This graph represents the steps an entrepreneur should take to begin a business in Jackson. Image: City of Jackson Planning and Development

The City of Jackson Department of Planning and Development is offering business owners a helping hand for navigating the permitting and licensing processes through the Business Entrepreneur Assistance Team (BEAT).

BEAT members provide one on one assistance from start to finish for anyone wishing to start or expand a business in the City of Jackson. BEAT members are available on demand to walk potential business owners through the process and required applications. BEAT members also guide applicants through the building as they interface with each division.

“The BEAT program ultimately serves like a concierge service that helps people throughout the process as they try to get their businesses moving forward and benefiting our community,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told MS News Now earlier this week. “For too long, Jackson has not been the business-friendly environment that it can and should and will be.”

BEAT members are available any time during regular business hours. To utilize the BEAT program, visit the Signs & Licenses area on the 1st floor of the Hood Building. No appointments necessary. Team members can also be made available via email or phone. The BEAT program is comprised of staff members in Business Development, Signs & Licenses, Zoning, Code Services, Community Development, Real Estate, Fire, and JATRAN. The group has been operating since October of 2017 as a pilot initiative.

“The hallmark of this program is that it is truly a team effort. Bringing team members together from Business Development, Signs & Licenses, Zoning, Code Services, Real Estate, Community Development, City Planning, Fire, and JATRAN has created a collaborative environment where they are now exposed to all parts of the process,” said Von Anderson, Senior Planner.

In addition to the external services, BEAT is an internal improvement process. In order to make process improvements, each division involved must collaborate. Many of the challenges that create roadblocks for startups occur between divisions. Through BEAT, staff from each division are exposed to all parts of the process and staff members in other divisions. This creates a better understanding of how the pieces fit together.

BEAT also serves as the problem-solving arm of the department. If staff members identify a business owner that seems to be struggling with a particular part of the process- they can refer them to a BEAT member. That BEAT member can serve as a liaison to help understand and work through the issue.

As a group, BEAT has developed the Business Start-Up Kit. The kit is available both in person and online. It outlines the process from start to finish for opening a business in the City of Jackson. The kit covers the steps to plan a business, choose a location, and get licensed in a checklist format. One of the main messages that BEAT wants to communicate through the Business Start-Up Kit is that BEAT wants to be the first call when someone is exploring a potential business opportunity.

“Watching a new business owner struggle through having chosen a location that is not zoned for their business or has code compliance challenges is difficult, especially when a new business owner has already signed a lease. We really want to stress the importance of contacting us before making a long-term commitment. We hope we have
made that easier to do through this program and the start-up kit,” said Michael A. Davis, Manager Business Development

Many businesses have already signed the lease when they become aware of significant and costly code compliance issues. Finding out prior to entering an agreement on a specific location can save both time and money. BEAT can help identify (free of cost) the required processes, permits, licenses, fees, and timeline for each individual business idea. BEAT is making process improvement decisions continually based on the information gathered through the program. The BEAT program will continue to evolve and serve the business committee better. In the coming months, BEAT will expand its services beyond the city permitting processes into additional support for the small business community.

Contact Michael Davis at 601-960-1638 or mdavis@jacksonms.gov for more information or download the BEAT  Business Startup Kit here.

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