Road signs along Interstate 10 denoting exits to Ahwatukee Foothills would help bolster the local business community by raising the urban village's profile, business leaders told Phoenix City Manager David Cavazos Thursday.

"I want signs that say, ‘Ahwatukee next five exits,'" said Terri Kimble, president and CEO of the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce, which represents about 500 local businesses. "I think it will help our business district."

Such signs would increase the public's recognition of Ahwatukee's location, and help create a sense of place, she said.

"We are a quaint village. We are in a metropolitan area, but people like the quaintness," she said. "I think we need to celebrate that."

Cavazos met with the chamber's executive board Thursday to discuss how the city could better serve small- and medium-sized businesses. He touted the work of the city's Small Business Division, an arm of the Community and Economic Development Department.

The division's mission, he said, is to work with small businesses to bring new industry to town and create local jobs by making it easier to access government services. For instance, the division can help new businesses by coordinating the services of several city departments, such as planning and development, streets and water. It also can provide information, such as listings of available properties for sale or lease, he said.

"We're all about partnerships with groups like your own," Cavazos told chamber members.

Kimble said the city could assist new businesses by simplifying the permitting process and by spreading out permit fee payments, which sometimes can be overwhelming for ventures that are trying to get off the ground.

One suggestion is to allow businesses and residents to fill out forms and pay taxes and fees online, rather than having to physically appear in city offices, she said. The change would save small business owners time and money, she added.

"The permitting process is very cumbersome for the small business," Kimble noted.

Another idea is to allow businesses to spread out the payments for permit fees so new businesses don't have to pay thousands of dollars up front, she said.

"Let's get the businesses open and running so that they can get to generating sales tax dollars," Kimble said, adding that she appreciated the city's attempt to build bridges to the business community.

"I was pleased with the city's outreach. We've got to open up the lines of communication," she said. "A strong business community will make a strong community."

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