The Prince William Board of County Supervisor recently saw a presentation on the progress of the Small Business Project Management Program, which seeks to help small businesses navigate the county permitting, occupancy and building processes.
At the beginning of Fiscal 2019, the board adopted and funded the program to authorize the Department of Development Services to hire three project managers to work on the program. Since most small business owners are moving into existing tenant spaces, the county hired two Building Development Project Managers to assist the owners with these projects. A Land Development Project Manager was hired to assist small business owners with new commercial construction projects and the review and permitting of business signage.
Wade Hugh, the director of development services, said the small business program expands on the already successful, existing Commercial Project Management Program, which works with larger commercial developers to help them get through the process of getting projects off the ground and completed.
For the purposes of the Small Business Project Management Program, the county is defining a small business as one that employees 35 or fewer employees. "The county chose this threshold based on our experience with assisting business owners. We find that many small business owners who are just starting their business or expanding for the first time will try to manage their own construction projects," said Hugh. "Commercial construction can be far more challenging than residential construction, so an owner who dabbled in residential construction — decks, porches, finished basements, etc. — can quickly find themselves overwhelmed by the commercial construction codes. For the county to successfully assist small business owners, we needed to modify our Commercial Project Management Program to be more proactive."
With the program in place, small business representatives or owners can come into Development Services, meet a project manager who will be dedicated to their project and begin the process.
Getting the small business owner into the new program to talk with project manager serves another purpose as well, Hugh said. "While we have them there, let's explain some of the processes. Let's make sure we exchange business cards so that when they're ready to take that next step they know exactly who to call, and we can help them even before they get their plans ready to submit."
Development Services already has a customer interview process in place where a panel, comprised of industry members and county staff, asks small business owners, contractors, architects and engineers how the process worked out for them. Hugh said the interviews conducted so far have been positive and helped identify areas for continued improvement.
For more information about Development Services and the Small Business Project Management Program, visit pwcgov.org/dds.