Student Fellowship

Expanding Economic Opportunity for Residents and Business Owners: A Policy Evaluation of City Licensing and Permitting Policies and Practices

Project Area:

Economic Development


Scranton, Pennsylvania

Reporting to:

Director, Community Development

The Challenge

The Mayor of Scranton aspires to lead a city full of opportunity for all residents. To achieve this vision, the Mayor aims to improve residents’ quality of life through intentional and equitable policies that address economic disparities. City officials believe that improvements to its licensing and permitting practices for commercial and residential properties would be a benefit to businesses in the community, and they have started to identify focus areas of interest. City officials aim to understand the ramifications of existing policies better, which may be expanding inequities, limiting economic opportunity, and leading to inefficient government operations. The city has also converted its permit and licensing process to an online format called Open Gov, which has improved their data tracking and evaluation abilities.

The fellow working alongside Scranton officials will help answer these key questions:

  • Do the current processes and policies hinder economic development?
  • Do these processes and policies impact certain industries or areas of the community more than others?
  • Are the current processes and policies representative of best practices (from peer cities and around the U.S.)?
  • Are there more effective licensing or permitting processes and policies structures that the city could apply?
  • Are there non-punitive measures or policies that could address the intent of the program more effectively?

The fellow will work with city leadership to recommend modernizations of policies and processes, billing and collections systems, and/or building permitting (commercial and residential) and business licensing ordinances. The fellow will work closely with the department of licensing, inspections and permits, the legal department, and the community development department. The proposed recommendations will be the foundation for building equitable business and quality of life standards that can be incorporated into Scranton’s operations.

What You’ll Do

The fellow will: 

  1. Inventory current business licensing and commercial and residential permitting ordinances
  2. Analyze city financial data to:
    • Evaluate current policies and processes, collection processes, and business purposes
    • Conduct a high-level cost-benefit analysis of key policies and procedures
    • Identify process and policy inequities on impacted industries and/or communities
  3. Conduct interviews with key stakeholders, such as local business owners and city staff and summarize findings to inform policy and ordinance changes
  4. Research national and peer city best practices focused on business, commercial, and residential policies and processes
  5. Evaluate findings and draft policy/ordinance recommendations. Note: the fellow will work closely with a new attorney, who is likely to spearhead the efforts after the fellowship is complete.

Related deliverables, defined in concert with the fellow, may include research summaries; presenting key findings from primary research; summary of best practices research; and policy recommendations.

What You’ll Bring

The fellow will be expected to possess the following skills and experience: 

  • Data analytics 
  • Research 
  • Policy analysis 
  • Interview and qualitative analysis 
  • Financial analysis (preferred)
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