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Photo (left to right):  Scott TenBrink, Program Manager, UofM Citizen Interaction Design; Catherine Gase, Lead Economic Development Specialist of US Small Business Administration; William Deary, Owner of Great Lakes Caring; Derek Dobies, Vice Mayor or Jackson; Griffin Working, Field Representative for Senator Gary Peters

The U.S. Small Business Administration today announced at the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce that the City of Jackson is one of 25 cities nationwide that won a grant through the Startup In A Day Competition.

Launched by the White House and the U.S. Small Business Administration in coordination with the National League of Cities, the $1.5 million dollar competition provides $50,000 to U.S. cities to develop solutions that let entrepreneurs discover and apply—in less than a day—for local, state, and federal requirements needed to start a business.

“While other larger cities like Detroit and Flint had also applied for the competition, Jackson was the only municipality in Michigan that was selected,” said Catherine GASE, the Lead Economic Development Specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration in Michigan. “To have a smaller city like Jackson with the likes of Austin, Boston, St. Louis and Washington, DC is truly exceptional!”

Solutions typically take the form of a city-based website that asks entrepreneurs about their proposed business, generates a customized menu of regulatory requirements, and lets them apply for all permits and manage the application process from a single interface.

 “Reviving our economy will bring new life back into our downtown and our neighborhoods,” said William DEARY, owner of Great Lakes Caring, and SBA Small Business Person of the Year Michigan 2003, SBA Entrepreneurial Vison Award Michigan & Midwest Region 2012. “The City of Jackson understands that entrepreneurs can fill vacant storefronts with the small businesses of tomorrow. This tool will help small business persons become small business success stories.”

Jackson’s solution, dubbed Business Connect, create a centralized, online platform to streamline business startups in Jackson. The tool will accelerate entrepreneurs’ access to and understanding of fees, permits, and licenses related to starting a business in Jackson in three main ways:

  • Simple diagrams and text will explain the processes and related timelines for required permits, licenses, & fees from the perspective of a new business. The user can see up-front costs, estimated schedules for approval, and who to contact for more information. The site will also direct users to relevant resources and regulatory agencies outside the City of Jackson.
  • Online application forms will simplify searching, completing, and submitting City permits, licenses, & fees. The tool will assist in finding all relevant City applications to the proposed business, and contact information for the related City department. Users will be able to submit applications online, or download them for offline viewing and completion. 
  • Profile registration will facilitate the user’s continued communication and tracking of applications. By registering contact information, the user can access completed forms, track updates on the status of applications, and request additional assistance from City staff.  Registration is not required to access other site features and services, but allows for follow up and metric tracking by the City and the Chamber.

“Programs like the City of Jackson’s Business Connect will help make Michigan the Startup Capital of the Midwest,” said Senator Gary PETERS. “Giving entrepreneurs the tools to quickly get their businesses up and running will ensure that they can concentrate on hiring new employees, serving their customers and helping revitalize the local economy.”

“Cutting red tape and undue obstacles to small business creation can encourage entrepreneurs to consider Jackson as a place to do business” said Vice Mayor Derek DOBIES, who spearheaded the project for the city. “We need small business owners to grow our economy and increase our competitiveness, Business Connect will help get entrepreneurs up and running.”

Dobies cited a 2014 survey sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation that shows that user-friendly licensing and permitting processes are a more powerful predictors of a government’s perceived friendliness toward small business than its tax regime.

Dobies said the City plans to partner with the Citizen Interaction Design partnership with the University of Michigan School of Information to develop these tools, and that he plans to work with the Chamber of Commerce to reach out to local businesses in developing the application for the competition in the coming weeks.

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