The Network of Entrepreneurs and Business Advocates held a revealing forum on the obstacles to permitting in Leon County and Tallahassee. And one City Commissioner applauded NEBA for their efforts to get things changed.
The forum provided opportunities for three business people, who have interfaced with the permitting process at various levels, to share their experiences with the local permitting process.
Roger Osborne, who has been involved with a number of local projects, including the VA clinic on Mahan Drive, told the crowd of about 110 that permitting is important to the economic growth of a community.
He said Tallahassee has a national reputation of being slow when it comes to getting projects permitted. He said it takes 90 days to get a job permitted in Sarasota compared 6-12 months in Tallahassee.
Rick Moore, a professional engineer and a self-described insider, said the “permitting process is complicated.”
He said the over all climate has become more business friendly when compared to the days of Bob Racliff and Cliff Thael. He applauded the efforts of City leaders including Vince Long, the County Administrator and Rick Fernandez, the City Manager.
Jeremy Matlow, a local business owner whose ventures include Gaines Street Pies, voiced his frustrations with the permitting process and revealed troubling facts.
He said it took a retail store 30 days to get open on Gaines Street but it took his pizza restaurant 13 months. He talked about how the City bent over backwards to help Whole Foods but has a different approach for small businesses.
Matlow’s frustrations were centered around having to deal with different people at many different steps of the process.
Audience members also shared experiences.
Bill Wert, owner of Orkin Pest Control, said he is looking to expand but was told a building in Leon County would take 12 months to get completed compared to three months in Gadsden County at I-10 and Highway 90.
In the end, the overall sentiment was that Leon County and the City of Tallahassee need a liaison to help guide people through the permitting process and to provide some level of accountability.
City Commissioner Gil Ziffer, who was also joined at the meeting by Commissioner Scott Maddox, said that “what you are doing today is very helpful.”