Ever thought of opening a small business? A Prince William County program has you covered.
The Prince William County Commercial Development Committee is a public advisory group that helps small business owners develop their projects by supplying development information.
This week, the Prince William Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee held a meeting at the chamber’s headquarters in Manassas to inform the public about the county’s Department of Development Services (DDS) and how it can help small businesses.
Staff members discussed the Commercial Project Management Project and how it has positively affected the small businesses of Prince William.
According to the DDS, more than 380 small businesses opened in 2019 with help from Prince William County’s Small Business Project Management Program.
The department’s future goal is to enhance the level of service for small business owners in the county.
They’ve already started by investing over $1 million in other small business programs. More information on their department can be found on their website.
Below, is a video of the meeting:
Here is a transcription, which was done with 80 percent accuracy:
Wade Hugh: Some information’s a little, maybe redundant. Some of you may have heard in the past about some of our programs, but the thing I’m really excited to talk about today is our efforts to assist small businesses. So I’ll start with our mission statement. Development services in the County is a fairly new department we’re coming up on this may all be 12 years. So when you look at all the agencies in Prince William County, this is a really infant organization from that regards. I won’t read you the mission statement, but really the highlights here are partnerships. We consider ourselves partners with our development customers, with our commercial customers. So every project I really want our team members, whether they’re playing reviewers, inspectors, project managers did feel they’re part of that team. So when there’s success, we should celebrate it. We should be at the ribbon cuttings when things don’t go as planned, we should learn from it and accept PayPal, part of that team, if something went alive, you know, what could we have done different?
Wade Hugh: Also when we talk about customer service, the highest level, um, I know that’s kind of the rhetoric and what you may hear from, from a lot of organizations and government entities, but I really like to think that we do strive to provide the best service. Uh, we recently implemented the County and awards program where we give out, um, badges that accumulate points that can allow folks to, um, to be nominated for like the County execs awards or different service awards that we have. And so the recognition is if I get an email from a customer or a customer comes in and drops the survey card off, whatever the case may be, to say, Hey, we had outstanding service from somebody for somebody to take the time to do that, that’s important. That means obviously we hit home, Ram did a good job, we’re going to recognize that. So we really strive to take those home runs on projects.
Wade Hugh: A committee that’s, um, really helps guide our department. So we’re set out, we were formed and the reason we were formed 12 years ago is to really focus on commercial development. Uh, one, two, we really needed a lead organization in the County for development. You got a lot of agencies that are involved in development, who’s kind of taking charge when things aren’t going as planned, who is stepping in and looking at processes to see how we can do things different. So with that in mind, it County be back in 1999 form the County commercial development committee. I say it’s board appointed because the board established the membership organizations. They don’t actually appoint the members, those organizations appointed members. But the thing that we’ve got an organization or committee that’s been in place for 20 years and is extremely active. Um, you’ve got two appointees that represent the Prince William chamber Rostain.
Wade Hugh: One Gary Jones with Fauquier Bank and the other representative, these guys will tell you we need every quarter, sometimes in between quarters. And the charge of the group is really how can we streamline our processes. Um, a lot of the folks that are represented here are builders, contractors, engineers, architects. Um, so they see the process, the development process for many different facets. Uh, what are some areas that we can do things better? Um, they helped us establish, um, our commercial development committee that we’ll talk about in a little bit here. Um, also the meetings we need, like I said, once a quarter to 30 open meetings. So while this is an established committee, it’s an open door meeting and the more folks we can get in, the more input we can have the better.
Wade Hugh: So you kind of serve the department level. You got the commercial development committee that’s helping us streamline processes. Then we have really one of our cornerstones, which is commercial project management. Um, when I talked in the beginning and said some of this may be redundant, this has been in place since 2012. Uh, the purpose of the program is really to assign one point of contact, one project manager per project. Now if it’s a new structure coming out of the ground, you’re going to have two project managers, one of the land development side that’ll help you through the site development bonds and site inspections. You’ll have a building project manager that’s going to work through all the buildings, plans, inspections, permits, so forth. Um, it’s really for that customer, whether they’re local, out-of-state to have one point of contact. Anytime you work on job, there’s going to be things that you know, you’ve got inspections, questions, issues that come up from time to time.
