said.
The team identified small-business licensing redundancies and then, after collecting that information, helped the city pass an ordinance that more than halved business license types—from 117 licenses to 40. “As a result, 7,500 small businesses saved $1.3 million in 2013 and continue to save $1 to $2 million annually,” Emanuel said.
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