The Edmond Sun

January 4, 2012

City still needs a business navigator

The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — At the outset of her first term in office, then-Mayor Patrice Douglas appointed a task force dedicated to helping the City of Edmond better understand the needs of small businesses in our city. This task force met for several months and released a number of recommendations for how the city could better serve this huge sector of its economy.

One of the top recommendations urged by the task force and endorsed by Douglas was the creation of a small business navigator position. It was envisioned that a position within the city manager’s office could have the coalition-building skills and authority to be the customer’s one, true advocate as they navigate the process to gain zoning, a site plan and all the necessary permits and code approvals for their new projects. Yes, it’s true that Edmond has been home to some very large-sized and detail-intensive projects, but in reality, the vast majority of projects that go through the system are for small- and medium-sized businesses.

For years, businessmen and women have complained about the difficulty of leaping all the hurdles of this process. To its credit, the City Council has taken some steps to improve the process and eliminate that negative image, mostly through the revision of the Title 22 subdivision codes.

Many thought a business navigator might finally be the advocate who could tie it all together and get businesses through the process with fewer bumps and bruises, and certainly with fewer surprises at the end of the day.

Instead of hiring the position as promised, the city has chosen to add the business navigator role to one of its existing assistant city managers and to rely on the staff of the Edmond Economic Development Authority and the chamber of commerce president to fulfill the need as a team.

We are concerned whether this roundabout solution really addresses the need expressed by so many.

The business navigator position should be one that has a certain amount of autonomy and ability to work with multiple departments, including the fire marshal’s office, with the authority of the city manager and City Council fully behind them. The EEDA’s job is recruitment and supporting businesses already here. Tasking them with this dual role is not a realistic long-term path to success. The city discussed hiring a business navigator and we believe they should follow through with that plan.