I love Orlando…and I know you do too. During the past few months, much of the work we have done together has been dismissed by my opponent.
Yet, she has openly admitted her appreciation for the work of our council for the past 10 years and her excitement about the strides we are making. I agree with her- we have accomplished much…but there is still more to do.
When it comes to our economic drivers, small business creation and support is the key. 10 years ago, I was proud to be an early supporter of bringing the Main Street program to Orlando. Not only was it a decision to invest in our business districts, it was also a movement toward supporting individual small businesses and the communities that surround them.
But I didn’t stop there. We created and continue to fund our city’s Façade Program, which provides more than $50,000 per year in matching grants to our small businesses. When I realized that some of the other districts weren’t fully spending their allotment, I created a plan to pool the unused funds back into a joint account, to allow districts like ours a chance to utilize those resources, so that more businesses could benefit. In District 3 alone, this Façade Program has provided more than $500,000 to your favorite neighborhood businesses. I’m so proud of that. But there is more to do.
When I realized, after working directly with many of our area’s entrepreneurs, that our small businesses needed guidance through the permitting process, I helped create a resource guide (later replaced by an electronic version) to give small startup businesses a complete understanding of our permitting and licensing process. It was a breath of fresh air into a challenging situation.
Then we realized that we needed someone to provide personal attention to these small companies, so we created our ombudsman position…a qualified staff member that could personally help steer the permitting process for the applicant. This person has an expertise in permitting, planning and our business incentive programs. Through our Main Streets, we have educated our businesses on these tailored assistance programs. We have accomplished much…but there is still more to do.
We took our commitment to bettering our system seriously by hiring a consultant to work with us on improving our permitting system. Through this process, they have held community forums that were extremely well attended and then utilized that information as a starting point to create a Permitting Task Force. This volunteer team of local professionals have helped us create, implement and evaluate the first major upgrade to our permitting and code enforcement systems. We have streamlined our processes, provided digital plans reviews, which makes them available instantly to our field inspectors and our customers. We have created an online “waiting room” to help with on-demand permits and streamlined our permits for popular items like fencing and pools. It has helped speed up permitting while keeping costs down!
Just this month, we announced our Permitting Express initiative, which takes the ombudsman idea to a whole new level. It allows qualifying projects to be automatically placed in a separate queue to be reviewed by the new dedicated Permitting Express team, comprised of City staff who are experts at providing guidance to small business clients and helping navigate these types of projects through the permitting process. So we have made serious headway…but we want it better!
Small business is Orlando’s lifeblood…don’t be fooled by the political rhetoric. It is easy to make promises, deliver appealing sound bites, offer simplistic solutions and commit to studying everything under the sun on the campaign trail. In in real life, it is not that easy to tie up the issues facing our community with a pretty bow. I have a proven record of supporting small business and I ask for your support to keep us moving in the right direction.
We have more to do and I’m asking for your vote on November 7.