In today’s difficult marketplace, all small, local businesses and landlords face extreme challenges. It is no different in Austin, TX. The biggest obstacle for an Austin small business is the inability to move into a commercial leased property in a timely fashion. I noticed this on the most recent project I was quoting out for a commercial management company. There is immense demand for leased space, however, these management companies are unable fill their vacancies quickly—to the detriment of the small local business owner —because it takes the City of Austin 6 to 12 weeks to approve simple permits for a tenant and landlord to finish out leased space as needed.
Here’s what happens currently:
First, a commercial management company receives a call from a new business. They determine the business’s needs and find the best-suited location for their type of business. The commercial management company then calls a General Contractor like me. We work together to develop a budget based on the small business’s needs. After determining the budget, we begin designing the plans for submission of the permit. This is where the process breaks down and effectively discourages new startup businesses to open in the City of Austin.
As the process exists today, the general contractor submits the permit and is provided with an estimated time of approval for the permit—currently 6 to 12 weeks out from submission. This is a major problem. Because of the lengthy time required by the City of Austin to approve permits, many small business owners must back out of moving forward with their leases and/or finish outs because they cannot afford the overhead costs associated with paying for a leased space for which they are generating no revenue. My experience at this point is that the tenant then leaves the City of Austin and chooses to open their business in a surrounding city, like Round Rock, where they can get their permit turned around quickly, and therefore open their doors sooner.
This effectively costs everyone from the landlord, to the commercial property management company, to the General Contractor, to the subcontractors (electricians, plumbers, painters, framers, etc…), to the City of Austin a great deal of wasted time and lost revenues.
The current system is effectively destroying the ability of a small business to open their doors in the City of Austin. I would like to work with the City to develop a standard requirement for the permitting system that shortens the lifecycle of obtaining a permit, effectively allowing landlords to get their tenants into leased spaces in a timely fashion, and business owners to begin generating revenues and tax dollars for the City more quickly.
Please sign this petition if you recognize there is a problem and you support a swift solution that changes the way the City of Austin handles permit approvals. I am willing to take any questions, concerns or opinions regarding this issue.
Walbridge Construction LLC