Mayor Robert Garcia today announced a series of initiatives to help small businesses start and grow in the City of Long Beach. The initiatives, which were driven by the city’s Innovation Team, include an online business portal and new local purchasing guidelines for city agencies, clarify and simplify the startup process for new businesses and add additional resources to help existing small businesses grow. The announcement, which falls during National Small Business Week, ensures that job creators get the right supports in the right places, and that Long Beach is creating a modern, thriving economy for all citizens to enjoy.
“Long Beach is committed to being one of the most business friendly cities in the country, and these initiatives are a tremendous step in that direction,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “We are going to do everything possible to remove obstacles to business and entrepreneurs to help businesses grow and our residents thrive.”
These initiatives are the result of an extensive, user-centered design process implemented by the City’s Innovation Team (i-team), funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, which included input from more than 1,000 people representing business, education, research and community interest fields, as well as, research partnerships with the Colleges of Arts, Economics, Engineering and Business at California State University Long Beach, and the Small Business Development Center based at the Long Beach Community College District.
Businesses report that the process to start a business is confusing and can lead to costly delays. Opening a restaurant in the city, for instance, may require as many as 26 licenses and permits from local, state, and federal agencies, and take up to 18 months for approval to open its doors.
To address these potential roadblocks, the City is building a custom, state of the art business portal in partnership with Code for America, a national civic technology nonprofit. The new portal will centralize information about licensing, permitting, and building inspection processes in one place. The first version of the business portal is now available for early testing and will be continuously updated over the next few months, with an official public launch planned for October 2016. Funding for the project was made possible, in part, by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation and a prize from the Small Business Administration.
Simplifying Doing Business with the City
The City is also seeking to use its purchasing power to support local business growth. A first step is to increase the number of local businesses that compete for government contracts. Currently, there are nearly 18,000 vendors registered with the City’s purchasing division but only 18 percent are local. To make the registration, notification, and bid process more accessible, the City launched the first in a series of new how-to-video iClips on “How to Become a Registered Vendor”. Online videos support effective learning and address the expectations of today’s entrepreneurs.
“It’s an exciting time to be working with these incredible partners,” said Bryan Sastokas, Chief Information Officer. “Through these engagements, the City is connected with thought leaders and problem solvers from across sectors. These partnerships support our economic opportunity strategy and generate tools for cultivating an innovation ecosystem.”
Citymart, Inc., an international company that innovates how governments engage the public to solve problems has also played a central role in changing the City’s approach to procurement. The first two of five challenges, open calls for ideas to solve problems, were launched in March 2016 and focused on nurturing innovation and effective tools to support entrepreneurs. Creative solutions were proposed by local and international thought leaders and the City will release Requests for Proposals based on feedback with the new few weeks. Funding for these initiatives include a grant from Knight Foundation and the Long Beach Community Foundation.
“We want to make it easier for small, local businesses to register and do business with the City, and have several initiatives under way to facilitate more online and mobile services,” said Jason MacDonald, Purchasing and Business Services Manager. “The goal is to make it faster, better and easier to work with the City in every way.”
More initiatives will be developed this year to activate business corridors and improve access to business support services in multiple languages and formats. There are also initiatives to provide market research, streamline the building inspection process, and introduce navigators to serve as guides for business owners. The City wants to ensure that initiatives are designed to meet the needs of many types of business owners who may not be tech savvy, have reliable internet access, or who prefer to have in-person contact.
About the Innovation Team
The City of Long Beach Innovation (i-team) is one of nearly 20 cities around the world participating in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Innovation Teams program. The program aims to improve the capacity of City Halls to effectively design and implement new approaches that improve citizens’ lives. Innovation teams function as in-house innovation consultants, moving from one City priority to the next. Using Bloomberg Philanthropies’ tested Innovation Delivery approach, i-teams help agency leaders and staff through a data-driven process to assess problems, generate responsive new interventions, develop partnerships, and deliver measurable results. For more information on the City of Long Beach Innovation Team, please visit www.longbeach.gov/iteam
or follow them on Twitter @iteam_longBeach