Our Vision: Better-Paying Jobs,
Better Business Environment,
and a Better Future for All
“Together, we will build the diverse, high-performing, job-growing county that we all want and deserve.”
- David Blair
I was born and raised in Montgomery County, started my business here, and have long been active in local civic and nonprofit organizations devoted to making Montgomery County a better place for all. We are a diverse community, overflowing with talent and potential. We need a county government that maximizes our strengths and ensures historically underserved and underrepresented communities thrive.
Our Challenge – Attracting Businesses and Opportunities
The numbers of jobs and businesses in Montgomery County have decreased, depriving our residents of opportunity and income and denying us much-needed revenue to fund services to address critical social needs, school construction, safe and efficient transportation infrastructure, and core government responsibilities. For everyone in Montgomery County to have a chance at prosperity and for us to lead the nation in quality of life, we must address the root causes preventing the growth of jobs and private-sector investment.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Montgomery County lost more than 20,000 jobs from 2007 to 2020 while the rest of the region added more than 90,0001. Montgomery County lost nine percent of its private-sector jobs in this same time period while private-sector jobs grew by one percent regionwide. Four large jurisdictions - Loudoun, Prince William, Arlington, and Howard counties - each grew by double digits.
Montgomery County lost 669 business establishments from 2007 to 2020 while the rest of the region added more than 25,000 business establishments, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Establishments in four large jurisdictions in the region – D.C. and Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties – each grew by more than 20 percent.
Montgomery County can do better! Here’s how we do it:
Establish the Montgomery County Business Bill of Rights
We need a new culture in county government. We must treat businesses as true partners. It is critical we support businesses that grow our economy and pay for valued government services that support the most vulnerable.
I will create a Montgomery County Business Bill of Rights to require county departments provide services that are:
Competitive to Surrounding Jurisdictions
Transparent and Accessible
Consistent and Standardized
Permitting and Customer Service.
In Montgomery County government’s “4Business – Benchmarking to be the Best for Business” 2019 research exercise, business owners highlighted the county’s shortcomings in providing satisfactory customer service, timely processing, and consistency in permit reviews and inspections.
Permitting is one of the major pillars of county government that impacts its reputation and relationship with the business community. Businesses that want to be located in Montgomery County should be incentivized to do so, not bogged down by strict regulations, cost-prohibitive processes and unsatisfactory customer service.
The Montgomery County Business Bill of Rights will form the basis of our policy that will ensure our business partners are served with exceptional attention and efficiency. Regulations and barriers that do not add value will be eliminated or modified. Policies will incorporate a streamlined and transparent conflict resolution process and enact penalties to relevant county departments for failing to uphold its requirements.
Similarly, the inspection process will be simplified and transparent, with a checklist and without room for misinterpretation. If a county inspector “misses it” the first time around, the county will be responsible and pay the business for any necessary changes and time lost.
Increase and Expand Access to Working Capital.
Small businesses and start-ups need access to working capital in order to continue their operations and grow. Nearly 95 percent of Montgomery County’s companies are considered small businesses, with 50 or fewer employees2. Small businesses of fewer than five employees make up more than 60 percent of our businesses. Many are owned by women and people of color who have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and have been less able to access federal, state and local support. We must do better.
"Although I have an existing line of credit and have had strong gross revenue growth, I have not been able to get approved for a loan because of strict bank requirements. How can we grow from a local brand to a national brand that way?" -Sophia Maroon, Owner, Dress It Up Dressing
Expanding our current Small Business Lending programs, including Small Business Plus and the Microloan Program, is one more step toward greater access to financing and revitalizing our county’s economy. By doubling the county’s $50 million deposit in our community banks, to a total of $100 million in the Small Business Plus program, we would double available debt funding for our local businesses to $200 million. As of 2019, the Small Business Plus Program helped create 2,500 jobs and earned $2.9 million in interest revenue3. Doubling the level of investment will boost the number of jobs created and interest income for the county.
Furthermore, shifting the underwriting responsibilities to the county will ensure that underserved communities and businesses that cannot access financing through traditional banking requirements are able to get the support they need. Currently, our Microloan Program is outsourced to two organizations, Life Asset and Latino Economic Development Corporation. By increasing the funding pool, centralizing all Small Business Lending programs, and owning the liability of the underwriting process, we will improve the overall customer experience and access to working capital for local small businesses.
Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce Collaboration Council.
