This all could have been avoided if…
The most absolutely frustrating thing about all of this is that months could have been saved and thousands of dollars if only Summit County could call me back. If only they replied to my emails and messages…nine months ago. If I could have been told THEN what I needed to know, I could have planned for the extra expense and time and it would have been ok.
Yes, I do realize that they review and inspect thousands and thousands of plans a year within Summit County. But I’m not the new Dollar General that went in down the street. I’m not the new chain brewpub going in at Summit Mall. I’m not another new fast-food joint with corporate cash and the a priori knowledge of how to do this. I’m not a chain or a business with a ton of money. I’m most certainly not a developer. I’m one person with a family supporting this opportunity living in Akron trying to follow my dream who came from a life in a chemistry lab and later the internet. I don’t have lawyers and consultants on retainer, I don’t do this kind of stuff daily. It’s just me and my family and due diligence.
So when I am trying to do the right thing, to abide by city and county laws while totally extending my finances, when I repeatedly call and leave messages and emails to the Summit County Division of Building Standards, as a taxpayer and future builder of jobs, I should get a call back. I should get pointed in the right direction. There should be THAT ONE PERSON who’s only job it is to have the general knowledge of the process to educate the unfamiliar, like me. There should be that one customer service representative that you can get instant information from. The Federal Alcohol Bureau has those people. Ohio Division of Liquor Control has those people, the Summit County Health Department has those people. Akron Zoning has those people. Why doesn’t Summit County Building Department have those people? Even just one person, that’s all I’m asking.
The city of Akron is taking steps to make this process a lot easier with that new ‘satellite’ office in the Summit County Building Department and I give them high marks from the recent interactions I have had with them…but it wasn’t like that nearly a year ago…it, at least from what I found, was entirely through Summit County. If that office was installed when I was in my due diligence phase, we would be open now. Really.
If Akron really wants to be pro-small business (which is the majority of job creators), Summit County needs to just get some basic customer service – it’s an easy fix. At this moment, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend any new startup to come to Akron if they have to deal with Summit County Bldg Dept – just from what I am going through now. Here’s what I would tell them, “Before you locate your business here, call them up…if you get all of your questions answered within that week, then come to Akron to start your business, if not, be prepared for headaches and heartache as that is a premonition of what’s to come. If you were smart, find another city to start your business.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Akron and I have no issue with the people at Summit County – I’ve never met them or had any interaction with them so I can’t judge…but there is something wrong with the process. I would even do this again IN AKRON because now I have the knowledge of the process. But to a person that is in my shoes at the beginning trying to gain that knowledge, I would think twice, unless you like singing the blues. But if you have done this before, in Akron, then it’s probably completely different as you know what to do. I didn’t. And couldn’t.
If Akron and Summit County truly cares about this issue, I would have no problem inviting the people that make the decisions into my building RIGHT NOW, TODAY, to check it off as ready-to-go and to give me the conditional occupancy that I need. ‘Conditional’ meaning there are still some little things left to do like grab bars in handicap accessible bathroom, update the electrical panel labeling, stuff like that, stuff that would take me a week to finish…but this space is safe, healthy and functional. I need occupancy so that I can then move onto the food licensing, and then finally, open. It would be a great ‘we apologize for causing your inconvenience and since we care about the taxpayers that employ us and want to improve, in good faith, this space is good-to-go.’ But yet I am still jumping through hoops on issues that I wouldn’t otherwise had to jump through if I was given the necessary information at the beginning. This has been a truly unfair deck of cards beyond anything I could have planned for.
Please help me Akron and Summit County. Can you make this a priority to make this right and get my doors open? I don’t like to rant…I want to eventually sing your praises. But my family and I are at our breaking point. Show me that you care. I care a lot for this city. I love this city. That’s why I’m still here after 40 years. But that’s why I’m posting this, to hopefully incite positive change so that Akron, and Summit County, are stronger and can be an awesome hub of business that people flock too.