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Red Tape Red Carpet Draft Recommendations Report Tabled at Burlington Council Meeting

This article first appeared on mariannemeedward.ca. 

On Monday, July 15, Burlington City Council voted to table my Mayor’s Office report that provided an update and recommendations arising from the Red Tape Red Carpet (RTRC) Task Force to better ensure business growth and development in our city.

The list of recommendations was presented for review and further comment over the months of July and August. A final set of recommendations will be presented at the Planning & Development Committee meeting on Sept. 10, with a vote taking place at City Council on Sept. 23.

The following recommendations were approved:

  • Table mayor’s office report MO-06-19 providing an update and recommendations arising from the Red Tape Red Carpet (RTRC) Task Force to the Planning and Development Committee meeting of September 10, 2019, incorporating any additional feedback and recommendations arising from committee discussion and further community input over July and August; and
  • Direct the City Manager to work with RTRC Task Force to propose an implementation plan, including owner, timeline and associated costs for all RTRC action items and report back in September.

Background:

Throughout the past 5 months, the Red Tape Red Carpet Task Force initiative has collected insights and ideas from the Burlington business community, partner organizations and staff to better understand the challenges (red tape) to locating or expanding a business here, and to come up with solutions that will better serve our businesses (red carpet).

To address opportunities identified in the Red Tape Red Carpet Task Force initiative, the following list of recommendations is suggested for City Council’s consideration. For organizational purposes, they have been categorized by their relationship to cutting red tape or rolling out the red carpet, although some fit in both categories.

Those recommendations that are considered quick wins are placed first on each list and noted with an asterisk (*) below.

Cutting Red Tape:

  • *Establish a position at City Hall to act as our Chief of Business Development, serving as a primary outreach for attracting new businesses to Burlington, overseeing and expediting applications through the system and reporting progress and obstacles regularly to City Council and the City Manager (Click link for Appendix A for roles and responsibilities – MO-06-19 Appendix A Chief Of Business Development Roles and Responsibilities);
  • *Develop and implement targets and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), including timelines for processing business applications, for all staff in planning, building & development teams;
  • *Streamline and optimize the zoning, site grading and Committee of Adjustment processes for faster execution and resolution, considering recommendations from industry professionals (Click link for Appendix B – MO-06-19 Appendix B – Zoning Diagram);
  • *Optimize the City of Burlington website with relevant, informative and easy-to-find content that is search-optimized and externally marketed in order to support businesses through their journey with us;
  • Implement improved customer service technology including a self-serve online portal for applicants including the ability to submit and check on the status of their applications;
  • Explore additional paid “Fast Track” options for rush projects and business applications in areas in addition to the existing fast track for building permits, while also ensuring the delivery date results in a firm decision;
  • Foster a strong and meaningful culture of high performance and employee recognition;
  • Review the agribusiness rules, zoning, and definitions to encourage diversified use and help support economic sustainability for our rural/farming businesses;
  • Target completion of all minor site plan reviews and zoning clearances within 30 days; and
  • Implement an acceptable Standard Deviation for development related plans and drawings that better accounts for the use of imperial measurements (e.g. 0.00m or 3/16″).

Rolling out the Red Carpet:

  • *Develop a clear vision at the City of Burlington with respect to business attraction and development;
  • *Mayor and leadership team act as Chief Salespeople, actively seeking out opportunities to bring new business to Burlington;
  • *Make business attraction/retention a standing item for discussion at all Planning & Development Committee meetings;
  • *Launch monthly Subject Matter Expert (SME) drop-in sessions where businesses can come ask questions and get advice and guidance from experts from the City of Burlington and partner organizations;
  • *Create an “Open for Business” customer service window, ideally on the first floor of City Hall, co-locating key staff from different business-related departments for easy public access and on-the-spot collaboration & problem solving;
  • Review the efficiency, effectiveness and optimal structure of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation and TechPlace, as well as the opportunity for a Municipal Development Corporation, in achieving the city’s business attraction and retention goals (see companion report listed on July 8, 2019 COW agenda: M0-04-19);
  • City Manager to review and implement changes to the City’s organizational structure and business processes to give priority strategic focus to enhanced economic and business development working closely with the BEDC; and
  • Explore opportunities to use city parking supply as a leverage for business attraction and address existing downtown parking challenges.

MY TAKE:

These are short- and long-term wins in achieving our goal of rolling out the red carpet and making sure Burlington is open for business. This list will come back in September as-is or modified with feedback from committee. The goal is ultimately to get businesses to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ faster when dealing with the City. We don’t want to waste people’s time. We don’t want to lose businesses or delay growth. The recommendations here are intended to keep economic development front-and-centre at Council and across City teams.

Council also approved a review of potential Municipal Development Corporation to spur economic development, and a review of the structure of the BEDC and TechPlace, including the potential for economic development to be a part of the city — it’s currently a standalone entity funded by the City. That work will be completed by December 2019.

Some of these things have been long-standing irritants that we are now fully understanding. This has been a monumental amount of work in 6 months and I want to thank the RTRC Task Force and the “let’s-go” mentality of this Burlington City Council. I appreciated the support from my Council colleagues, as well as our partners, like the BEDC and many business owners who shared their valuable time and input.

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