City of Asheville wins SBA grant to help streamline business start-up process

The City of Asheville is committed to making it easier for every entrepreneur to start a business. A $50,000 grant awarded to the City from the Small Business Administration will go toward helping the City streamline permitting and other necessary paperwork for start-ups.

“We believe an entrepreneur’s time is best spent developing innovative products and services, creating jobs and growing local economies — not navigating red tape,” said Sam Powers, the City’s Economic Development Director. “While fair zoning rules, licenses and permits are important to ensuring public safety and fair competition, it should not take more than a day for an entrepreneur to identify and apply, ideally through a single online tool, for all the licenses and permits they need in order to responsibly launch a business.”

Asheville was one of 25 municipalities awarded a “Start Small” grant as part of the SBA’s Startup in a Day challenge. The idea is to reduce red tape by harnessing the internet to create a tool that provides valuable information and allows a small business owner to start their permit application process within 24 hours.

During the next year, the City proposes to use the grant to build an existing open-source software to develop a customized tool for Asheville’s small business entrepreneurs.

The idea of the tool is to walk a prospective small business owner through a series of questions and screens to determine what kind of permits or licenses may be required, similar to the question and answer process used by the permit facilitator. Once those permits are identified, the tool will prompt the individual to enter the necessary information to begin the application process.  In some instances, this information may be used to populate an application that can be printed and attached to more complex proposals, or potentially uploaded and paid for online for simpler ones.

The tool will expedite the permit process by providing direct, clear and easy-to-navigate information. It will also provide the convenience of allowing a prospective business owner to initiate the process remotely, without having to come down to the Development Services center.

“This is a great example of the City of Asheville continuing to focus on highly usable and useful public technology,” said Jonathan Feldman, chief information officer. “We hope that this project, like SimpliCity, continues to positively impact and delight citizens.”

It will take about a year to develop a fully functioning tool, between scripting the software, performing usability testing and refining the tool based on that testing. Stay tuned as we begin this process.

For more information see the SBA StartUp in a Day press release.