Fresno seeks to be business friendly

FRESNO, California

Jeff Roberts of Granville Homes tells Action News, "It takes a lot of time here, compared to some other communities."

Tim Butler of Butler Construction says the permit process can keep workers tied up. "So you end up having long wait lines and people are in here when they should be out doing their work."

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin wants to end the bottleneck. She believes the red tape and delays are costing the city money, and jobs. "It is costing us business we've heard from more than one site selector that the city's reputation is its too hard and it takes too long so if they had a decision to move to a neighboring city that can do things much faster that puts Fresno at a disadvantage."

ABC30 asked some folks who do business at city hall, how it could be more efficient. Scott Tooker of West Coast Lighting and Energy told us, "My suggestion is if they could streamline online the permit process and be able to do business online."

Butler says hiring more people would help. "That would be my suggestion, you get a little more people behind there you are helping three or four people at a time instead of one or two and it moves the line through and we get work going out in the field."

Swearengin acknowledges that it's time to replace some of the hundreds of city workers who have been laid off in recent years. "In the development department it's probably the hardest hit department as a result of the recession, so there's no doubt we are going to have to add staff back to handle the demand. We see the market heating up again so we know we are going to have to put staff back in place."

The Mayor told the City Council she is forming a task force made up of business people, developers, unions and even city council members to find more efficient solutions.

One of the city's biggest customers is Granville homes. Company Vice President Jeff Roberts says he has heard this talk before but is hopeful. "I've been here with a lot of different mayors a lot of different planning directors they've all had their method to try and do that, I think the Mayor has the right combination of people on her committee a couple of council members to oversee it, I 'm pretty optimistic it's going to work."

The mayor's task force on making Fresno business friendly is expected to come up with some plans in six months.

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