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Chicago opens small business center to streamline licenses, help startups

Updated: April 8, 2013 7:53AM

The city of Chicago is overhauling the way it works with small businesses, hoping to build on the success of its seven-month-old Restaurant Startup Program, which it says has cut startup times in half and helped nearly 200 restaurants open their doors more quickly.

The city will announce Thursday it is opening a redesigned City Hall Small Business Center that will provide small entrepreneurs across the city with a one-stop shop for permits and licenses, mirroring the restaurant program approach. The center will include dedicated staff to more efficiently help small business owners throughout the process, enabling the city to more effectively support economic development, representatives say.

The city also will create a Chief Small Business Officer to lead the center who will advocate for small business owners and entrepreneurs and ensure policies and procedures are implemented in a way that works for small business.

To support the new center, the city says it has made several changes:

*City staff are being retrained to offer beginning-to-end case management

*City zoning personnel that review business licenses have been moved into the center decreasing wait times for zoning approvals and allowing the center to serve as a convenient zoning help desk

*Zoning and licensing reviews will now include driveway permit reviews, which decreases overlap, streamlines the review process and reduces the time it takes to obtain a license

City staff will direct their clients to financial assistance programs and business plan counselors to encourage their success.

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