Wade Hugh: We can’t expect a customer to know who do they reach out and call so they can call the project manager, let the project manager do all the internal end running. If there’s issues that come up instead of letting these things fester for week two weeks, time is money. Instead of letting those things fester at the staff level needs elevated very quickly to have management. Just make a decision. May not be the decision you want to hear necessarily, but as a business then you can react and move the project forward. That’s what the project managers are tasked with.
Wade Hugh: So again, drilling down, so you have the commercial, every project gets a commercial project manager that’s assigned the level of whether we’re proactive or reactive, depends on the project. So I’ll have a project manager on the building side, for example, that may have 80 projects. There’s no way they’re managing 80 projects proactively. If it’s a targeted industry from economic development, it absolutely gets targeted. Proactive, Sams, proactive means we’re constantly monitoring every week. If plans were submitted, had they been reviewed, what was the comments like? Are we getting the thing out in the second submission, if inspections were done, were there any issues? That level of proactivity, if it’s a project the board member is involved in, obviously I’m going to be involved in will elevate that. If it’s a project that staff sees kind of going awry, it gets elevated, more proactive. The rest of them just stay in a reactive mode.
Wade Hugh: They’re on the list, but really no involvement. The board saw and based on the fact that we are the home of the largest community of small and midsize businesses, this is development data that tells us this. There’s a huge group out there that many times when those customers come in, they’re not hiring professional general contractors to run the job. They’re running the job, but they don’t have really maybe a clue who in the County to call versus our normal customers, contractors, engineers, they start knowing who they can pick the phone up. They know to call board number or call director over department. So what’s happening is a small business owners kind of get lost in the fray, but the time it gets to my level and we recognize there’s an issue, sure we can jump in and fix it, but how much money has been lost, how much time has been lost and the worst thing is you get the person to the finish line.
Wade Hugh: They’re so fed up with Prince William County, they don’t want to come back. And so how do we solve? Well, the board said, this is one of our focuses on our future goals or outlooks is we want to enhance
services. They have invested over $1 million, some of that to set up a program that I’ll talk in more detail about, but it gave us three dedicated staff to serve as project managers for small business. All those projects get proactive treatment. This isn’t the reactive proactive, this is, Hey, if you were in the program, the recognition is we need to step up and help how we define that. We started out with 35 employees. That’s how we define small business. You look for definitions and they’re all over the place for what’s the size of a small business. That’s the first trigger. Second trigger is are you managing your own project or did you hire somebody local?
Wade Hugh: If you’ve hired somebody local that’s going to run your job. Um, and I use our CDC show, my Garcia as an example. Mike’s done this so long. He knows it like the back of his hand. Might your general contractor, you’re in good hands, you don’t need, we’re still going to give you a project manager. We’re just not going to be proactive like knows to call us if there an issue. Um, we also have the Mason small business development center kind of took place or the Floyd small business center. Um, and $400,000 was dedicated to uh, incentives to Brickyard, which is also, they’re set up to help assist small businesses. We are closely linked to economic development. They have a small business person in their office. So we’re communicating, we’re talking so that we’re following customers between our agencies.
Wade Hugh: So this program, we actually got funding in July of 2018 we built the program. Obviously we had hire staff, training staff, get the program constructed. Um, so we’ve been up and running. So if you look at calendar year 2019, the biggest takeaway I would say here, which is really when you think about kind of amazing every day, uh, opens in Prince William County every day, 481 customers. We know this because when you come into our building, if you’ve been in development services, we have an early assistance desk. Every customer gets routed to that desk. You get a ticket number. We collect information. We entered into the system. That’s how we identify your small business right in that spot. So we know the 40 80 ones, how many has come through? 384 businesses encounter year 19 we’re open now. These could be expanding businesses, new businesses. You say, well gosh street, but what happened?
