2016-04-20 / News

Stegmaier: County to focus on small businesses

By Jim McConnell

County Administrator Jay Stegmaier delivered his final “State of the County” address during last week’s chamber luncheon. 
Ash Daniel County Administrator Jay Stegmaier delivered his final “State of the County” address during last week’s chamber luncheon. Ash Daniel In what is likely to be his final “State of the County” address before his July 1 retirement, County Administrator Jay Stegmaier assured a group of local business owners last week that Chesterfield’s leaders are fully committed to bolstering the county’s small business base.

Speaking at the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon, Stegmaier noted that the county’s fiscal year 2017 budget includes $170,000 for the creation of a “comprehensive small business assistance program.”

The “jump-start” program will provide financial incentives for starting and expanding small businesses, while reducing regulations and increasing the revenue threshold at which companies are exempted from the business professional and occupational license (BPOL) tax.

Beginning July 1, all businesses operating in Chesterfield with annual gross receipts of $275,000 or less will be assessed no BPOL tax.

Currently, only businesses with receipts of $200,000 or less qualify for the BPOL exemption.

“The board wants to make sure that small business continues to thrive in Chesterfield,” said Stegmaier, adding that the number of small businesses operating in the county has increased by 14 percent since 2011.

That incremental growth has been overshadowed by the county’s success in luring large national and international companies, such as Amazon, Northrop Grumman, Capital One and Sabra Dipping.

The latest, Chinese paper company Shandong Tranlin, will invest $2 billion over the next five years to set up a manufacturing operation in the county. The Tranlin plant is expected to employ 2,000 people once it’s fully operational.

Now the Board of Supervisors is focused on making the county more attractive to small and midsize companies to further broaden the commercial tax base, reduce the local government’s reliance on residential property taxes, and create job opportunities for residents who currently work in Richmond or Henrico.

“We still export too much of our labor force,” Stegmaier acknowledged.

When he became chairman of the Board of Supervisors last year, Matoaca District Supervisor Steve Elswick tasked county staff with preparing a comprehensive report on the impact of small businesses in Chesterfield.

The study found that 99.4 percent of the county’s business base is comprised of companies with fewer than 250 employees.

With about 10,000 small businesses currently operating in the county, Elswick noted that if each company added just one new employee, it “would equal five Tranlins.”

“Small businesses are the backbone of Chesterfield County, and we tend to forget that,” he added. “We reach out to do everything for the big fish, but we overlook the impact small business has on the county’s economy.”

According to Danna Markland, president of the Chesterfield Chamber, the county’s small business incentive program is “the product of many years of conversations between the business community and the Board of Supervisors.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “It’s an improvement, but we need to do more.”

County staff will be compiling data from the first year of the jump-start program so the Board of Supervisors can assess whether it is having the desired effect and decide whether to make changes going forward.

“We know it isn’t a silver bullet,” Elswick said. “But it will start the process of identifying what’s working and what’s not.”

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