Businesses win big time with BizPal

Complying with complex government licensing requirements can be a challenge for most startup companies.

BizPal wants to change that.

The new online business service is designed to simplify and speed up the permits and licensing (P&L) process and, in doing so, to save firms time, labour, money – and hassle.

BizPal is one of the very few systems in Canada that integrates government at every level — municipal, territorial, provincial and federal. While its principal beneficiaries are businesses — all the way from one-person outfits to large companies — governments stand to gain as well.

Billed as a service that takes government online (GOL) to the next level, BizPal serves as a one-stop shop for P&L facts and stats. It offers entrepreneurs 24/7 Web access to such information from all three levels of government simultaneously.

The data is comprehensive and customized for a specific business activity in a specific location.

The BizPal pilot – already off the ground – involves a multi-jurisdictional alliance. Municipal partners are Whitehorse, Kamloops, and the Halton region. Provincial/territorial players include the Yukon, British Columbia and Ontario. Industry Canada is the federal representative.

David Trawin describes BizPal as “a win for businesses, government and the Canadian public.” Trawin is director of development and engineering services with the city of Kamloops, B.C.

Until the advent of BizPal, he said, there was no single P&L source for businesses. “No one jurisdiction could identify all the permits and licenses required by a business. It could specify its own requirements, not those of other jurisdictions also involved in the licensing process.”

He said with a new business launched in Canada every two minutes, this absence of a centralized P&L information hub was a real challenge, especially as many businesses must meet regulatory requirements of multiple levels of government. “For example, opening a restaurant in Ontario can require 26 licenses and permits from all three levels of government.”

Trawin said small businesses – which comprise 98 per cent of all Canadian businesses and generate 24 per cent of the GDP – are disproportionately affected, as they are less likely to have the financial resources to deal with such regulatory requirements. “In addition, the time needed for compliance may interfere with core start up activities and divert resources that could potentially be used for the business.”

In this environment, he said, BizPal plays a crucial role through its complete and coordinated presentation of licensing information across all levels of government. In the city of Kamloops, Trawin said, BizPal addresses a fundamental need – articulated by businesses and citizens alike – for increased use of technology in municipal services delivery.

He said Kamloops business owners and developers – in a recent Ipsos Reid survey – expressed the need to improve customer service, while reducing non-compliance situations and enforcement costs. “BizPal addresses all these needs.”

While BizPal is a Web service, it’s not a transactional service – and does not offer fulfillment capabilities.

“It does, however, provide value-added information such as links to online forms, as well as online applications – if that’s available with the partner,” said Guylaine Brunet, project manager of BizPal, Industry Canada, GOL Projects.

Jurisdictions offering this service begin with a business mapping process.

Brunet explained how the process works. “We assemble representatives from all levels of government within a jurisdiction to identify licenses and permits needed in a specific industry sector – such as the restaurant business, for example. Information gathered is narrowed down to a customized list, which is then incorporated into a template.” She said users are able to access BizPal from any participating jurisdiction’s Web site. “They key in information on their location, the type of business they want to start, and answer a couple of questions. The database is automatically queried and returns a customized P&L list, along with value-added information, to the user.”

Brunet said the said the centralized database is a hallmark of the BizPal system. “Our research indicates P&L information of our partners is scattered all over the place, in various departments and ministries. Having all this data centralized in a single database helps partners and users alike.”

As a shared, integrated Web service that benefits all stakeholders, BizPal’s popularity is expected to soar – along with its adoption rate. “In future BizPal will have hundreds – if not thousands – of partners, as other provinces, territories and municipalities join the BizPal team,” said Dale Kozman, director of consumer and safety services with Yukon’s Department of Community Services.

The adoption of BizPal, he said, will benefit businesses in many ways. Instead of spending precious time understanding the requirements of government, businesses will get the whole story at a glance from BizPal. As time is money, this will mean cost savings.”

As a Web-based service, Kozman said, BizPal will also generate savings for governments. “Canada’s Treasury Board has reported that on average government spends $37 for in person transactions, $19 for mail transactions and $10 for telephone transactions with an agent.” By contrast, he said, it spends just 30 cents on Internet transactions. He said BizPal offers governments an excellent opportunity to forge relationships, as well as to streamline and harmonize its processes.

A governing structure is being developed to ensure long-term viability of the service.

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