Glenn Hamer

In his commentary this week, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue reminds readers that unnecessary delays in permitting projects are absolute job killers.

For example, Donohue points out that from 1998 to 2006, the time it took to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for an energy or infrastructure project ranged from 51 days to 18.4 years with an average span of 3.4 years.

Consider the permitting challenges facing the mining industry, which has resulted in the U.S. importing $5.1 billion worth of minerals that we could be producing domestically.

It is because of these costly delays that the U.S. Chamber has lent its support to the RAPID Act, a bill that would designate one agency to lead on processing permits and approvals and, among other things, would accept reviews by state regulatory agencies to avoid redundancies with similar federal reviews.

It seems to me like Washington, D.C. could take a page out of the City of Phoenix’s – and specifically Councilmen Sal DiCiccio and Tom Simplot’s – playbook. Thanks to DiCiccio and Simplot, Phoenix is now a nationwide leader in cutting the red tape that too often has put job-creating projects in a seemingly never ending bureaucratic limbo.

A 125-member citizen Ad Hoc Development Task Force headed up by the councilmen looked at the risks and unpredictability a business faces in moving through the permitting process. A business going into an existing building is looking at a permitting process that can last anywhere from four to eight months. A business seeking to construct a new building from the ground up can take a year to 16 months to go through the permitting process.

Those timeline are unacceptable; they cost money and jobs. As Archicon, LLC managing partner Jere Planck told Councilman DiCiccio, “That kind of timeframe just doesn’t fit a lot of the economics that large corporations need – or even small businesses need – to be able to open businesses and create those jobs.”

How can that process be done better, faster and at less expense?

Both councilmen visited with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Executive Committee recently and discussed the city’s new Self Certification Program. The program seeks to cut what has typically been a months-long process down to just one day.

The Self Certification Program eliminates plan review for eligible projects by allowing a registered professional to take responsibility for and certify a project’s compliance with building code, standards and ordinances.

The effort first began in 2009 as a pilot program with leading architects and engineers being able to take certification classes offered by Phoenix. The program proved wildly successful, giving birth to today’s expanded program that is set for full implementation next year and that will allow for all tenant improvements to be eligible for self-certification, including everything from high rises to restaurants.

All of this means that certified architects can deliver permits for their clients in one day, allowing construction to begin straight away.

Now Councilmen DiCiccio and Simplot are working to bring self certification not only to the permitting process but to the inspection portion of a project, as well, which would allow a third party to complete building inspections.

Councilman DiCiccio is so confident of self-certification’s job creation potential that on a recent edition of his television program he predicted that in the next six months, “you’re going to see Phoenix lead the nation in job creation and job growth. We’re going to have the best model in the country that’s going to allow us to create jobs in the city of Phoenix.”

Councilmen DiCiccio and Simplot want to take the self-certification process Valley-wide, and are meeting with other mayors and council members from neighboring communities to tout the program’s benefits.

The self-certification package passed the Phoenix City Council 8-1, an acknowledgment that cutting job-killing red tape should be a priority for city leaders regardless of partisan affiliation. Imagine if Congress were to adopt the same commitment to job creation by passing the RAPID Act.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry