Peoria awarded SBA funds to streamline entrepreneurial process

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Peoria is one of only 25 cities in the country to be awarded $50,000 from the federal Startup in a Day Competition to develop ways to make starting a business an easier proposition.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) on Tuesday announced a total of 28 winners of the first-everStartup in a Day Competition, totaling$1.6 millionin cash prizes. Peoria and Champaign are the two cities in Illinois to be named winners. The winners are located in 19 states and theDistrict of Columbia, representing a wide array of cities and Native American communities. 

Cesar Suarez, senior business development specialist with the City of Peoria, headed the local effort in getting the application prepared. It was a collaborative effort between the city, Peoria County, the EDC and Startup Peoria.

The money will be used for developing a more streamlined process, including using online resources, so a person wanting to start a business can get applications for the licenses, permits and other requirements fulfilled in one business day. As part of the application process, the city was required to pledge to commit to those goals, the SBA said.

Startup in a Day is an initiative announced by President Barack Obama in June designed to help cities and Native American communities streamline their processes. At the time of the announcement in June, eleven cities had agreed to the Startup in a Day pledge. Today, more than 50 additional cities and Native American communities have taken the pledge.

When announcing Startup in a Day, President Obama said, "I'm calling on city halls across the country to join the initial 11 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."

"When I started my businesses, it was overwhelming," said Maria Contreras-Sweet, head of the SBA and member of President Obama's Cabinet. "I had to set up a legal structure, find office space, learn local zoning laws, apply for multiple licenses and permits and navigate a maze of city, county, state and federal requirements before I could even open my doors. That's why I'm proud to join the White House in announcing the winners of the Startup in a Day prize competition as we work to make it easier for entrepreneurs all across the country to get started."

Two levels of prizes were announced. The first level consists of 27 prizes of$50,000through the "Start Small" competition. These prizes were awarded to 25 cities, including Peoria and Champaign, and two Native American tribes in order to help these communities develop a streamlined, centralized business formation platform. 

The final prize of$250,000 was awarded to the city ofLos Angeles, California, through the "Dream Big" competition. Los Angeleswill use the prize money to create an open source solution that will be replicable and scalable on a broad basis. 

The SBA reviewed more than 100 applications, and applicants of both competitions were awarded priority points for being rural/non-metropolitan, high poverty, a Veterans Economic Community, and/or a Promise Zone. 

New business formation in the U.S. is experiencing a decades-long decline, with entrepreneurs citing red tape as a chief obstacle. The U.S. ranks 46th — down from 41st last year — on ease of starting a business, according to the World Bank.

The SBA is conducting the Startup in a Day initiative in partnership with the National League of Cities (NLC), which represents thousands of municipal leaders around the country. Following the awarding of prizes, the NLC will lead a group of winners to share best practices and build community development and implementation of startup solutions. 

Cities are still encouraged to get involved by taking the Startup in a Day pledge. Please visit more details or e-mailstartup@sba.govto learn how to become involved.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).