The COVID-19 pandemic tested and exacerbated the communication gap between the local business community and the county government. Businesses had to depend on the county government for operational mandates, safety protocols, and access to information and resources more than ever. For the businesses that are members of local chambers of commerce, the benefits of a supportive, resourceful, and well-informed local business organization increased their ability to access available resources. Chambers of commerce are prime examples of successful business support systems that provide training, development, networking, and resources. Incentivizing more business to join their local chamber of commerce serves to help our local businesses grow, connect, and engage in the economic development of the county.
The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce Collaboration Council is an appointed committee of local chamber of commerce leaders who will be selected to represent the interests of their respective business communities and collaborate with county government leadership on executing economic development plans. For emerging small businesses that can’t afford chamber dues, I propose a partnership with chambers of commerce that would waive or discount first-year membership fees for local small businesses as a way we can reach typically uninvolved businesses to ensure we hear and understand their needs.
Build a Strong Montgomery County Brand
“Buying local” is one of the most impactful ways residents and government can support economic growth4. Benefits of buying local include more jobs, more environmentally friendly operations, more race and gender equity, and a stronger local economy. We must create a strong brand that engenders loyalty and pride for Montgomery County businesses of all types. Currently, the county has a program for some local food and beverage businesses that are registered with the Montgomery County Food Council. We can build off of that and expand a “Made in Montgomery” program to include all local businesses.
"In a national chain, only about 15 cents of every dollar you spend stays local. The other 85 cents goes back to corporate headquarters,"... "In shopping at locally owned stores, it is 30-50 cents of that dollar that stays local" -Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Des Moines, Iowa has a “Greater Des Moines Business Directory” showcasing more than 800 local small businesses across dozens of categories5. In addition to serving as a comprehensive tool for local residents to find and shop at local small businesses outside of the traditional food and beverage category, the user-friendly web application is a supplement to their tourism marketing. Commitment to buying local is more than a branding effort, it requires appropriate infrastructure to convert potential into actionable results.
Establishing a centralized mobile and web application directory to bolster a new and powerful county brand marketing program will simplify, standardize, and facilitate buying local for all. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for local businesses to register and for consumers to access the directory to purchase goods and services locally. Technological innovation in the private sector, including by giants such as Amazon, has made it harder for our local businesses to compete; as County Executive I will lead our public initiatives to adapt and excel in the increasingly competitive environment.
County Spending Locally.
In Fiscal Year 2020, Montgomery County government awarded $1.29 billion of county contracts, of which $120 million, or 11.7 percent, were awarded to local small businesses6:
Increasing our local procurement from 11.7 percent to just 15 percent would add more than $35 million to local businesses and the local economy.
One of my priorities as County Executive is to use the County’s purchasing power to advance equitable economic development. We have awarded up to 24 percent of total procurement to minority-, women-, and disabled-owned businesses (MFD), but 45 percent of the County’s businesses are minority-owned. We must do better.
Establishing a Montgomery County Certified Enterprise Program to provide accredited hands-on training and development to unregistered local businesses will increase both access and quality of new vendors in our procurement system. This certificate program will meet the procurement needs of different departments while also ensuring new vendors are equipped to take advantage of applicable opportunities, and understand why they may not have won prior contracts.
Grow Our Life Sciences Businesses
Although Montgomery County promotes itself as the hub of the life sciences industry, Fairfax County has gained more jobs faster and in total in the physical, engineering and life sciences industry from the first quarter of 2016 through the third quarter of 20207. With the highest concentration of doctoral scientists in the state8, there is room for us to expand our share of federal research and development funding.
As County Executive, I will work with the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation to attract more biohealth businesses and investment to the county. We must have both a strong business recruitment process and a business retention program that provides effective incentives for life science businesses to start, grow, and expand within the County.
Attract Venture Capital Funding.
The Boston, Massachusetts area is the nation’s leader in biohealth companies and investment, ranked first in NIH grants received with more than $2.2 billion9 and in lab space with more than 23.3 million square feet10. Compared to our $400 million in NIH funding and D.C., Maryland, and Virginia’s combined 22.5 million square feet in lab space9, Montgomery County is lagging in both the investment and infrastructure necessary to capture the share of the life sciences sector we should be given our rich talent pool and proximity to NIH and the federal government. The Boston area has become a breeding ground for biohealth start-ups, raising more than $900 million on average from 2017 to 2019 in venture capital funding11, compared to Montgomery County’s $304 million.
"Montgomery County receives about one fifth of the NIH funding that Boston receives. As a neighboring jurisdiction to Washington D.C., we have failed to compete effectively for federal funding." -David Blair
As County Executive, I will establish a micro-incubator program that incentivizes established life science companies to incorporate shared lab spaces in their facilities for synergistic start-ups to operate at a lower cost, gain access to subcontracting opportunities, and get the mentorship and guidance that can help them grow right here in our community.
