Cincinnati Takes Big Step to Improve Its Permitting Process

Municipal leaders gathered Thursday to open the City of Cincinnati's new Permit Center.

Municipal leaders gathered Thursday to open the City of Cincinnati's new Permit Center. City of Cincinnati


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While it’s important to improve online services, Ohio’s third-largest city has upgraded the brick-and-mortar experience, too.

It should go without saying that every government, regardless of its size, type or location, should make as many of its services digitally accessible as possible. As Route Fifty has previously reported, Utah has been a national leader among state governments and has put more than 1,100 different services online.

But there are some government services and functionalities that are hard to totally shift over to a digital platform. Permitting is one of them.

Yes, governments should, and definitely do, put their permit applications online and try to make answers available before residents, businesses and organizations come with questions.

But there are times when permit applicants need to talk to a living and breathing human being to sort our questions and deal with other procedural matters. And that generally requires talking to a government employee face to face.

Last year, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley told Route Fifty that he wanted “the permitting line to be the shortest line in the city.” And over the course of last year, Ohio’s third-largest city made steady progress to improve the customer experience for the permitting process.

On Thursday, city leaders, including Cranley and City Manager Harry Black, cut the ribbon on a new and improved brick-and-mortar Permit Center, which was relocated to a 14,000 square-foot downtown location adjacent to City Hall as part of an ongoing effort to revamp the municipal permitting process.

"We continue to work toward a fully integrated development process for the City that leverages our human resources, data-driven process improvements, and technology upgrades to provide the best experience possible for our customers," City Manager Harry Black said in a statement.

Cincinnati's new Permit Center.

With the Permit Center comes a consolidated staff from the Department Buildings and Inspections, City Planning, the Metropolitan Sewer District, Cincinnati Water Works, the Health Department, Division of Transportation and Engineering, and the Cincinnati Fire Department.

According to the city, the new consolidated center allows for 50 percent of building permits to be reviewed and issued on the same day.

In 2015, Cincinnati issued 9,000 permits and, according to the city’s data, the average number of days to review permit applications fell from 28 days in May to 11 days in November.

(Courtesy City of Cincinnati)

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty.

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