New York City Uses Data To Help Businesses

Six months ago New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg started a Business Customer Service Initiative to streamline the process of opening a business. A key element of the new initiative was to determine how long it was taking businesses to obtain permits needed prior to opening. Paying rent and other expenses while waiting for city approvals is very difficult for business owners.

Elected officials frequently talk about creating an environment that is friendly for business but rarely do they measure and track whether their actions are making a difference. New York City knows the following about their permit process for restaurants and food establishments:

– Sidewalk cafes take 76 to 115 days for approval. The City has set a goal of getting this process down to 56 days by the end of 2013.

– City inspections now take 5 days from the date of request.

– All plan reviews are completed within 10 days.

– About 37% of business permits and license applications needed by restaurants and other businesses are available online. The goal is 80% by the end of the year.

The Bloomberg administration is also supporting legislation in the City Council that would allow businesses time to correct a violation before being penalized. New York also offers unopened restaurants a dry-run health inspection so they can correct in advance violations that might earn them a bad letter grade.

The City has helped 1,074 restaurants open by providing them with a client manager who helps to coordinate inspections and acts as a government concierge. These new restaurants have created 11,417 jobs.

New York City’s effort to improve its customer service in assisting new businesses has been successful because it is very targeted (focuses on restaurants as they require approval for more city agencies than other businesses) and data is utilized to track the amount of time City actions are improving.

Utilizing data can be an excellent tool for setting goals and improving the performance of government. What do you think about New York City’s effort to improve its customer service towards businesses? Why can’t the same approach be undertaken by local governments in your community?


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