Starting a business begins with questions—a lot of them. And that’s precisely why Long Beach’s i-team (short for “Innovation Team”) has been working for months on developing a website that has one main function: to assist budding entrepreneurs starting and sustaining their enterprise.
The online business portal provides a roadmap through the sometimes confusing maze of government permitting required to open a business. It also offers connections to support resources at both other government agencies and private businesses.
According to i-team Director John Keisler, it takes a business owner an average of 24.7 days to get final approval to move forward—and BizPort hopes to cut that in half by way of cutting across multiple city departments simultaneously and digitally tracking documents, zoning information, and market analysis.
”BizPort can match a business with financing and other resources. It can speed up the license renewal process and offers a live chat feature to connect business owners with the appropriate city staff,” stated Mayor Robert Garcia. “BizPort provides a checklist to ensure owners know what they need to do to get their business started. It also ties together in one place the online services business owners need and use. And BizPort includes a translation feature to make sure language isn’t a barrier for business owners.”
The BizPort project is also receiving support from Code for America, the James Irvine Foundation and U.S. Small Business Administration.
The City of Long Beach announced its i-team in May 2015 after the City Council voted in February 2015 to spend $1 million in city funds to go with a $3-million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant. The first half of the three-year program has been largely focused on economic development, both by finding ways to help start new businesses while assisting businesses that already exist to grow. BizPort is a direct example of this focus.
But economic development isn’t the sole focus. The i-team is also taking a look at governance and how the City can be more transparent, more accessible, and less burdensome. That government emphasis will be part of the Civic Innovation Summit today, Thursday, at the Long Beach Convention Center. Speakers will talk about best practices in government innovation, design thinking and user-centered design, among other topics such as introducing WeWork and WE Labs-like business incubators to spaces like the new outdoor office space being worked on at Harvey Milk Park.
Innovation Week continues with events. For a full list, go to: www.innovateLB.com/Innovation-week