In recent Independence City Council elections, improving the process of starting a business has remained at the top of council hopefuls’ to-do lists.
Meeting Monday, the City Council's three-member Audit and Finance Committee discussed whether it’s appropriate for the city’s management analyst to take a look at the city’s “checklist” of opening a business.
“We’ve had plenty of anecdotal evidence over the years – at least, I have – of people complaining that our process is difficult,” District 4 Council Member Eileen Weir said. “So, why is that the case, and what can we be doing to either simplify it and make it more user-friendly or what are the problems in that system?
District 3 Council Member Myron Paris said he, too, has heard multiple complaints about the process of starting a business in Independence. But District 1 Council Member Marcie Gragg, the committee’s chairwoman, disagreed, saying she hadn’t heard multiple complaints about the process.
“I have from one person,” Gragg said, “but I can pinpoint exactly down to what that individual’s issue is, and he simply disagrees with codes we have in place.”
Instead of having Management Analyst Zach Walker initially look at the process, Gragg said, she thinks it would be more appropriate for city staff to make a presentation about the process at a future study session.
“Then we can see where we are hearing those concerns fit in,” she said. “Is what so-and-so is telling us really honest?”
Sometimes, Weir said, not all of the voiced concerns are factual when it comes to starting a business, “but that perception is out there.”
“When that perception is out there,” she continued, “that hurts us as a city in terms of attracting new businesses.”
City Manager Robert Heacock suggested that, as a first step, an independent survey among new businesses and remodeling projects and commercial and housing developments alike take place to identify potential problems. Starting a business in Independence involves three components, he said, including codes, the process itself and people (customer service received from city staff).
“I hear the concerns,” Heacock said. “I certainly think it’s worthy of some evaluation.”
Gragg said she liked the idea of a survey because it would quantify where the actual concerns exist, in addition to narrowing the scope of a potential management analyst review.
“It may not be a problem,” Heacock said. “It could just be that we’re in the middle of the road on something we could be excelling at, and the idea is if we want to be pro-business – and there certainly has been a lot of moves to reach out and encourage business in Independence – are we doing everything we can to make sure we are being as business-friendly as possible while still balancing health and safety? I think it’s a great opportunity to look at that.”
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