The recently founded Gainesville’s Department of Doing, an organization dedicated to facilitating the steps needed to start a business, hosted a meet and greet Wednesday night with city officials and local business owners to introduce the first director, Wendy Thomas.
The new department was formed to assist current and new business owners and make Gainesville more “citizen centered,” City Manager Anthony Lyons said.
Focusing on improving the user experience of Gainesville, the department hopes to help people achieve what they want to do.
“So you go to a cocktail party or a dinner party and someone says, what do you do?” Lyons said. “We just thought, what if you had a department that was created in a customized way to help people achieve what they are trying to do.”
With previous experience as director of community development for the city of Bozeman, Montana, the organization decided that the person in charge of getting things done will be Wendy Thomas.
Thomas hopes to modernize the city and bring different departments together to speed up the development of projects.
“My part will be to start thinking not ‘you go to this city department for A, and this city department for B, and this city department for C,’ but bring together the right group that can help a business or can help a resident,” Thomas said.
Along with the closer collaboration of several departments, ideas such as the ability to submit building plans electronically in the form of PDFs at any time are being implemented, Thomas said.
“What’s being done here is really extraordinary, and I just can’t emphasize that enough,” Thomas said.
The idea for the creation of this new department came from the Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee, a task force of city officials and local business owners that was formed to improve the business aspect of Gainesville.
As part of their efforts the committee provided a report with ideas and recommendations to the city, one of those recommendations was the creation of this new department.
Among the business owners present at the event was restaurateur and member of the Blue Ribbon committee Omar Oselimo, who said that while it would not be an overnight change, one could already see the improvements in the business community in Gainesville.
“I feel like this is going to be very, very, very successful,” Oselimo said. “It’s going to transform the community, and it’s going to really have an impact on [making] us visible to the rest of the world as somewhere that is people-centric and a place that you can get stuff done easily,”
Oselimo, owner of Reggae Shack Café in Gainesville, said that if the Department of Doing achieves only 50 percent of their goals, it will be greatly beneficial for current and new businesses in the area.
Among the new businesses starting in Gainesville is Yan Acupuncture and Herbs, which opened about a month ago. Its manager, Iris Guo, came to the event to meet Wendy Thomas and learn about the ideas that the Department of Doing plans to implement.
“We are looking forward to grow our business here in this city and this community,” Guo said.