February 14, 2014

Mayor Emanuel Announces Launch of First Phase of Paperless Online Permit and License Portal for Businesses

Businesses Can Apply for Environmental Permits Online; All City Permits and Licenses Will Move to Online One-Stop-Shop by 2016

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

As part of a continuing effort to make City government more efficient and effective, Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced the launch of the first phase of an online permit and business license portal that will allow residents, business owners and contractors to easily apply, pay for and print permits and business licenses on the web. The portal launches today with the Chicago Department of Public Health's (CDPH) Air Pollution Control (APC) permit, with all City permits and business licenses moving online by 2016.

"As more and more residents go online to pay bills, shop and telecommute, City Hall needs to keep up," said Mayor Emanuel. "Going paperless by creating an online one-stop-shop for licenses and permits will eliminate the need for trips to City Hall, allowing business owners to focus on their customers."

More than 2,000 businesses apply for the APC permit each year. Businesses are required to obtain this permit if their facility has equipment and areas that have the potential to emit air contaminants into the atmosphere. Businesses with this type of equipment include dry cleaners, body shops, wood shops, metal finishers and manufacturing plants. Additional permits issued by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and four other City departments, including the Departments of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, Buildings, Transportation and Cultural Affairs and Special Events, will be added to the online portal gradually over the next two years.

It is estimated that converting from a paperless to online process for the APC permit will have annual savings of nearly 1,400 hours of staff time previously spent on scanning and filing; up to 28,500 pages of paper; and $3,365 in postage that was spent to mail notifications, reminders and certificates.

"The new online portal makes the process of applying for the APC permit much easier," said Vicky Ottenfeld of J.B.C. Heating. "I can submit all required information and documents online. Once I receive approval, I can print the certificate immediately without having to leave my business."

Last October, Mayor Emanuel announced the City would invest in making the Small Business Center paperless by 2016, moving all permits and business licenses online in an effort to continue to advance the quality of customer service and cut down on staff time spent handling paperwork. This project was developed by the Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team in partnership with the Department of Innovation and Technology.

When complete, the paperless Small Business Center will house business licenses, building permits, public way use permits and special event permits on a single online portal that will provide convenient access to services and customer support to business owners, contractors, and residents. The portal will include the online application, navigational tools to effectively utilize the website, a personal dashboard and a convenient online payment system. It will also feature multi-language support via Google Translate and professionally translated information and documents.

Since launching in November 2011, the Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team has spearheaded a business license reform ordinance that reduced the number of license categories by 60 percent, launched the Retrofit Chicago Residential Partnership to help home and apartment building owners save thousands of dollars on their energy bills and helped design the Small Business Center to serve as a one-stop-shop for small businesses.