Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio was recently interviewed by the national Reason Foundation for its “Innovators in Action 2012” series about Phoenix reforms promoting job creation, which features 24-hour turnarounds for permits and inspections compared to four-six months in other parts of the country.
Some 125 diverse and politically opposite groups and individuals came together for one goal: Make Phoenix the best in the nation for job creation. Groups such as the Goldwater Institute and labor unions, business and government, developers and neighborhood leaders worked together and agreed on one plan to make Phoenix the best.
Below are excerpts from that interview with Len Gilroy, Reason’s director of government reform. It can be seen in full at reason.org/news/show/phoenix-permitting-privatization.
Gilroy: What spurred Phoenix policymakers to take action on permitting reform?
DiCiccio: Phoenix — like so many cities — was getting in the way of businesses getting up and running during the worst recession in most of our lives. We wanted businesses to be able to create jobs quickly. That’s not possible when it takes months to get approval for tenant improvements, much less a new building.
We figured that when someone is considering starting a business in this environment, or moving one here, they needed predictability of expenses and time, and government isn’t good at delivering that. Entrepreneurs have built-in costs for financing, rent, marketing and some employees in addition to construction costs. Without greater speed and certainty, many of them wouldn’t even start. We wanted to combine the greatest predictability and speed with solid safety measures.
Gilroy: What did Phoenix pass to help businesses get up and running faster?
DiCiccio: We created a model making Phoenix a 24-hour city when it comes to plan reviews and inspections. Walk in with your building plans, walk out with a permit and start construction that same day. Call for an inspector before 10 p.m. and get an inspection the very next day. That’s huge, compared to our history and what happens in most metro areas.
Phoenix has instituted what’s known as a “self-certification” model, which means architects and engineers who have been through city training will submit plans and be able to walk out with a permit, on the same visit. More than 100 professionals are now certified on the list.
Next year, permits will be online, so they will be able to push a button and submit plans electronically. Today’s 24-hour process will get even faster.
Gilroy: How will Phoenix’s permitting reforms help business owners?
DiCiccio: Getting permits quickly to do construction and improvements saves time and money. We also have greater predictability, so they will know when to lease, when they can build and when they should hire employees, for example. Unpredictability not only costs them time, money and market share, it also discourages some would-be entrepreneurs from even starting. When you’re a small business trying to build your dream on savings and credit cards, months-long hold-ups can be devastating. We’ve ended that.
Gilroy: How does this help Phoenix taxpayers, and the city?
DiCiccio: First, faster job creation. A small restaurant can employ scores of people. One day’s delay getting a business’ doors open is one more day of recession, at least for the owner and employees. More people working means more tax revenue and more private sector dollars spinning through the economy at a compounded rate.
While it’s aimed at local entrepreneurs, companies elsewhere that battle bureaucracy and are considering other locations will be drawn to 24-hour, no-red-tape environment in Phoenix, meaning more jobs and a greater boost to the economy and a more diverse metro economy.
• Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio represents District 6, which includes Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 262-7491.