Wade Hugh: At a hundred. That’s in between, well the four 81 serve. Some of those are just research. We encourage business owners come in and just talk to us. Even if you haven’t settled on piece of property or where you’re going to lead. So you don’t even have an architect hire. That’s okay. Let’s start talking. Um, if you’ve got a couple of places you’re thinking about, maybe you’re getting ready to sign the lease. That’s the perfect time to talk because I’ve shared this with other groups before. I’ve had customers that sign a lease to come in and unfortunately the broker never shared with them that there’s a profit associated with that space and that shopping center that you’re moving into, you can’t have a CrossFit gym. They, some leads, we can’t even let them in. I mean, so we can do that research for you. So part of that is it could be customers, just research.
Wade Hugh: It could be customers that they want to move into space and they know they’ve got a submit, a tenant layout plan. So they’re going to hire the architect, they got to snip their plans, permits. And so there’s going to be a lag time to get the construction done. Um, of the 384 in the bottom left corner, there are 143 were existing businesses expanding. Um, 208 would new businesses. One of the things that I’ll show you if you’d say, well, what’s the opposite of the 33 other one thing that we are jumping into and this nice chart that you see here is the work of Jimmy person. Jenny was in economic development as was George Hartman. They recently joined our department. So we’re trying to also change and market what we do. We’re very good at just crunching numbers. We do inspections, we do plans, we don’t Mark, that’s economic development.
Wade Hugh: They go out and tell the good things that counties don’t. We really don’t do that, but we need to change that mindset because a lot of the stuff that we do, we need to get to business owners to let them know that it’s just not economic development marketing what we do. But you actually have the regulators, the ones that usually are going to be the ones pushing books in front of you saying, well here’s why you can’t do what you want to do. Yeah, there’s regulations, but we are here to help you and we need to market what this is. And so one thing we’re learning is all our reports, all our data isn’t really set up to market. It’s just the bare minimum that we need to manage. And so that other column is just where business owners didn’t check or didn’t feed information. And so we need to make the forums more user friendly. We need to try to glean that information cause that’s a great marketing piece. 300,000 square feet of occupied space, uh, the 7.4 businesses. Now some of those again could be expanding. So maybe they closed their doors here but relocated here. So it’s not necessarily a new check of a new, but they’ve expanded their opening.
Wade Hugh: So as I just said, part of our marketing, um, where setting up a marketing and communications, that’s the role that the genius plan. Um, we’ve got a whole process action team. We’re looking at different strategies. Um, we actually had, as we’re driving over, we’re sharing that we just sent out our first couple of tweets. I promise my, I am not a technology person. The great thing about my job is I don’t have to deal with tweets and all. Well here we go. They’ve drunk the NDT, they’re the media area. So, um, we also had a great press release, which I believe is around the table. We were in the handout. Okay. Which Jenny helped put together. Again the word out because I may share with the board, Hey, we had no numbers. I shared with you, but isn’t that something we need to get out into the business? Meaning get to hear it, the chamber that you all can share, Hey, the County is doing some great things. Look at, look at the, uh, look at the numbers, look at some of the processes that are put in place. And so we intend every quarter. So in April we’ll do something similar. We’ll be sending something back and board. And to get this out, we now have a website which actually has a small business page on it and we’re going to look to do some quarterly newsletters as well.
Wade Hugh: So data for County year 20, I shared with you the 19 data. So for County or 20, again, the trend is continuing. So if you look at the business open that are open, um, and you can kind of see your day, you can see the January 19 comparing and also with February, uh, things are continuing to trend the way they should. Slogans, which again, Jenny is helping me with this piece here is before you begin check in for the small business owner, everyone does the miss utility. Before we did, and you must call me, she told me that’s when everyone gets what we’re trying to say to the small business owners call us. I think sometimes people feel like unless I have a plan to submit or a reason to come to the County and we’re telling you come in early, we have no problem doing that research up front. There’s no cost, although it isn’t rolled up somehow in your taxes. But there’s no direct costs that you come in. Um, we want to meet with you. So the pens that are around the table, again, just something small that we’re trying to get the word out. That’s where the, before you begin checking in.
