When Benjamin Young started working at the City of North Canton, he was an enthusiastic, unpaid intern tasked to write an ordinance: rental registration. Amidst the approval process, Covid-19 came around and threw a wrench in the plans to initiate regulation. Like all other municipalities across the country, the City pivoted to focus on the health and safety of their community. Placing the ordinance on the shelf for a safer time.
Four years later, Young is now the City’s Director of Legislative Affairs, with an intern of his own. And North Canton’s rental registration program is finally in action and online.
“This is a revolutionary dive into the world of letting people fill out [applications] online themselves and pay online – and we never have to see them at the front desk.”
– Benjamin Young, Legislative Director, City of North Canton, OH
24/7 Availability With Online Rental Registration
3 Month Implementation
5 Additional Service Areas In OpenGov Permitting & Licensing
Registrations Through the Rented Roof
Rental registration has become a hot topic of late. As of 2021, there are 44 million+ rental properties in the U.S, and companies like Airbnb make renting these properties a painless and ultra-accessible process. Government leaders across the country are scrambling to reap the economic benefits of this growing industry, while mitigating adverse effects on their communities. A challenge posing the question: How do we implement effective rental regulations to keep up with this growing demand?
To Young, the answer was an investment in technology. After years of facilitating the City’s paper-based permit process, Young knew tackling rental registration in the same way would be “quite hectic.” And without a means of collecting payments online, “impossible,” said Young.
As the original author of the ordinance, and with a knack for tech he credits to his IT Director mother, Young took ownership of the City’s first-ever mission to modernize. Directly after the ordinance was approved, Young began his search for rental registration software.
After demos from four different vendors, Young selected OpenGov Permitting & Licensing: “OpenGov, in my opinion, was… the best mix we saw of the standard off-the-shelf components that you need, but you don’t want to rebuild but enough customization that you can suit it to whatever your purpose is.”
Once the deal was closed, implementation of the software began immediately. The proposed four-month implementation timeline finished a month and a half ahead of schedule. The City went live in November of 2022. To Young, this was just the beginning of the City’s partnership with OpenGov.
The “OMG” Partnership Moment
Young selected OpenGov for rental registration specifically, but while building out the record type, he identified other areas in which the City could benefit from digital automation that hadn’t crossed his mind before.
“I kept thinking, ‘oh my gosh we could do this, oh my gosh we could do this’… this is what led us down the path of saying we want to add more service areas.”
Now that North Canton is live on rental registration, they are expanding the partnership with OpenGov to include the following service areas:
1. Fire & Parking Services
The fire department was the first to catch word of the new software and hop on board. Currently, the department runs a very “antiquated” paper-based process when it comes to permitting and inspections.
The department plans to start in OpenGov by building out burn permits, but later expand to other record types, including annual commercial inspections, tent permits, CPR session sign-up, and food truck licensing.
The police department also hopped on the bandwagon and will use the software to automate parking tickets. This way, residents can pay their fee online, rather than go through the hassle of mailing in a check.
North Canton residents have a lot of requests, from public records to road closures for holiday parades, said Young. The current paper-based structure lacked a workflow that allowed payment information to be streamlined between the Chamber of Commerce and City staff, said Young: “Chamber of commerce would call us, and we would write it down on a sheet of paper somewhere that would be passed around. [in moving these requests to OpenGov], we realized we could make a better workflow structure for better tracking for us and them. They could just fill it out online and not have to call.”
Although the City is implementing these two use cases at the moment, Young is ready to add more. “We do have a dream to move our building and permitting department entirely to OpenGov,” said Young.
Moving Online, One Step at a Time
Moving business processes online is a huge leap for North Canton, and Young doesn’t expect this change to be easy on all residents. Especially the “notable older population” who might not even own a computer,” said Young. He appreciates the software flexibility to accommodate offline options: “This gives residents the opportunity to radically change with us, without forcing them out of old habits.”
“What we like about OpenGov is that it has that ability that they can walk up to the counter, and our permit techs or our admin person can put it in for them. We can print out the documents and mail it to them if we have to,” said Young.
Turn of the Century
To Young, investing in technology is a crucial step toward redefining the City: “We are going into our second century. The first is growing with Hoover, and the second is learning how to live without Hoover.”
For over 100 years, North Canton was intertwined with Hoover Vacuum Company, as it employed over 5,000 residents, increasing the City’s population and economic development. In 1985, the company moved its headquarters to Charlotte, NC, and North Canton, like many other rust belt cities at the time, was stuck in a rut.
“Buying new software may seem not that important, but to me and my vision of running how the city works, this is just as important of a part of modernizing North Canton and bringing us into that second century as getting someone to occupy the old [Hoover] factory,” said Young.
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