If all goes as planned, doing business with the city of Gainesville will get a bit easier in the near future, according to reports from the city’s special committee on economic development. There soon may be a fully functioning new department in the city, the Department of Doing.
The Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee on Economic Competitiveness, empaneled this spring by the mayor and city commission, has been at work developing an understanding of how things work at city hall and how to make it more customer friendly.
“There is both perception and reality that things take longer to get done in Gainesville than other markets,” Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy said at a community meeting the group hosted in downtown Gainesville on August 6.
The committee consists of 23 members, 14 appointed by city commissioners and mayor, two appointed by the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, two appointed by the Gainesville/Alachua County Association of Realtors, two appointed by the Builders Association of North Central Florida and one member appointed each by The University of Florida, Santa Fe College and the Gainesville Area Innovation Network.
The committee is working with a San Francisco based consulting company, IDEO, that is an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow, according to the company’s website.
Leading the project for the consulting company is Scott Paterson, a project lead at IDEO. His work focuses on the intersection of technology and space whether designing mobile applications, embedded interfaces or physical environments.
According to committee reports, “If you’re starting or growing a business, you don’t need more red tape.”
What the committee is proposing are practical tools, from starter kits to official forms; plain English instructions; relevant city services; and connections to resources and know-how at city hall.
The committee wants the Department of Doing to be a one-stop shop for starting or growing a business, powered by the city of Gainesville, and available all around town, not just at city hall.
Getting to the point where recommendations can be made to the city commission takes lots of meetings and lots of interviews with Gainesville residents – lots of interaction and listening.
The committee has been meeting with residents and reporting their work at community meetings. There were at least two open meetings in August where the committee showed off their work. Drawings, notes and mockups of traveling workshops were presented.
What they heard in their encounters with residents sounds familiar to anyone dealing with city hall.
“It’s hard enough starting a business without having to navigate the opaque and uncertain path through city services,” wrote one participant in the community meetings.
Taking the comments to heart means the leaders at city hall listen to the comments, understanding that when residents first encounter the city’s bureaucracy, it’s not always a pleasant experience.
“Instead of city services speaking your language, they expect you to learn theirs,” another resident observed. The committee met that objection resolving to speak the language of everyday conversations, not bureaucracy, according to the committee reports.
The committee has adopted six principles that they hope will build a citizen centered Gainesville:
- Embrace a shared sense of purpose
- Adopt an entrepreneurial mindset
- It’s not a transaction, it’s a relationship
- Show people where they are in the process
- Make it modular
- Empower customers at every interaction
Randy Wells, city commissioner, has attended the community feedback work sessions said with buy-in from elected officials and citizens, this plan shows great promise. He went on to point out that Gainesville’s business community has been growing and this action should only make it better and easier to accomplish.
The committee expects to make its final report to the city commission this month.