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Atlanta is streamlining how small businesses interact with the public sector

Atlanta, GA, USA
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OpenCounter
Contact Partner
In Collaboration With
City of Atlanta

Goverment Champion

City Planning Office of Zoning & Development, Office of Buildings, Office of Housing Economic Development Division

Cost

Initial:
153 Thousand USD
Maintenance:
80 Thousand USD

Project Status

Operational since 2017

Keywords

zoning
permitting
licensing
workflow

Challenges Addressed

Small Business
Customer Service
Permitting
Process Improvement

Motivation

Smart city

Funding / Financing

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Type

Tool

At a Glance

The City of Atlanta is using OpenCounter to automate customer service tasks related to permit discovery. By asking the customer a series of intelligently structured questions, the portal provides an advanced estimate of the cost, time and complexity or permitting requirements in Georgia's capital city.

Problem Addressed

The City is continually looking at ways to enhance customer service for the development and non-professional building community as it seeks to navigate through the permitting and plan review processes for development projects. The process for obtaining a building, planning, zoning and engineering permits at the City of Atlanta can be complex and can require plan review from over 11 different City agencies. While most documents are on the City website, it can be difficult to understand which forms are necessary for the type of project an applicant is pursuing. Not knowing how to obtain a building permit and all the requirements for a specific type of build can lead to wasted dollars, wasted time, and even fines if caught later down the line in the inspections process. Small business owners who do not regularly engage in these City development services can find it difficult to understand and navigate through the approval process. The City is needed a way to make it easier on applicants, like small business owners as they seek to start a new business or renovate an existing business.

Atlanta's Office of Zoning and Development used/is using OpenCounter to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

The city recognized the need for a one-stop-shop website that would help applicants determine their permit requirements, and projected fees, based on their project type. After conducting a good-faith due diligence review, the city decided to sole-source OpenCounter.

The OpenCounter system is designed to prepare applicants for their visit, reducing the number of trips that an applicant takes to City Hall due to an omission in documentation or lack of knowledge upfront. Providing this service to the customer would reduce the number of discovery calls into the Office of Zoning and Development, the Office of Buildings, and the Office of Revenue, and increase the quality of applications received.

Informing customers before they start the permitting process can not only save the customer time, but also save the staff time. Staff spend time on the phone educating customers, answering simple discovery type questions, correcting application issues, and even correcting permit recipients in the inspections process.

Outcomes

  1. Expect annual savings of ~3,000 staff hours or $57,600 worth of additional staff effort
  2. Residents had access to 24/7 customer service in multiple languages, and knew how much, how long, and how complex the permitting process will be on the front end.
  3. The portal was configured and approved in six months.

Something Unique

Atlanta's site is dynamically translated to six languages!

Who Should Consider?

Any city that is looking to improve customer service, increase operational efficiency and reduce the amount of time it takes to issue permits to local businesses and entrepreneurs.

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