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Salt Lake City spurs small business growth with online permits

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City has simultaneously spurred on small business growth and saved thousands of staff hours each year by digitizing zoning, business, and residential permitting.

Topics Covered

Small Business
Civic Technology
Housing & Affordable Housing
Customer Service


Initial: 91 Thousand USD


General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2017

Gov Champion

Department of Public Services

Problem Addressed

Salt Lake City wanted to improve its customer service by improving the wait times for permits after hearing from small businesses. 

Salt Lake City is experiencing tremendous growth in local business–over $1 billion in capital investment over the past 3 years–which means it needs resources to successfully serve its business development.

The city’s business development department dedicated two staff members to help small businesses navigate the city processes. They view these small businesses as their clients, representing them to the city and addressing needs and concerns.

One of these concerns was wait times for permits. About 14,000 customers would walk through the business development department doors each year, resulting in over 12,000 permits and more than 40,000 building inspections. The department has tens of thousands of customer interactions every year and within these interactions, there was inconsistent communication about what permits are needed. For example, if you spoke with a zoning person, they would tell you about the zoning requirements but would miss subtleties within the project. Customer service needed improvement–the staff felt it and wait times proved it.

Solutions Used

Salt Lake City can now provide better customer service to small businesses with software that speeds up permitting requests. 

OpenCounter provided Salt Lake City with zoning, business, and residential permitting software to help narrow the scope of a search, provide answers about zoning immediately (a task that would take even an experienced staff member several minutes each time), get a holistic picture of the potential project, streamline communication, and ultimately speed up permitting requests. Because of its use of OpenCounter, Salt Lake City is able to provide answers quickly and succinctly without business owners having to find the right department or staff member.



Salt Lake City reduced staff time on permitting inquiries and lookups. Over 12 months, OpenCounter handled 7,166 permitting inquiries that would normally consume staff time.


Staff can now direct citizens to OpenCounter, where they are able to go through a self-guided permitting process, saving the city time and resources.


Salt Lake City is able to see trends in construction time, use, and locations. This deeper analysis helps the city increase throughput and better allocate resources.


In 12 months, Salt Lake City saved an estimated 2,106 hours of labor between zoning, business, and residential permitting.

Last Updated

Mar 25th, 2022

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