Building a Better County for Small Business

Op-Ed from Supervisor Lawson in the Prince Williams Times

Earlier this month we celebrated Small Business Week.  I appreciate the owners who have invested long days and nights of vision, elbow grease, and sweat equity to provide themselves and their employees the opportunity to work and succeed. Fostering that type of entrepreneurial spirit is one of my passions in office.

Over 9300 businesses exist in Prince William Countyand most are classified as small. From breweries, to paving companies, to research labs studying cancer atInnovation Park, these success stories are key to building strong communities, creating good-paying jobs, and diversifying our tax base. The Brentsville District, which I represent, is the strongest area for economic investment in Prince William County.  Since I began serving in 2015, we have added over 1500 jobs and created $3 billion in economic investment in our district alone.

I am proud to have advanced policies that make Prince William friendlier to small businesses in an environment where recruiting jobs and investment in Northern Virginia gets more competitive daily. My vision is to make our county a place where it is easy to start and grow businesses, and to attract thousands of jobs in high-paying fields so that more families can work closer to home and enjoy a better quality of life. 

There are several ways we have made great progress:

1) Expanding Innovation Park: 17 new high-techbusinesses have started during my term. Not only have we attracted major projects such as the USTA facilityand Berkeley Net Underwriters, a diversity of companies like Farm Brew Live and medical and life science companies such as Medliminal andTranscedent are now here. Our existing life science,tech and manufacturing companies like ATCC, Progeny and Zestron are expanding.  Innovation has also become a new home for engineering firms like Ross France and Brothers Mechanical.   After more than a decade of stagnant growth, I am proud to have ushered in an explosion in new business and jobs.

2) Promoting business friendly tax policies - I was part of a group of supervisors that stopped two unreasonable tax hikes on 4,000 businesses of all sizes. I also support increasing the threshold of the BPOL taxthat would greatly reduce the burden on small businesses.  They need predictability in their costs and keeping our taxes low keeps our county attractive for both businesses and families alike. 

3) Supporting unique success stories - I strongly support projects that highlight our county's history by thinking outside the box. A great example is Innovation Park where the county owned two historic but dilapidated dairy barns. In 2015, I encouraged Farm Brew Live owner to pursue his vision to restore the Thomasson Barn.  Today it’s under renovation and soon will open as a restaurant next to 2 Silos Brewerywhich has already become a top tourist attraction. That economic win was shortly followed by the astounding restoration of the Birkett Barn into Sweeney Barn, a hugely successful events center.  We must continue to cultivate a culture that can guide entrepreneurs through the often-difficult process to accomplishing theseunique projects. 

4) Funding the Small Business Initiative- In the past four years the Board has done more to make business services a “one stop shop.” For example, we established three positions dedicated to assisting newsmall business owners by guiding them through the permitting process so they can open their doors more quickly.

I believe when government policies attract and empower small businesses to succeed, everyone benefits.  It is their prosperity that will fuel Prince William County’s economic engine for years to come, leading to an even better quality of life for businesses and residents.

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