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Editorial: License proposal will make city more business friendly

Apr. 27, 2013 @ 12:14 AM

The economic census from 2002 really told the story.

The survey done every five years showed that retail sales in Huntington had dropped from $637 million in 1997 to $483 million in 2002. Meanwhile, retail sales in Barboursville climbed from $337 million in 1997 to $587 million in 2002, eclipsing Huntington as the area's largest retail center.

The growth of the mall, big box stores and businesses fleeing the city had taken their toll. Over the next five years, Huntington began to make improvements with the development of Pullman Square and other steps, and the 2007 economic census reflected that progress. Retail sales in Huntington were up to $548 million.

Barboursville grew as well to $651 million, and we hope the new figures being gathered this year will show continued progress in both areas.

But the trends of the past decade are a reminder that Huntington needs to improve its business climate if it is to grow. Since his election last fall, Mayor Steve Williams has stressed that more needs to be done, and one of those initiatives includes streamlining the process for starting a business within the city limits.

As part of that effort, City Council this week forwarded to a second reading eight ordinances that will reduce the number of business license categories from 41 to 5 and charge one set fee, $20, for most annual business licenses. These categories had not been reviewed in more than 40 years, and the maze of licensing procedures just added delays and confusion for potential new start-ups.

Williams also plans to hire a business services "concierge" next fiscal year to help new businesses navigate the permits, licenses and zoning questions at City Hall.

These are both encouraging changes and good steps toward helping Huntington grow.

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