The path to starting a business in Gilbert may still seem more like a complex of mazes and dead ends to some small businesses and entrepreneurs, but they at least have a personal guide to help them find their way.
That guide is Susan Thompson. Thompson, an administration and customer service manager with the town for two years, was appointed ombudsman to help small-business owners and entrepreneurs navigate the town's development services process.
"In Gilbert those are the people who are saying the loudest, 'We're having trouble navigating your system. Help us,'" Thompson said.
"The first intention is to help people who are in any part of our development services process and who are having difficulty," Thompson said. "The second part is to kind of give that more holistic view of what has to be done to open a business in Gilbert."
Easing the path to starting a new business was a key campaign pledge for some council candidates, including John Sentz.
Sentz said the role was created at no extra cost to the town.
"At least now we've identified someone that if people have issues, they can go and talk to," he said.
Those issues can range from getting the necessary approvals to start tenant improvements to hanging seasonal signs.
The idea for an ombudsman came about in late August as new members of the Town Council and development services employees began holding talks with mom-and-pop businesses that have been seeking relief from what they say are the town's onerous restrictions and permitting processes.
Those owners pressed town leaders on the issue during a three-hour bus tour in late August that was arranged by the Gilbert Small Business Alliance. They listed complaints ranging from parking restrictions to the confusing red tape an entrepreneur must endure to display a new sign.
The alliance also hosted a small-business summit with Gilbert leaders at Town Hall shortly thereafter.
Lisa Rigler, president of the Gilbert Small Business Alliance, said appointing an ombudsman is a step in the right direction to improve the process for small businesses.