Anaheim’s New Concierge Program Example of Right Approach

The City of Anaheim has launched a “concierge program” aimed at heling business get through the city regulatory process in a even speedier, more streamlined manner.

The new intiative is an outgrowth of the Regulatory Relief Task Force that was launched in early 2011 by Mayor Tom Tait — and is itself is the philosophical offspring of the freedom-friendly revolution that took City Hall by storm in 2003 under then-Mayor Curt Pringle and then-Councilmembers Tom Tait and Richard Chavez.

The concierges act as project managers who charged with ensuring timely action on permits and resolving any issues that are slowing down the approval process. From the OC Register:

“That streamlining should lower the cost of meeting regulatory requirements, decrease the time to comply with them, increase the certainty about what the requirements are, and provide an advocate within the city to drive their project through.

The duty of the concierge is to bring transparency to the project – one of the three main goals of the task force. It aims to inform the public of all necessary information regarding the time it will take for all the paperwork to be approved and how much it will cost.

“There are two parts of the program. The first is to make you aware of all the regulatory information you are going to have to do, and secondly, to be the advocate for (the application process) internally,” said Thomas Turk, chair of the task force and associate professor of management at Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business and Economics.

Turk gave an example of how the regulatory barriers would affect a standard fast-food stall that would make $1.5 million in sales a year. The business owner who buys the land for a small shop but is waiting on approval from the city to open loses an average of $2,700 a day in profits, and is not paying wages to workers or generating sales tax revenue to the city.

The task force plans streamlining the fee structure to simplify estimations for project costs as well as speeding it up. Currently, the city charges by hour in the process of starting a business, which includes the fee structure, inspection, and reviewing plans.”

As obvious as it is to most of us, the concept of “time is money” is often lost on staff in many municipalities. Gearing city government toward doing everything possible to make business successful is an area where Anaheim has been a leader, and it is heartening to see that leadership deepen.

The uniform support this program – and the Regulatory Reform Task Force overall – has received from the Anaheim City Council also highlights how maddening, counter-productive and philosophically unnatural are the recent divisions on the council. GardenWalk is not a philosophical hill to die on, and it is amazing how it has become so in a city governed by a council governed by a conservative outlook.

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