Expand our Biomedical Application Program.
A talented, knowledgeable workforce is crucial to attracting biohealth firms. Currently, the County’s Biomedical Application Program is available only to students attending a middle school in the Downcounty Consortium and housed at Wheaton High School12. The program provides exemplary hands-on internship experiences, college credits, and a rigorous curriculum to advance students interested in a medical career. However, it is not inclusive to all students in the County and we should be raising the bar when it comes to training the next generation of scientists, doctors, and medical professionals who will pursue the vaccines and treatments to save lives. As County Executive, I will expand the Biomedical Application Program to high schools in each region of the county and make it accessible to all students to apply.
Life Sciences Lease Seed Fund.
For many businesses and particularly life sciences start-ups in need of unique lab and medical space, the cost of leasing a commercial property to facilitate their operations is a significant barrier to enter the market. With the rising cost of real estate in the county, the required capital investment to start or expand a business is even greater. To encourage and enable entrepreneurs with a solid business plan and innovative ideas, I propose a $4 million seed fund that will provide a grant to cover the annual lab space leasing cost for up to 10 start-ups and early growth life sciences companies a year.
Become Hospitality Start-Up Capital of the World
Leisure and hospitality is a key industry for Montgomery County, making up 11.9 percent of total employment and representing some of the county’s most notable and largest employers including Choice Hotels, Host Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International, and Sodexo13. As of 2015, Montgomery County is ranked third in the region, behind the District of Columbia and Fairfax County, in terms of Leisure and Hospitality jobs. They have more than 74,000 and 53,000 jobs, respectively, compared to Montgomery County’s 44,700 jobs13. Considering Montgomery County is home to two of the top 10 largest hotel companies by revenue in the country, Marriott International (ranked first) and Host Hotels & Resorts (ranked fifth)14, the county has untapped potential to attract top talent and businesses from around the world to choose Montgomery County as their home.
We need more than just financing programs if we are to bounce back from the pandemic and grow our hospitality hub. We need a holistic approach of technological innovation, strong private and public partnerships, and a well-rounded entrepreneurship ecosystem. There is much work to be done.
Attracting Hospitality Tech Companies.
Space is a major challenge for entrepreneurs in Montgomery County due to its high real estate costs and the high cost of living for employees. Similar jurisdictions across the country are trying to address this challenge by creating start-up ecosystems offering temporary, rent-free, or discounted working and living space. Many public officials see it as a unique way to entice the best minds to launch their businesses in their cities in the hopes they stay and grow their businesses. As County Executive, I’ll rework zoning laws to repurpose existing vacant office buildings to create affordable housing and workspace for a Rising Stars Village start-up hub, and identify private companies that will help sponsor rent-free, work-live arrangements.
For example, the University of Maryland’s Discovery District15 is a research park that brings together university stakeholders, corporate partners, government researchers, entrepreneurs, and local residents to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Universities at Shady Grove and Montgomery College together can support their hospitality degree programs with the development of the Rising Stars Village. With one of the county’s large hospitality companies as its anchor, the Rising Stars Village will serve as a national beacon for early stage startups, growing ventures, and larger companies in the hospitality industry.
Partnering with the Private Sector.
Marriott International, headquartered in Bethesda, has 30 brands and more than 7,000 properties across 131 countries and territories16, generating revenue of $21 billion in 2019. With some of the largest hotel companies in the country located in Montgomery County, there is a great opportunity to promote the development of signature, high-profile projects that will reshape the face of urban areas such as Rockville, Wheaton, White Flint/North Bethesda, and Downtown Silver Spring. Hotels in densely populated areas are a catalyst for development of tourism, amenities, and events facilitating the area’s economic development. In 2018, Montgomery County’s hospitality industry contributed $78.2 million in sales and use taxes17. Through a collaborative effort with developers and hospitality industry leaders, we can retain and grow recreational and leisure spending in the county.
Competition plays an important role in encouraging a more entrepreneurial culture. An annual Greater Montgomery Hospitality Business Competition, in partnership with MCPS and higher education institutions, will attract top talent and establish a community of entrepreneurs specializing in the hospitality industry. Cornell University’s Hotel School hosts an annual Hospitality Business Plan Competition18 awarding $35,000 to the top three hospitality business proposals. Taking proactive steps to establish our brand and reputation as the hospitality start-up capital of the world through signature events such as a Greater Montgomery Hospitality Business Competition would attract business, investment, and interest to the county.unty.
