Businesses in targeted industries interested in expanding or coming to Loudoun County have a good reason to work here: special treatment from the county's economic development staff.
While the county has a history of encouraging commercial growth to counteract service-demanding residential growth, the new "modified land development process" adopted this summer formalizes the county's appeal to businesses.
"It's all about business growth," said Robyn Bailey, manager of business infrastructure with the county's department of economic development. "We want to make it easy for businesses to come here."
UNDER THE NEW PROCESS, businesses in targeted industries — biotechnology, technology, international business, tourism, post-high school educational facilities, homeland security, defense contractors and projects associated with the Dulles International Airport — will receive extra attention from county staff.
The list of targeted industries was drawn up by the Economic Development Commission at the request of the Board of Supervisors. According to Bailey, the choices were logical.
"They're the type of businesses that seem to be interested in the county," she said.
While no business on the suburban side is involved in the modified process yet, on the rural side, it's projects like the proposed Salamander Inn in Middleburg that will qualify, said Lou Nichols, agricultural development officer with the county.
"Modified process is just recognizing that we have some projects that are coming along, projects that are very important to our tourism base," Nichols said.
He added that targeted tourism projects — like a country inn or a rural resort — help the county's tax base because visitors spend their money in other locations besides the primary place they came to see. The modified process, he said, is a way to attract businesses and add a personal touch, since the client knows who he's interacting with on a regular basis.
QUALIFIED BUSINESSES will have the advantage to jump to the top of the list for review, according to Larry Rosenstrauch, director of economic development.
In addition, businesses will receive a project manager, a special review team and a more aggressive timeline to get the project approved and up and running.
"It is a very focused process," Rosenstrauch said.
While the modified process won't change too much about the county's attitude toward business — it's more of a formalization that allows the county to use it as a marketing tool — Rosenstrauch noted that it could still create some extra work for his staff.
"We hope it creates extra work," he said. "That means it's working."
Bailey believes the county is headed in the right direction with its attention to business. While commercial growth hasn't quite kept pace with suburban sprawl, it's catching up.
"One vacant building doesn't hurt us as bad as it would have 10 years ago," Bailey said.