City makes opening a business a faster process - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

City makes opening a business a faster process

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Posted: Sunday, May 8, 2011 10:00 am | Updated: 3:27 pm, Thu Dec 13, 2012.

It may be easier to start a small business or new construction project in the city of Phoenix soon as the city is streamlining some permit processes.

The city's Innovation and Efficiency Task Force has been working to expand the self-certification program, reduce permits required and decrease the cost of certain permits.

The changes will reduce the amount of time and money it takes to have plans reviewed by allowing a registered architect or engineer to review the plans and submit them for the permits.

"It expedites the process," said Michael Hammett, spokesman for the city of Phoenix. "They can get through the same day they come in. Say there's a small business in Ahwatukee and they want tenant improvements on an existing shell and permits are required. If a self-certified architect comes in with the request they can receive the permit and get working that day."

The city is also getting rid of some permit requirements entirely. A permit will no longer be required for water heaters, HVAC units, window replacements and components on electrical signs.

The changes are all part of a process the city has been working on for more than a year. Kimber Lanning, executive director of Local First Arizona, helped come up with some of the changes that have been adopted by the city.

"Most people don't realize that the greenest building of all is an existing building," Lanning said. "We need to figure out how to keep these buildings standing and not fill the landfills with perfectly good buildings. In order to do that we need to figure out how to make it easier and less expensive to encourage people to utilize them.

"I think from a local first perspective the other reason it's important is locally owned businesses tend to utilize these older buildings. Local businesses keep up to three times more money re-circulating in our economy here. The more we can utilize these older, smaller buildings the better off we all are."

City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said he was part of the group that met with members of the business community, labor groups and activists like the Goldwater Institute a year ago to try and come up with ways to make Phoenix more competitive.

"Those are all good things," DiCiccio said. "I want to commend staff for adopting that plan. It makes us competitive in the Valley but it doesn't make us competitive in a global market. It streamlines the process and cuts right to it but it needs to go further if we're going to get out of the economic crisis that we're in."

Hammett agrees that more changes are needed and those changes are in the works. The city plans to look at the inspection process next.

"Typically we have an inspector that handles each different element of construction," Hammett said. "You have an inspector that comes out for structural, another for electrical, another for plumbing. We're moving in the direction of having an inspector that will be well-rounded. They can go out and inspect everything along the way. That will save time and also save money because you won't have to pay the fees for the additional inspectors."

The current changes will go into effect on June 1. For more information on the changes and the self-certification program, visit the city's website at phoenix.gov/development.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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