Harness Our Entrepreneurial Spirit
Montgomery County’s diversity is one of its greatest strengths. Gaithersburg and Silver Spring are two of the most diverse places in the country, ranking sixth and seventh, respectively, for household, religious, socioeconomic, cultural, and economic diversity19. One third of Montgomery County’s population is foreign-born20. These residents are entrepreneurial. They took the risk to move to a new country and learn to navigate new systems. That is a testament to the opportunity that exists in the county. Diversity fuels innovation, fosters community, and attracts top talent from all around the world. And yet our County has yet to fully realize the potential of our population’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Entrepreneurial Culture Through Education.
The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) is a regional higher education center with students from nine Maryland public universities. In 2020, I partnered with USG to launch the Lab for Entrepreneurship and Transformative Leadership to advance students, entrepreneurs, and small business owners in Montgomery County21. Entrepreneurs do not need handouts. They need a strong infrastructure that fosters a supportive ecosystem of mentorship, training, and development to bring ideas to life. The Entrepreneurship Lab is an example of how to leverage our education system to capitalize on our talent and entrepreneurship potential.
As County Executive, I’ll work with our Board of Education, MCPS, and business leaders to create entrepreneurship courses in all county high schools. In addition, we can provide entrepreneurship opportunities to high school students and formal degree programs to college students focused in specific key industries, including hospitality and biohealth. We should develop clear employment pathways between students and county-based firms to provide quality jobs for our residents while helping companies fill gaps in their workforce.
What entrepreneurs need most when starting a business is a launch customer - their first big client that demonstrates the viability and ingenuity of their concept or idea. The launch customer can even give input on development of a product to better suit its needs.
County government should be taking advantage of the entrepreneurial talent in our community to provide better services to our residents while helping local start-up businesses grow. As County Executive, I will task our department and agency heads to think about what services we are missing or can improve on to be a more effective, efficient, and sustainable government.
Can we partner with a start-up that provides innovative food waste composting services for county buildings? What expertise or materials could we use to make core maintenance responsibilities such as road resurfacing, tree stump removal, or trimming grass medians more efficient? Are there technical solutions from companies right here in Montgomery County that can make our 311 system more user-friendly, shorten wait times when calling 311, and lead to faster resolution of service requests?
We will create entrepreneurial competitions seeking those services to show the rest of the region and the world the quality of our local entrepreneurial talent.
Entrepreneurial One-Stop App.
County regulations are meant to safeguard the general public, but many entrepreneurs struggle with understanding the rules and laws affecting their businesses. I want to make it easier for entrepreneurs to enter new markets, hire qualified staff, pay their taxes, and obtain needed permits without burdening them with unnecessary paperwork or bogging them down with compliance issues. That’s why we will create a simple, online and interactive mobile app that walks someone through all the necessary steps and makes starting a business in Montgomery County simpler and easier than ever before.
Small Business Administration Coordinators.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several great programs and services for small businesses22, but not every Montgomery County business owner is taking advantage. The time it takes to research programs and fill out the proper forms often deter small business owners from even approaching these resources. As County Executive, I’ll designate at least two staff members to serve as local SBA coordinators, helping small business owners identify the right assistance for their needs and ensuring they meet the filing requirements.
Revitalize Silver Spring and the Georgia Avenue Corridor
In 2016, Silver Spring was dubbed “Hipster Heaven23.” With a combination of diversity, arts and entertainment businesses and lively events, Silver Spring was positioned to be “Montgomery County’s version of Brooklyn.” Unfortunately, due to lack of investment and high-profile businesses such as Discovery Communications leaving the area, what was once an anticipated economic engine for the County now has 1.5 million square feet of vacant office space24. This is unacceptable.
Revitalizing Silver Spring shouldn’t stop at the borders of the Silver Spring Central Business District. Montgomery Hills and Forest Glen are two communities along Georgia Avenue that need the right transportation infrastructure to unlock enormous potential. Wheaton presents another terrific opportunity, home to a new Montgomery County government office building with nearly 12,000 square feet of retail space that as of October 2021 is largely vacant.
Business Improvement Grant Program.