Wade Hugh: Now drilling down again. So we talked about the department level, commercial project management, small business program. Now we’re drilling down various smaller agribusiness. So we kind of have a unique market here in the County. Uh, we have a number of breweries, wineries, um, we’re getting more of the wedding event centers that are starting to crop up on ag property. And so George Harban is becoming our in house expert. He’ll talk a little bit more about agribusiness, agritourism, because for us a lot of that is exempt. So for example, why these barns that are getting dealt that are very elaborate event centers are barns, they are exempt under the building code. So the building official write the letter and basically say, you are exempt. So think about the next time you’re on one of these two level Barnes and you’re out on the big deck and you’re standing there.
Wade Hugh: What’s the only exit one exit that’s back through the main domain. Well, that’s because a lot of them aren’t regulated under the building code, but that being said, these owners come in. Many of them, they don’t have a clue on all the different processes involved, whether it’s state processes, federal processes. So George started putting together a flowchart. Again, I don’t want to steal his thunder, but one of the things you’ll see it, it can be daunting when you look at this, what we’re trying to do is again, help that small business owner. We’re trying to develop relationships with the ABC, so if an owner says, you know, I can’t get him to respond. If we have that relationship, we can reach out and help the business owner. The regional collaboration, what we’re trying to do is I’ve got directors from Stafford, Loudon, Fairfax, Arlington that meet on a regular basis and so we’re trying to benchmark the breweries and the wineries obviously loud and kind of being the lead on that. What is it they’re doing? Are there regulations we have in place that we should recommend to the board roll back? And a lot of that would be say on the zoning side of things they can and can’t do.
Wade Hugh: So we’re always looking for input. As I said, you have two representatives on the County commercial development committee that are right here and the chamber. Um, we’d love to know thoughts if you’re hearing things, how to do things better. We also do a lot of work with um, NAIOP meet with them on a regular basis. Members of AOP, so anyone who’s also a member, a nailed it can get some of that input out there. We’d appreciate that. Again, I’ll put in a plug of April 15 will be our next commercial development committee meeting at two 30 and development services. As I said, it’s an open meeting, so please feel free to join us. And with that I’m going to turn it over to Joel.
Speaker 2: You were seeing the difference between someone that’s doing his life and research as hell has been his life in marketing ever business in Princeton. And Kenny was the only thing I had on that sheet. Janie came in and said, as a communications person, how do we get people at your time and you’re going to see my answer to that.
Speaker 3: [inaudible]
Speaker 2: this is only, this is mainly for research purposes and this is to basically tell you all why is the number in this state, 413 so important. We’re on 13 this year. It means something very important. What is it? It is a year. The first permanent settlement happened in this state and from that we became an agricultural state in which you have seen through those 400 years is the power and the respect that this state has or agribusinesses. It’s like Wade said, you haven’t, if you had ran zone agribusiness, you can pretty much do whatever you want to on it. For the past 300 plus years, 400 plus years, we’d let you do every wanted. There was no zoning. There’s nothing you can do whatever you want to build on. If you were a farm, and this just gives you, and what we’re seeing is the, is the industry changing to agritourism?
Speaker 2: It’s not strictly I’m growing crops, it’s now I want to maximize my, my investment because I’m not growing crops 1212 months a year. I’m going to do something else out there. This is going to get even more people in there and I can morning on cancer there’s chance the birth of business and this is attitudinal and how we define the only, I want you to look on that and said that it says Winelands and the only thing on this one and the most important phrase and zoning is permitted by right and that means you can do that on your side. There’s no regulations per se that you have to adhere to like a special use permit. You want to put her on, you’re on your side but we’re under on your side and that’s just forgetting that stuff. That’s just obviously that later. This is the flowchart of Wade was talking about now most of them, most States or counties when they deal with those two are strictly their flow charts.
