Citywide Business Advocacy Team Formed

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In response to the Council’s Statement of Legislative Intent 24-1-A-1, approved as part of the 2011 Budget Ordinance, on May 17 eight City Departments reported to my Regional and Sustainable Development Committee that they have signed a Memorandum of Agreement to establish a Citywide Business Advocacy Team (CBAT).  The goal of the CBAT is to coordinate responses to businesses when complex issues are raised that involve the regulations or actions of multiple departments.  CBAT will be a key tool to improve customer service and support economic development. One of the most frequent sources of frustration voiced by businesses, especially those with major and complicated projects, is that city responses to request for permits or other actions can be uncoordinated, slow, and sometimes even contradictory.  The eight departments that are joining in this coordination effort each have specific roles to play and regulations to enforce, and this can create a maze that is difficult to navigate. The Departments – Office of Economic Development, Department of Planning and Development, Department of Transportation, Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle City Light, Seattle Police, Seattle Fire, and Finance and Administrative Services – have agreed to work together using this team approach to:
  • Identify complex inter-departmental decisions before they reach a crisis point;
  • Make and communicate decisions more efficiently and, in doing so, save resources for both the City and the businesses it regulates; and
  • Identify and elevate tough policy issues that require more systems analysis and direction from the Mayor and Council.
The Departments are also establishing a customer relations management tool that will facilitate interdepartmental communication, track results, and identifying recurring issues. The CBAT was established in March, and has already assisted more than 30 businesses.  Examples include:
  • OED and SDOT coordinated providing Charlie’s Produce with information needed to facilitate the company’s decision to sign a long-term lease for their current SODO location.
  • OED and City Light coordinated bringing together engineers from City Light and Ferguson Terminal to jointly design a project adding additional electrical service to their Ballard warehouse.  The effort reduced the project cost by more than $100,000 from City Light’s $300,000 estimate.
  • Pacific Fishermen Shipyard received a $1 million grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for worker training and capital improvements, including creating a 70 foot long paint booth that keeps paint out of the environment.  In order to create jobs as fast as possible, the entire grant had to be spent within a year.  A lot of code provisions had to be met and permits issued by various Departments.  Thanks to the CBAT, permits were coordinated and the entire project was completed in ten months – with the last permits issued only a week before the dedication.
  • Although the Neptune Theater submitted the initial plans for improvements several months ago, final plans were not approved until May 2 – that needed to be complete in time to host the Seattle International Film Festival on May 20.  Normally, Seattle Public Utilities, Fire, and SDOT take up to 45 days to implement inspections and schedule traffic control operations.  The CBAT went to work, and got the Departments to coordinate so that the deadline can be met.
This is the kind of basic work that Seattle must do in order to create jobs and foster business growth in the City.  As the economy moves at a faster and faster pace, businesses must become more nimble and adaptable, and the City must be able to match that required agility.  The good news is that Seattle is working hard to make this happen, and the CBAT is a key tool in that effort.