City boosts online permit service

Mountain View, Calif., home page

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Six months after launching its first online transactional service, the Silicon Valley city of Mountain View, Calif., is touting the success of the program and giving credit to an extensive marketing campaign.

The city advertised its online permits service in the local weekly newspaper, on cable TV, through direct approaches to neighborhood associations, and by displaying a big, two-sided banner on the city's main business thoroughfare.

"We marketed PermitPartner in just about every venue we could think of," said Ron Geary, deputy development director for Mountain View's Building and Safety Department. "We went through our database and made a list of all of the contracting groups these permits are aimed at and sent out a letter to all of them. We coupled that with a flier we stapled to every permit that people received."

The marketing initiatives have helped raise the number of permits issued online to between 10 percent and 12 percent of total permits issued.

"We're averaging over 40 e-permits a month now," Geary said, "and that's a lot. If you speak to companies such as Microsoft [Corp.] and others who do this [kind of marketing] with their products and services, they'll tell you that getting a 5 [percent] to 10 percent positive response in the first year of such a campaign is a phenomenal result."

It's a "paradigm shift," Geary said, and it fits with the increasingly accepted notion that government is all about delivering services to customers.

Mountain View is now ready to move to the second phase of the online permits project, he said, which has an aggressive goal of eventually moving 25 percent of the city government's core permit applications online. Geary said that as government staff members gain confidence in working through the Internet this way, the kind of permits that will be made available online will also expand.

The city outsourced hosting of the online permits (www.govtsystems.com/mtnview) to GovPartner, an e-government solutions vendor.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at [email protected]

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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