Speaker 2: And when you seen a County flowchart do this, it says here’s what you have to do to do to be a winery in the County. But what about state? I don’t know. What about federal? I don’t know. Not. You’re not concerned about it. What we decided to do was to show the farmers here the entire process you have to go through to establish these winery or brewery, but these are the prep questions. Things that you may not ask. For example, use your land really zone agricultural number two, is your building registered on the national stork of landmark or is it a visit habits, historical easement. This is really important. People do this for tax purposes and also we no, you can’t do what you’ve got. You may not be doing what you want to do or do we have to go through the sup with the special use permit to get to that stage because you’ve already encumbered a chunk of your land for something else. And then finally in a really important one, what’s the capacity of your septic sewer system?
Speaker 2: Because the, there are a lot of things you cannot put in a super suit. You can’t put a, she can’t put food, a lot of stuff like that that you can’t do. And do you have the capacity to deal with this and that gets into other issues. Like if you want to decide that you want to be serving food all the time, this is a fertile state. Permitting for one. I’m not going to read you all the ways, I’m just gonna tell you what the key ones are. Federal first and foremost is us treasury. That used to be the old tobacco, alcohol and beer, alcohol, firearms, alcohol farm, whatever they request. Now there’s stuff by the treasury and it takes you about 84 days to go through that process. So long, long application. And I read them all. And um, then you look at the Virginia, ABC, that’s yet another application you have to go through.
Speaker 2: And it differs or winery versus breweries. And there’s separate ones between that is if you’re selling it, if you’re hosting events or whatever you’re doing, there’s a lot of different premise we have to go through to get that. Uh, the department of agriculture is going to come in and inspect what people done to make sure they did it right and not only do they do it if you’re running a boiler, like most breweries are now you have a Virginia department of labor and industry or Dolly company and they have to inspect the, or
make sure the bows are inspected properly by the problem group. The really strange thing about this is what you want and want to do in economic development or in a permitting process. Do what I do what’s called a Gantt chart. Can’t charge, designed to show how you can have several things running at the same time.
Speaker 2: That doesn’t work here. The people at ABC told me, we don’t even want to talk to you to get your federal permit. The people, agriculture will tell you, I don’t want to see you until you get your equipment install. So we know his back back. And not only that all your apartments are done, there’s no opposition, there’s nothing we can walk in and look at what you’ve done and say that’s fine. And then the war that people tell you, we want to see what it is just as far as the world goes. So these are all running consecutively by and large. And for the, uh, for the federal permit they want to see from you when you file a permit, number one, you have a lease sign. Number two, where are you going to put this away? You just can’t walk in and say, Oh man dude, you have to show how all this is going to work on a piece of paper.
Speaker 2: And if you think about having at least side and you’ve got to go through all these other permits, it can take easily another maybe four months just for this. It’s a process. It’s designed so you better have somewhat of a deep pocket on this. Our apartments, the most important thing that Wade said is you want to get a zoning verification form. And what that means is your example. So you want to build for you build very unlikely and said you have people sometimes building things that they may not understand the significance of why they shouldn’t or should add something like a fire exits. Now a change happened to the farming industry about five years ago maybe, and that was storm water and erosion management. If anybody on any piece of land just start 2,500 feet of property, you put a building up, you put a ground driveway down, anything you have to get a site plan and that’s everybody, farmers, anybody that does that and that’s nothing new and we’re having to educate the pharmacy on that too, by the way.
Speaker 2: You have a question? Oh, okay. I’m sorry. I thought I saw you raise your hand. And that’s the other thing that we’re continuing with is a lot of the farmers are not really aware of what they have to be doing or what they should be doing. So we’re trying to make it as easy as we can for them to know, here’s where you go, here’s how it works, here’s the process in general, and we will help you with this as well. You have to, I’ve already up one business five or six times with the ABC questions. Can we do this? Can we do that? We did this here, can I do that here? That type of thing. And that’s fine, but it’s because it is a different process for most people to go through. You’re getting off the linear with prompts Monte to be short, sweet cause I prefer her y’alls questions. Don’t forget our logo. Anything y’all want to ask.
This article was written by Staff Writer Matthew Martino.
© Copyright 2018 What's Up Prince William. All Rights Reserved