The consensus from area business leaders is that Prince William County is positioned to take full advantage of future business opportunities as they arise.
Prince William County Chairman Corey A. Stewart speaks to a gathering of area realtors, architects, engineers, developers and bankers during a seminar hosted by bisnow, an e-publication of real estate news, at Hylton Performing Arts Center.
Jeffrey Kaczmarek, Executive Director of the County’s Department of Economic Development speaks to a gathering of area realtors, architects, engineers, developers and bankers during a seminar at Hylton Performing Arts Center hosted by bisnow, an e-publication of real estate news.
Panel members Peter Dolan, left, Richard Lake, Annie Burriss, Taylor Chess and Peter Johnson speak to a gathering of area realtors, architects, engineers, developers and bankers during a seminar at Hylton Performing Arts Center hosted by bisnow, an e-publication of real estate news.
In two panel discussions on Tuesday at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, business leaders, largely from the commercial development sector, talked about the things Prince William County already has in place to promote growth, as well as things the County can do to prepare for the future. Bisnow hosted the event.
Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart told the gathering of about 300 area realtors, developers, architects and bankers that the County has spent roughly $500 million over the last several years in road improvements. Stewart went on to say that county officials are looking for another $500 million to spend on further improvements in coming years, which means that people could expect to see “orange cones” on county roadways for some time to come.
Richard Lake, of Roadside Development, said Prince William County’s investment in infrastructure, which he called “bones,” is likely to pay off, but it’s only part of the story. “What we should be talking about is how great Prince William County is because of its people, because of education, because of the jobs that are here, because of the forward thinking of the Board and because it’s got great bones already.”
Lake echoed other panelists and suggested that increased density in certain areas of the County would need to be considered. “The future of Prince William County is really going to depend on the quality of life, and I think transportation is a key component. So many residents are spending much of their day commuting to and from work. I think we have to have enough density to justify Metro coming all the way down.”
Bob Buchanan of Buchanan Partners also stressed the importance of infrastructure. “Without infrastructure, you don’t get commerce. Without commerce, you don’t get the quality of life, which all of our citizens and politicians need to recognize.”
Other panelists talked about the County’s streamlined processes in zoning, planning and permitting.
The economic downturn of 2007 and 2008 impacted several companies, and Taylor Chess of Peterson Companies said it forced his company to make changes during the development of Virginia Gateway in Gainesville and that the County was unfazed. “The County … allowed us to change our plan.”
Mark Hassinger of WestDulles Properties echoed Chess and said that Prince William County’s streamlined development is primed to attract investors. “The county has positioned itself to help the development community to be able to navigate through that process.”
Companies want transparency when deciding if they should move their businesses or start new ones in the County, according to Jeffrey Kaczmarek, Executive Director of the County’s Department of Economic Development. “They just want to know, ‘Is this a county I can do business in?’” Kaczmarek said. “The answer is unequivocally, ‘Yes.’” Prince William County has done that. The county has made great efforts to benchmark that process. In fact other counties are coming to us asking, ‘How do you manage to do that?’”
Other panelists talked about the highly educated workforce in the county.
Annie Burriss is the CEO of George Mason University’s Prince William campus and said that 68 percent of households registered with NOVAConnect, the college’s student information system, have someone living in them with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Burriss said she believes many of those people would rather work closer to home. “Two-thirds of those people commute into D.C. We’ve got a really educated workforce that wants to be here.”
Buchanan advised Prince William officials to keep George Mason in mind when considering any new development. “The presence of a world class organization and academic center like George Mason is huge potential for Prince William.”
He also echoed other panelists when he said that Prince William shouldn’t concentrate on larger companies since many of them are staying put as the country continues to climb out of the economic slump created by the Great Recession. “I think the potential for western Prince William will be to generate those office environments to attract the entrepreneur who is working out of his or her home or is breaking away from another company with an innovative idea and needs a good place and a setting to work.”
Other panelists included Dan Gonzales of Avison Young, Bill Lynch of I-95 Business Parks, Peter Johnson of SunCal, and Peter Dolan of Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley, Emrich & Walsh PC.
Kaczmarek described Prince William as “fiscally conservative yet forward looking” and said he expected the trend to continue. “We’re going to have this steady, very positive track for many, many years to come. We want your business here,” he told the audience.