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Clearing a path for business

A review panel is looking to streamline the city's development processes for startups.

By RITA FARLOW
Published July 31, 2007


LARGO - How hard is it to start a new business in Largo?

That's a key question around City Hall and the local Chamber of Commerce, and local leaders are looking for an answer through a panel created this spring to identify hurdles faced by new business owners.

In November, the Business Development Review Panel will present its findings to the City Commission, along with suggestions generated by surveys and focus groups.

The goal? To streamline development procedures to make processes smoother for startup businesses.

"If you're coming in as a novice, especially as a new business, it can be very overwhelming," said Tom Morrissette, president of the Largo/Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce. "So what we're asking is: 'How can we make it more user-friendly?' "

The Business Development Review Panel, made up of representatives from the city, the chamber and local developers, sent surveys to 102 recent planning and permitting customers asking them to rate their experiences and offer suggestions for better service.

The group was formed in response to repeat complaints received by the chamber that included permitting and inspection delays.

Wesley Jenkins, co-owner of Blue Diamond Builders in Largo, returned his survey with several suggestions.

Jenkins said he would like to see monthly meetings between the city and developers for updates on regulations, restrictions and procedures.

"Even the dialogue itself lends to a better understanding," Jenkins said.

He also recommended creating an express permitting service for "single-trade" projects like roofing, plumbing or electrical jobs.

"Those are the kinds of things we'd like to see most building departments implement," Jenkins said.

As of Monday, only 11 of the customer surveys have been returned.

The deadline is Wednesday, but the panel will continue to accept them through Aug. 7, when it will compile information from the surveys to present to focus groups.

The panel has also sent questionnaires to the community development department, to let city staffers weigh in on the matter.

Fast Facts:

Largo Business Development Review Panel

August - Surveys collected.

Fall - Focus groups convened.

November - Findings and recommendations presented to the City Commission.