The City of Milwaukee unveiled a new website application called "StartSmart" Wednesday morning aimed at improving the efficiency of its permitting process for local entrepreneurs.
The application asks users a series of questions about the business they'd like to start and provides a list of all the city and state permits and licenses that are required to make it happen, based on their responses. The list also includes links to related information or applications for each item and resources to guide them through the process.
The application was built by the Department of City Development with $50,000 the city won in a nationwide competition put on by the U. S. Small Business Administration to create ways to simplify paperwork and permitting processes required to start a small business in the country's largest cities.
Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of the Small Business Administration, was at the city office building at 809 N. Broadway Wednesday morning for a demonstration of the new application.
"Close to 100 of our largest mayors responded (to the competition)," Contreras-Sweet said. "Milwaukee came in early on and said, 'We're going to lead the way for the rest of the country.' They developed an original way in which small businesses can now use technology to get their permits so much faster. We're here to take that solution nationally. Your work here, commissioner and mayor, we're going to find a way to make certain the domino effect helps entrepreneurs around the country."
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said StartSmart will create a road map for local entrepreneurs that will make starting a business in Milwaukee less expensive and time consuming.
"Our goal here was to make business as predictable as possible," Barrett said. "We know the frustrations businesses have with government and we want to do everything we can as a city to remove the barriers."
The latest Kauffman Index of Startup Activity released in August ranked Milwaukee No. 39 out of the nation's largest 40 metropolitan areas. Similarly, Wisconsin as a whole ranked dead last in startup activity among the country's most populous 25 states.
Barrett said StartSmart will initially focus on helping entrepreneurs in the local hospitality industry, but will eventually expand into other areas in business.
It will "set out for entrepreneurs exactly what they can expect when they come to city government so the uncertainty is gone," Barrett said. "Your questions will all be answered, you'll know what you'll need to do, what the regulations are so you don't have the frustration when you're standing in different lines and then you're told, 'Oh, no you're in the wrong line.'"
"We want to make sure people are barking up the right tree and getting the information they need so they can start a business," he continued. "Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of risk, takes a lot of gumption ... rather than having the city as an impediment, we want the city to be a partner."