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County seeks better ways to do business

You’ve heard the same cliches about working with local government.

So has local government.

Now, Clark County officials are embarking on a multiyear process to overhaul how the state’s largest local government works with businesses.

That means friendlier employees, faster permitting processes and consolidated services – efforts that are being praised by local business people.

County Manager Don Burnette believes it could make the county more nimble and efficient and possibly help the struggling economy rebound.

“Quite frankly, I’m not sure we’ve made it easy for business to do business with the county,” Burnette said. “The world’s changed on us, and we need to fundamentally re-evaluate what we do and how we do it.”

For the past eight months, the county has been reaching out to businesses and organizations, such as the Las Vegas chapter of the Associated General Contractors, and listening to ideas for making their lives easier.

“We were really shocked and delighted that we were reached out to for this,” contractors group Las Vegas Executive Vice President Sean Stewart said.

“It’s something that’s been a concern of ours for a long time – the monotony of government and how slow it moves.”

Through a Web survey and meetings, officials asked what irked the private sector most about county government. Respondents overwhelmingly chose the arduous county processes – 40 percent – and customer service – 30 percent.

County policies and changes to county codes made up 1 percent each.

The feedback told county officials where they needed to change, but that would mean overhauling years of habit.

“It’s easy in government to just keep building on what you’re doing, layer upon layer, without taking a step back and saying, ‘Does this makes sense anymore?’ ” Burnette said.

Now the county is taking a look at making many changes:

■ Providing customer feedback surveys and having department heads meet quarterly with the business community.

■ Making the permitting processes faster and more streamlined.

■ Moving the Fire Department’s inspection staff into the county’s Building Department, making the two departments more coordinated and saving customers from having to go to multiple locations.

The county will need buy-in from its employees, who have been hit hard by the recession. Roughly one in five positions have been cut in the past several years.

Assistant County Manager Randy Tarr said officials want to empower the employees to make more decisions on their own.

The goal is to “get a culture out there where they work with each other, efficiently and smart, and if it doesn’t look good, speak up and tell a supervisor,” Tarr said.

“That’s not our methodology today.”

Commissioners are praising the effort.

“If we can provide better service more efficiently, we ought to do that,” Commissioner Tom Collins said.

It could take months or years for the changes to be realized.

“We’re not going to be able to change overnight,” Burnette said. “But we’re committed to it.”

So far, feedback has been positive.

“I like the perspective of looking at us as a customer more than a pain in the rear, for lack of a better word,” Stewart said.

“The dialogue is open, and that’s as important as anything else.”

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781.

 

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