Opening a business in Long Beach may have gotten a little bit easier after a resolution was adopted by the City Council last night to enter into an agreement with OpenCounter, an online company that aims to streamline small business licensing and permitting.
With the unanimous vote, the Santa Cruz-based company will serve the City of Long Beach as an access point for small business owners who are interested in opening potential businesses within the city. Using the online software, owners can research information about fees, zoning permits and licenses for the given businesses they’d like to open at no cost.
The company lists the City of Santa Cruz among a stable of other Northern California cities as its clients, as well as Orlando and Indianapolis, denoting its national reach.
Jonathan Reichental, Chief Information Officer for the City of Palo Alto, testified to the usefulness of the software for his city. Reichental has been honored numerous times for being a technology leader, including winning the 2013 award for best CIO in the Silicon Valley. In a statement on OpenCounter’s website, Reichental described the software as simplistic and “beautiful.”
“The team at OpenCounter have taken a typically bureaucratic and complex process—business registration—and made it simple to complete and beautiful to use,” Reichental said. “They are tackling and succeeding at the essential redesign work that needs to take place across all government interactions.”
Those feelings were echoed by Sean Duren, executive director of the Uptown Business Improvement District, who started in on the work to bring the company to Long Beach over a year ago. According to Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA), business improvement districts in the city will have access to OpenCounter for the first 90 days of its contract with the city, before it is opened to the public.
In addition to helping make things easier for small businesses interested in coming to Long Beach, Duren said it might also make city departments work more efficiently with each other and with prospective clients, which could help foster job creation within the city.
“We believe the OpenCounter will streamline the process for opening new businesses in the city by being essentially a one-stop shop where business owners can see the requirements, the fees and the processing time that apply to their type of business based on their location as well,” Duren said. “We also believe that OpenCounter will help direct the city’s internal work flow across departments and help build better relationships with the business community, essentially making Long Beach a more business-friendly and business-easy, as we like to say, environment.”
Implementing the contract with OpenCounter will cost the city $70,500, including a one time fee of $30,000. The annual subscription fee of $40,500 was worked into the current year’s fiscal budget and has been requested to be included in the budget for the 2016 fiscal year.
The contract provides the city manager the option to renew one-year contracts with Open Counter for two additional years.
Mayor Robert Garcia credited Bixby Knolls Business Improvement District Executive Director Blair Cohn for first bringing the software company to his attention while Cohn served on his transition team last summer. Garcia, who has taken a strong stance on wanting to transform Long Beach into a hub for innovation and technology, said that the implementation of the software will be a game changer for doing business in Long Beach.
“This is going be a fantastic new opportunity,” Garcia said. “This is by the way, in my opinion, going to dramatically change the way we do and track businesses as they open a business and apply for licensing in the City of Long Beach. This is a big deal and it’s a way to use technology to make the city more friendly and support particularly small businesses.”