Cities are always trying to streamline the permitting process for businesses, which are often required to pull multiple permits from various departments. This can be a challenging process for those who do not interact with them on a regular basis, considering the varying terminologies and procedures.

Enter OpenCounter.

OpenCounter was founded by Silicon Valley and public-sector talent to create best-of-class products for modern governments. The company was incubated at Code for America in 2012, and has since scaled for cities of all sizes across the country. Its mission? To help cities take a big step toward improving economic development and modernizing service delivery.

This week, Fremont launched OpenCounter’s ZoningCheck and Business Portal, which use a sophisticated rules engine to calculate permit requirements, fees, and timelines as applicants fill in their project details. This, in turn, gives applicants more confidence when starting their projects, and helps staff to improve efficiency at the counter. It also assists in facilitating communications with Fremont’s economic development team, so even if problems arise, qualified help is aware and involved in the process. The Business Portal contains over 50 permits spanning four City departments and a number of other special districts, all accessible from an individual’s computer.

The ZoningCheck tool encodes a majority of the Municipal Code’s 600 pages defining the City’s Planning and Zoning regulations. It also transforms the process of land use and site selection into three easy pages (which was no small feat!). Additionally, understanding that complexities exist, the ZoningCheck portal allows users to submit an inquiry to staff, opening up an additional channel of communication.

Fremont is one of 25 communities across California now using this software, from San Diego to Redding. As one of the primary locations for biotech, smart manufacturing, and clean technology, this software is intended to augment existing economic development outreach and assistance, and facilitate conversations with prospective and existing business owners. The Open Counter tool was created to serve local communities by helping businesses to grow. Check out the site at, and help spread the word!