Press Release: City Takes Action on Chamber Small Business Recommendations

A note from Seth Lane, Front Street Director.  Seth is involved in public policy initiatives through the Chamber of Commerce's Public Policy Committee and Small Business Task Force and the City of Gainesville Planning and Zoning Board:

As a member of the Chamber’s Small Business Task Force, I can say with confidence how pleased I am that the Chamber and the City of Gainesville have worked together. Not only have insightful and meaningful recommendations been developed, but action has been taken. Our City leaders has shown that our government can be as nimble as a start-up business and that we share a common goal … we want existing business to thrive and new business to arrive in Gainesville. The changes being implemented will have a significant impact on our community and one’s ability to find success in Gainesville. 

I look forward to the privilege of continued involvement in this very important effort. 

March 18, 2014 

Contact:  Kamal I. Latham, VP of Public Policy
Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce
Phone: 352.378.2498



City Takes Action on Chamber Small Business Recommendations      

Gainesville Area Chamber and City of Gainesville continue partnership to grow local small businesses

GAINESVILLE, FL - Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy and Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Tim Giuliani co-chaired the 2nd Gainesville Small Business Growth Task Force meeting on March 12, which reviewed the City's progress in addressing the Chamber's 27 small business growth recommendations to the City..

During the Task Force meeting, City/GRU staff released a memo outlining actions taken - or planned - to address the vast majority of the Chamber's recommendations.

The Task Force was established to promote small business growth and implementation of the Chamber's small business growth recommendations, which involved the six principles of accessibility, accountability, simplicity, consistency, affordability, and efficiency.

Highlights of City actions towards implementing the Chamber recommendations and growing small businesses are below:

March 12: Task Force Meeting Announcements

1. GRU Plan Review Process: GRU staff announced nine (9) initiatives developed jointly with the local development engineering community to ensure that the GRU Plan Review Process for projects is streamlined, efficient and cost-effective.

2. Land Development Code: City staff provided a briefing on the process to make the Land Development Code more simple in approach and transparent in presentation in 2014.

3. Fire Marshal Inspections: City staff announced that notification of property owners regarding fire inspections can be accomplished.

4. Payment Processing: City staff announced that the City recently added the ability to pay via ACH - or electronic check - to all of its on-line payment solutions, while continuing to accept payment by check, cash or credit card.

5. Doing Business with the City: City staff said the City is working on improving internal processes for the Invitation to Bid (ITB) and Request for Proposal (RFP) and has contracted with a national purchasing association to identify best practices and develop a more simplified ITB document.

6. Inspectors (Customer Survey): City staff announced that Building Inspections staff met with the University of Florida to assist in the construction of a survey instrument that would measure customer satisfaction with the various plan review and inspection regimen enforced by Building Inspections.

7. Inspectors (Consistency): City staff announced that Planning and Development Services and Building Inspections management are currently meeting routinely with Building Inspection staff and providing guidance on consistency in the interpretation of the Florida Building Code.

January 14: Redesigned City Website and New Open Data Portal Launched

8. Redesigned City of Gainesville Website: The website is in beta testing mode and features a prominent Business and Development Tab on the home page which provides links to a variety of business and economic development information.

9. Open Data Portal: As the first phase of the Government 2.0 initiative towards open government and transparency, the portal is a publicly accessible website containing a catalog of the city's data.

January 9: City Manager Directive on Stakeholder Participation

10. Stakeholder Participation: The City Manager issued a new "Stakeholder Participation in Policy Development" Administrative Policy Procedure directing Departmental staff drafting policies, which may in any way impact business and neighborhoods, to engage stakeholders in policy development prior to bringing proposed policies forward for discussion by policy boards.

November 22: Building Department Pilot Friday Services Launched

11. Building Department Pilot Friday Services: The City Manager launched a six (6) month pilot project on November 22 to provide Building Department (first floor of the Thomas Center) office hours on Fridays from 7:00AM - 1:00PM.  All services offered on the first floor of the Thomas Center would be available to customers during those hours, as well as a planner of the day to provide zoning compliance determinations and other non-appointment planning services.

October: Centralized Business Assistance Office Staffed Full-Time 

12. Centralized Business Assistance Office: The City Economic Development and Innovation Department, which is responsible for providing assistance to small business in the navigation of regulatory processes and processing of payments to the City, was staffed full-time beginning in October 2013.

In the 2013 Citizen's Report, Gainesville City Manager Russ Blackburn noted the role of the Task Force by stating the following, "In concert with the Gainesville Small Business Growth Task Force, established by Mayor Ed Braddy and the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, city staff has entered into a continuing dialogue with community business leaders to enhance our efforts to support business opportunities within the city."

"The Task Force is a collaborative effort between the business community and the City," said Kamal I. Latham, Vice President for Public Policy at the Chamber.  "It has identified many challenges facing small businesses and created a structured two-way communications mechanism to explore solutions to those challenges." 

About the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce
Formed in 1924, the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business in the Gainesville area. Representing nearly 1,200 members that employ more than 70,000 employees, the Chamber firmly believes that thriving business builds a thriving community. The Chamber is 5-star accredited by the United States Chamber of Commerce, putting it in the top 1% of all Chambers nationwide. Learn more at or call us at 352.334.7100.

Creating Opportunity Through Outreach...
The Council for Economic Outreach (CEO) is the official economic development agency in Alachua County. It attracts new business and investment to the Gainesville region and help existing businesses grow. CEO markets the assets of the region to the national and international business community. Please visit us at    

...and Advocacy
The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce advocates policies and promotes programs that help businesses thrive. Acting as non-partisan, we advocate on behalf of the interests of the business community at various levels of government. The Chamber actively engages elected officials and government staff on important issues fostering business growth and economic development. Please contact us at for more information.


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Virginia MacKoul

Virginia is a graduate from the University of Florida's College of Design Construction and Planning with a degree in Sustainability and the Built Environment, and a minor in Urban Regional Planning. Virginia joined the Front Street team in 2011, as an intern. Upon graduation, Virginia joined the Front Street team full-time as the Director of Client Services. Ms. MacKoul’s addition furthers Front Street’s continued growth and expansion within Gainesville and other North Central Florida markets. She was promoted to Director of Marketing in 2014 and now manages the firm’s team of interns and oversees all marketing and branding activity. Virginia was born in Boston and moved to Lee County, Florida in 1997. Virginia graduated her high school's International Baccalaureate program and started at the University of Florida with a focus on Architecture. Virginia shares Front Street's passion of giving back to the community and those in need. Virginia's hobbies include photography, cooking, football, movies, music, and spending time with her dog, Brinkley.

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