From 1 year to 30 days: Newark streamlines process to open new businesses

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on September 15, 2015

Antonio DaSilva and employees at Cinnamon Sugar Bakery in Newark.

 

NEWARK — Opening a new business in the city? Now, there's a website for that.

Newark officials announced earlier this month the creation of an online tool that they say could help increase the rate of new businesses opening in the city by as much as 50 percent.

"The process that we had previously was very broken," Otis Rolley III, the president and CEO of the Newark Economic Development Corporation, said in a phone interview.

In order to apply for a new business permit in the city, a potential business owner would need to do it in person. The application would need to go through several city departments and agencies, and applicants would often times need to visit each department office several times to get the necessary approvals, he said.

The system also did not contain a way to coordinate the actions and approvals of the different departments, so applications would often get lost in the shuffle, and applicants would need to wait months to find out the status of their business permits, he said.

The whole process could take as long as a year, city officials said.

"For a city that is looking to grow, and looking to prosper, it should not take that long," Rolley said.

Now, several months after Newark was named the worst city in the nation to do business in, that's all changing, Rolley said.

As part of a reevaluation and revamping of the business permitting process, city officials said they rolled out a beta version of a new system that allows business owners to apply for permits online, and city employees to electronically track the progress of applications. The entire process, Rolley said, should now take about 30 days.

The city is currently running test applicants through the beta online version, and it should be fully rolled out by December, officials said. The first business to run its application through the online system, the Cinnamon Sugar Bakery, opened on Market Street in Newark's downtown district this month.

"Being able to focus on opening the bakery and not getting stuck with piles of paperwork is a great relief," said Antonio DaSilva, a Portuguese immigrant who owns the bakery.

In addition to using the online system to apply for the permit, he also used it to help apply for a $9,400 small business loan.

DaSilva is a longtime area baker, who first gained local notoriety when he helped open the city's Pao De Milho Bakery. He headed several east coast divisions of Wakefern Bakery until opening his first shop, Canela Bakery, in 2013. He has become known for his "Newark Custard Cups."

After using the online process, DaSilva thanked a long line of city officials for what he said was a "wonderful opportunity."

Rolley said that the online process is one of several changes the CEDC is working to institute in order to make Newark a more business-friendly city. Last year, 3,166 new business applications were processed in the city, officials said. The online system, they said, should increase that number by at least 50 percent.

"We want to invite investment; we want to support those who want to come into our city," Rolley said.

"Once word of mouth spreads (that) it is easier to get things done here...people will know that Newark is the place to prosper."

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