Whether one embraces federal programs, a question should be asked of city leaders in Durham, Raleigh and elsewhere across North Carolina: Why aren’t you part of the Obama Administration’s “Startup in a Day” initiative?

The plan is to help startups deal with the red tape of launching a business. Wouldn’t that be a boost to the Triangle and other places hoping to nurture new businesses?

The Raleigh-Durham startup ecosystem is firing on all cylinders. But adding more fuel to the fire might be a good idea. Ditto for Wilmington, the Triad, Charlotte, Asheville …

The president and the Small Business Administration formally unveiled the initiative last week with the first 11 cities selected to participate. Denver is on the list. So is Nashville.

Not one from North Carolina. Given the amazing growth of startups in the Triangle, governments are obviously paying attention to the needs of entrepreneurs. Innovate Raleigh and Wake County Economic Development’s efforts spring to mind.

But this federal program may offer more help.

Plus, there is funding available. The Startup in a Day plan also now includes $1.5 million ‘n “seed” grants for related initiatives. Cities have to compete for the money. Another $250,000 will be awarded to efforts made by government consortia to speed up permitting and business launch.

“I’m calling on city halls across the country to join the initial eleven mayors in a simple but powerful pledge to entrepreneurs and small business owners: If you want to start a business, we’ll make it so easy to navigate the license and permitting system online, that you’ll be off and running within 24 hours,” the president said in a statement.

​The goal is to “develop online tools that let entrepreneurs discover and apply—in less than a day—for local, state, and federal requirements needed to start a business,” the White House said.

Cutting red tape


“As any entrepreneur or small business owner knows, starting or expanding a business often entails dealing with considerable red tape, from setting up a legal business structure, to understanding zoning laws and licensing requirements, to acquiring various permits. Research suggests that small business owners are potentially more frustrated by mundane red tape than by other obstacles.”

The plan singles out mayors for special attention, calling on them to “develop a local online permitting and licensing” as well as other initiatives. The National League of Cities is also part of the effort. Startup in a Day suggests a “city-based website that asks entrepreneurs about their proposed business, generates a customized menu of regulatory requirements, and lets them apply for all permits and manage the application process from a single interface.”

A pledge

:Participating cities are asked to take the following pledge:

“Our cities and communities are committed to making it easier for every entrepreneur to start a business. We believe an entrepreneur’s time is best spent developing innovative products and services, creating jobs, and growing local economies—not navigating red tape. While fair zoning rules, licenses, and permits are important to ensuring public safety and fair competition, it shouldn’t take more than a day for entrepreneurs to identify and begin to apply, ideally through a single online tool, for the licenses and permits they need to responsibly launch a business. Accordingly, we resolve to:

“Create a Startup in a Day online tool within 12 months: We will develop within a year a website or application that lets most entrepreneurs identify and begin to apply within one day for all requirements to launch a business in our respective communities.

“Develop a streamlined, business-friendly, online permitting system: Our pledge is a first step in a larger effort to streamline, simplify, and bring online those regulatory requirements that have traditionally been fragmented across multiple agencies and handled through a paper-based process. Our ultimate goal is for small business owners to be able to manage and complete most of their regulatory obligations within a single easy-to-use online system.
Share best practices: In an effort to encourage other municipalities to join us in this effort, we are joining a community of practice administered by the National League of Cities, and commit to sharing best practices, publicizing key learnings, highlighting tangible outcomes, supporting smart regulatory simplification, and providing visibility into our actions.”

So far, the following cities have made that pledge:

  • Boston, MA
  • Chattanooga, TN
  • Denver, CO
  • Fresno, CA
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Nashville, TN
  • San Francisco, CA
  • St. Petersburg, FL
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Seattle, WA
  • Washington, DC

Boston says its initiative has already cut time for permit issuance by 12 percent, reduced a backlog of building complaints to under 300 from over 3,500 while lowering permit review times.

The SBA, meanwhile, is offering grants to communities that create digital solutions and says it will create its own “tool” to help entrepreneurs deal with federal requirements addressing such pointd as:

  • Applying for an IRS Employer ID Number
  • Conducting a trademark search
  • Understanding Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards

Learn more about the program at: