City of Asheville launches new small biz development tool

The City of Asheville is proud to announce the launch of Open Counter: Asheville, a web-based tool, designed to help small business owners understand the specific license, permits and requirements for starting their business in Asheville.


Informed by the City’s zoning and land use permits as well as building and public works processes, the goal of the site is to help applicants who are about to launch complex projects — like starting a new business or commercial renovation — understand the costs and complexity unique to their specific project.


About Open Counter

When citizens start a business or home improvement project, they’re confronted with complex requirements from the City: multiple permits from different departments, each with its own terminology and procedures.

Tradespeople and permit expeditors know how to navigate these processes, but non-professionals are often left behind. Their lack of experience can lead to delays, missteps and even penalties and fines.

Open Counter: Asheville uses a sophisticated rules engine to calculate permit requirements, fees and timelines as applicants fill in their project details. This helps applicants to start their projects with more confidence and helps staff to improve efficiency at the counter.


Information flows both ways

By moving this process online, the City is hoping to provide reliable, targeted feedback to its community of entrepreneurs available 24/7, and give the City a new level of insight into economic trends in their community.

“We’re aiming to increase communication and eliminate confusion on both sides of the counter,” said Diane Meek, Interim Development Services Department Director. “City staff will have access a powerful suite of administrative tools to analyze proposed projects while citizens are given a remarkably high level of service that reduces their discovery process from weeks down to a few minutes.”

This effort, spearheaded by the City’s Development Services Department, is one of a series of recent actions to support Asheville’s small business community, including its selection as an SBA Startup In A Day contest winner and the continued support for the Downtown Arts District.