City's streamlined business applications a success
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY - The city's new one-stop shop for business development has been a success, Salisbury leaders agreed Tuesday.
"People don't realize how big a deal this is," Councilman Brian Miller said. "This is huge."
The one-stop shop has streamlined the development process, shaving weeks and even months off the time it takes to apply for a permit and start a project.
Saving businesses owners time means saving them money, Miller said, which encourages more growth and development.
The city launched the one-stop stop this summer at 132 N. Main St. on the first floor of the City Office Building. The new hub includes planning and zoning, business licensing, engineering, water and sewer utilities and the fire marshal.
Under one roof, people can do everything from request a rezoning to obtain a beer and wine license.
Officials with the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Hutton Co. in town Monday to break ground on the Wallace Commons expansion, including a new Belk, raved about the city's business-friendly development process, Mayor Paul Woodson said.
"The one-stop shop is phenomenal," Woodson said.
With the one-stop shop and Rowan County Economic Development Commission's soon-to-be-hired retail recruiter, Woodson predicted a "retail boom" in the next few years with jobs and new businesses.
"Five years ago we were just being criticized continuously," he said. "I feel very energized by this."
In recent weeks, Belk, Big Lots, Michaels, Ulta Cosmetics, Shoe Carnival, Panera Bread, Waffle House and several unnamed tenants have confirmed plans to expand or set up shop in Salisbury.
The city and Rowan County have worked to improve their reputation among developers and business owners. Rowan hired a new chief building inspector, local architect Pete Bogle, who has earned rave reviews from city officials and developers.
The county's inspections department had been criticized for years as unfriendly and not cooperative. That's changed, City Manager Doug Paris said.
"Unwritten rules are no longer being enforced," Paris told City Council.
Bogle himself now serves as liaison to the city development staff - a new relationship - and often works in the one-stop shop to answer developers' questions and make on-the-spot approvals, said Preston Mitchell, who directs the office.
"I can't imagine a better hire," Miller said.
The city has issued 80 new business licenses since July, said Mitchell, crediting administrator Patty Shuping.
He said the one-stop shop also has helped compliance with the city's fats, oils and grease maintenance program.
In 2009, the city had 82 restaurants, cafeterias and bars out of compliance. FOG Program Coordinator Teresa Barringer has brought all food service establishments into compliance in three years, Mitchell said.
The FOG program is based at the one-stop shop, making it easier for restaurants to obtain permits.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.