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Bureau of Development Services Introduces Small Business Assistance Team

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City of Portland, Bureau of Development Services




January 12, 2009


Contact: Alisa Cour, Bureau of Development Services 503.823.4017

Portland, OR - In the coming weeks, the Bureau of Development Services will roll out its newly created Small Business Assistance Team to help customers who plan to start or expand a small business in Portland with the development process.

The Bureau of Development Services recognizes the vital role that small businesses play in our city and that helping them grow and flourish is critical to the city's economic success.

According to BDS Director, Paul Scarlett, "I was encouraged to learn that the City of Portland's License Bureau issued 1,547 business licenses in the months of September, October and November of this year despite the current economic situation. This just reinforces the need for the bureau to support small businesses with the development review process."

For the past five years, Suzanne Vara has served as the bureau's Small Business Liaison. Vara has announced that she will retire on January 30, 2009, leaving an important vacancy for the bureau to fill. The bureau is grateful for Vara's commitment, unwavering support for and unique understanding of the complexity of small business, which has lead to a productive partnership between the bureau and the small business community.

The bureau's newly created Small Business Assistance Team will aid in filling this gap. Led by Mikal Shabazz and with liaison assistance from Tiffani Penson, the team will incorporate technical staff to provide services related to zoning, life safety review and inspections. The team will continue Vara's great work and the bureau's commitment to providing a dynamic range of services to our small business customers including:

  • Single-point-of-contact service for all customers with small business inquiries
  • Early review of property sites to determine whether zoning and building code issues or fees would impact the feasibility of locating a business there
  • Permit coordination services to achieve a seamless permitting, inspection and approval process for the project
  • Advocacy for small business customers within the development review process

The Small Business Assistance Team will provide focused assistance to small business and aid in facilitating their plans to locate and expand in the City of Portland. For more information contact Suzanne Vara, Mikal Shabazz or Tiffani Penson at (503) 823-1109 or email


1 Comment


Carlos Villalva

March 13, 2014 at 7:05 PM

My name is Carlos Villalva, I've been working for Sharis Restaurants for the past few years and now I want to open my first own business, yet I've found that it isn't as easy as I thought.
I have a floor plan for a frozen yogurt shop, and I would like to know if it complies with the city regulations. Since I'm in a budget, I didn't hire an architect to help with the process. I would like to know where can I get assistance about my floor plan.
The space retail will be located within the SE PCC new campus.
The space is small 1100 sf. and I would like to know if 1 ADA restroom can be sufficient for this project.
Thank you

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