Taking small business headaches to city hall for solutions

January 17, 2017
Early in the morning of January 10, a “think tank” of small business owners and architects joined staff from The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce in a downtown office. The subject for two hours conversation and brainstorming: the optimal experience small businesses should have when they interact with city bureaucracy… and what barriers block that ideal.

While a number of topics came up, our conversation frequently turned to permits.

Why does the permit process matter to small business? Permit process problems, building delays and resulting labour costs take a high toll on independent entrepreneurs who lack collateral and cash flow to navigate unexpected permit-related costs through loans. Permit pains are one of the first substantial barriers to entering Winnipeg’s business scene. In a global economy where city’s compete to keep talent, early barriers can effectively drive entrepreneurs away.

When asked about what an ideal permitting process would include, our focus group chose to focus on positive goals including:

  1. Clear service standards and readily available policies and information
  2. An understanding of the decision-making process, including built-in accountability
  3. Smooth coordination between architects, engineers, contractors, commercial real estate, inspectors, zoning office, small businesses and other city officials

Fast forward one week later. On January 17 we sat down with Jason Fuith, Mayor Bowman’s Chief of Staff, and Stan Dueck, Manager, Development and Inspections at the City of Winnipeg, to share our members feedback. We’re deeply grateful for their energy and openness to building an ideal permit process, and have already pointed to possible next steps.

Stay tuned for more shortly…