Policy in brief
Small and medium sized businesses employ a significant number of Edmontonians and they contribute to the diversity and resiliency of our economy. Encouraging the next level of growth among these businesses is absolutely vital as we build a more profitable, prosperous, and vibrant city.
What we’ll do in the short term
Create a one-stop-shop to help businesses to get through key paperwork from a single point of contact; expand our e-service to more of our permitting and licensing activities; where appropriate, have the city serve as a testing ground for businesses with innovative products.
Where we need to be a generation from now
As mayor, I want Edmonton to be known across North America as a uniquely supportive place for innovators who want to move a great business idea forward. We can build Edmonton to be the best place on this continent to be an entrepreneur.
More thoughts from Don
I think of Edmonton as “a city of 10,000 head offices.” A lot of the talk in economic growth is around attracting branch offices of large multi-nationals, but I’m proud of the continuously growing number of small- and medium-sized businesses that the people of this city operate to service our core and emerging industries. These mom-and-pop shops employ a significant number of Edmontonians and they contribute to the diversity and resiliency of our economy.
Encouraging the next level of growth among these businesses is absolutely vital as we build a more profitable and prosperous, and yet more vibrant city. The municipality has an obligation to ensure that it is encouraging, rather than hindering, the development and growth of these businesses.
To this end, there are three key things we can do, that I will oversee implementation of as Mayor.
Business owners I have spoken to, whether they’re a paving company or a tech startup, have told me very clearly what they really need is for city paperwork to be smooth and simple. Having gone through parts of this process myself in helping my wife fill out the papers for her home-based business, I can attest that there is some room for improvement here.
We don’t need another committee or a review to tell us this.
So, based on the feedback I have received from business-owners across the city, as mayor I would work with council and the city manager to create a one-stop-shop system that will allow businesses to come to the city and get help through the key paperwork at a single point of contact. Busy entrepreneurs should be able to file everything in a swift, single visit, while being helped by a knowledgeable city staff member so they can be on their way and get back to business.
The City is moving in this direction already, for example allowing people to renew their pet licenses online. This is more convenient for many citizens, more efficient overall for the city, and frees up city staff to deal with the more complex cases that need more than online self-serve. This option must be rapidly extended to more of the basic permitting and licensing activities.
Meanwhile, the City is also beginning to process more complex applications, like Area Structure Plans, electronically, which eliminates a lot of paper, and comes with an electronic log of all progress on the file; applicants, consultants and different city departments can all log in and see exactly where it’s at in the process. The virtue of this if the file hits a snag somewhere along the way, that’s transparent to all parties. And if applications hit the same snag over and over, the technology allows us to identify where that systemic problem is and take action to fix it, which is the improved accountability I hear is needed.
3) Inviting innovation:
Most of the time, the city needs to simply help you get your papers in order and then get out of the way, but for some business ideas, it may be appropriate for the City to be a more involved partner. For the innovating businesses that are seeking to resolve real-world problems that Edmontonians face, like how to speed up emergency response times or create a greener fuel source, the City should channel that ‘Make Something Edmonton’ spirit and ask “What are you making, and how can we help?”
As mayor, I will continue to make connections for these innovators, where appropriate, into the City so they can develop their products. For example, I helped establish a relationship between Edmonton’s SBI Bioenergy and Edmonton Transit. SBI is an Edmonton business with an innovative biofuel-refining technology that uses less energy, less heat, and less methanol feedstock to produce very high grade biodiesel. In order to prove their product, they need a test bed for it. They approached me and I connected them with our transit fleet staff, who are working with Cummins (who makes our Diesel engines) to make sure it won’t void the warranty to test this new fuel in our buses.
It would have been easy to say no, but when the City has the chance to help an Edmonton company prove a product that can help them grow and help us do things cleaner, greener, cheaper and/or faster, that’s good for everyone. This is creating prosperity out of problem solving.
Inviting innovation ensures the city is supporting and enabling business creativity, job creation, and facilitating the growth of cutting-edge industries within our city. With the city’s cooperation, innovative businesses like SBI can test and refine their products with us before taking them global, all the while building a lasting relationship between these companies and Edmonton.
As mayor, I want Edmonton to be known across North America as a uniquely supportive place for innovators who want to move a great business idea forward. There is no reason why a key plank of this city’s reputation can’t be that Edmonton is the best place on the continent to be an entrepreneur.