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Officials are applying the principle of the carrot and the stick to the problem of unlicensed businesses within West Valley City.

The carrot: An amnesty period that allows unlicensed businesses to avoid stiff penalties by applying for a permit before April 1.The stick: An aggressive effort to identify, locate and penalize all the violators after April 1.

To back up its threat, the city has hired a consulting firm, ABL Inspection Management, that officials say has "exclusive knowledge, computer systems and processes" to find unlicensed businesses.

The firm will be given the base license fee of every unlicensed business it locates, with the city keeping all the penalties. Violators can be assessed a 100 percent penalty fee for the current year and 125 percent for each prior year of operation.

Assistant City Manager Karen S. Leftwich said the primary goal of the "get tough" policy is to ensure that businesses comply with ordinances, regulations and building, fire and life safety codes. Revenues are secondary, she said.

"There are very few exceptions to the business licensing and fee requirement, and almost all commercial, solicitor and home businesses must obtain licenses even if they are temporary businesses," Leftwich said.

City officials recently met with the Valley West Chamber of Commerce to discuss the growing problem of unlicensed businesses and received that group's endorsement of the effort to find and cite violators.

"The chamber recognizes that it is unfair to the majority of businesses to allow certain businesses to evade the licensing ordinances," Leftwich said.

Under the amnesty offer, businesses that apply for a license before April 1 will escape penalties for the current and prior years. Businesses interested in taking advantage of the offer may contact the city's Economic and Business Services Division, room 310, 3600 S. Constitution Blvd., 963-3290.