A business resource center without useful resources?

Two years ago, the City of Dayton finally heard the message: it’s not that easy to do business in Dayton.  So they recently opened the Dayton Business Resource Center.

From their website:

The DBRC is the City’s latest initiative to support the growth and expansion of businesses in Dayton. By housing various economic development agencies under one roof, business customers now have access to a comprehensive set of resources, including:

  • One-on-One Business Visits
  • Zoning and Plan Review
  • Construction & Expansion Permits
  • Financing Referrals
  • Business Incentive Education
  • And much more!

The staff at the DBRC is here to help you find the resources you need by putting you in contact with the people and organizations best qualified to answer your questions.

Unfortunately, the website is flawed in a fundamental way:  most of the information is about the Dayton Business Resource Center, instead of information that instructs or informs the customer.  And housing these agencies under one roof isn’t that helpful if getting through all the City’s requirements is still unnecessarily difficult.  A much more useful resource would be a checklist of requirements for starting a business in Dayton Ohio- or key information for keeping your business running smoothly in the city. And in classic form, they now have a separate URL for this new center- building yet another site for the city to maintain which costs even more money.

But a few days ago, I got a “One-on-One Business Visit” from the absolutely lovely and personable Patricia Russell, a “Business Development Specialist” whom I met on Saturday at the “Vacant to vibrant” conference.

Pat did her best to ask what the city could do for my business and gather data so someone can have a report to look at. I truly believe that she wanted to help, but, many things are beyond her control.  I shared stories of frustrations with the City- from issues on conditional use permits to lack of restrictive covenants in historic property deeds to overly complex tax filing schedules.  But, when pushed to what I thought we really needed I focused on my concerns that we need a single leader- either a strong Mayor or a City Manager, to move us toward clearly definable goals like higher average income, increased population, higher employment, more efficient tax collection, and better customer service as defined through a single customer satisfaction CRM system.

Although I’m not realistically expecting the City to do anything substantial for small businesses like mine, at least an effort was made, and I do feel that Pat was a breath of fresh air compared to other experiences with City Hall.

Customer service is great- but pointless if you don’t deliver basic service first.  The final test of the DBRC should be:  Is it effectively helping businesses and moving our city toward our goals or not?

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