Downtown Silver Spring has 143,300 square feet of vacant retail space, according to a 2021 Downtown Silver Spring Retail and Office Market Conditions report. With a retail vacancy rate of 11 percent, Downtown Silver Spring is significantly underperforming compared to the average 3 percent to 5 percent vacancy in healthy retail markets. With neighboring Washington, D.C., competition for retail consumers is increasing as the Downtown Silver Spring business presence shrinks and neighboring jurisdictions’ retail developments grow. We need an economic development plan that leverages our existing retail space to increase foot traffic, lowers vacancy rates, and cultivates this vibrant and diverse community.
As County Executive, I will establish a Business Improvement Grant program to provide a grant matching up to 50 percent with a maximum of $10,000 for façade improvements, sign improvements, property improvements, and demolition costs. The purpose of this grant program is to boost the economic vitality of our cities by incentivizing visually appealing physical developments to local business storefronts.
Georgia Avenue as a Grand Boulevard.
Georgia Avenue near the Capital Beltway is a notoriously dangerous, congested, and uncomfortable environment to navigate that has forestalled new businesses and a more vibrant Montgomery Hills and Forest Glen. There is strong community support25 for turning this corridor into a grand boulevard where residents can safely walk or bike to local shops and restaurants, visit public gathering spaces, and enjoy the vibrancy of their community.
As County Executive, I would invest the county’s share of $10 million into the State project26 that would transform this section of Georgia Avenue by improving sidewalks and crosswalks, creating protected bicycle access, and eliminating dangerous turning movements that also make it difficult to access commercial centers.
Arts and Entertainment.
In order to establish Silver Spring as the arts and entertainment hub of the county, there needs to be intentionality in the types of businesses we pursue to take over vacant retail spaces. As County Executive, I will work with our planners, local business owners, and commercial property owners to convert vacant retail spaces into artists studios, pursue chances to create affordable housing linked to arts facilities, and to brand and promote Silver Spring’s vibrant culture.
In Wheaton, we should use underutilized county parking facilities to create spaces for festivals, art exhibitions, outdoor movie theaters that will also serve to attract people to local restaurants, including along Price Avenue and Elkin Street, where we will improve and make permanent the Wheaton Streetery that flourished during the pandemic.
We will work more aggressively and quickly to attract a “trophy” tenant to the ground floor of the county’s new office building on Reedie Drive and look for partnership opportunities for vacant space at nearby Westfield Wheaton.
National Signature Music and Film Festival.
Large festivals or community events provide more than entertainment for the county residents, they also boost the local economy through increase in tourism income, raise a place’s profile, and encourage long-term investment in the area’s development27. Top hospitality cities in the country such as New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Orlando host national signature events that attract thousands of visitors every year28.
Montgomery County needs to partner with entertainment and event planning businesses to host its own national signature event. Hosting a national signature music and film festival in Downtown Silver Spring will help attract high-income young professionals, fuel arts and entertainment, and increase local economic activity, restoring Silver Spring’s diverse and lively reputation.
Our proposed festival would be an annual event featuring live performances by top musical artists and exclusive debut of independent films, combining the best of traditional music and film festivals. This multi-day event would also create a platform for local artists and performers to share their work.
We can do this in Montgomery County! Similar to the success of the Gaithersburg Book Festival, which attracts hundreds of award-winning and best-selling authors from all over the country, the festival would be an enriching experience celebrating both local and national artists. In addition to building our county’s arts and entertainment culture, we would attract talent, increase recreational spending locally, and boost our county’s and Silver Spring’s brand. For our youth who aspire to be successful creatives, our young professionals seeking the thrill of a festival, and our older residents who want to enjoy a robust local arts culture, this festival would be a unique opportunity.
Silver Spring Arena.
Montgomery County has long needed a mid-size arena to host top artists, amateur and professional sports, and high school graduations29. We have Metro-adjacent county parking facilities in Silver Spring that could serve as the perfect setting, drawing people to the area to benefit businesses and complementing our tremendous existing youth sports infrastructure that includes the Maryland SoccerPlex30 and playing fields at our award-winning parks such as Shirley Povich Field31.
Accelerate Our Agricultural Reserve Economic Engine
Encompassing about a third of Montgomery County’s total land, the 93,000-acre Agriculture Reserve has more than 550 farms specializing in food production, horticulture, commodity grains, and equine services32. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, these farms generate about $280 million in annual revenue33. In the Agricultural Reserve, grain farms (corn, silage, wheat and soybeans) are the most predominant agricultural use. There are more than 10,000 horses and we have the most berries planted by acreage in the state of Maryland. More than 42 percent of farms are operated as a primary occupation and more than 80 percent of farms produce table crops for direct human consumption.
Although Loudoun County’s 43,000 acres in agricultural lands are less than half of Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve, they have 75 percent more farms with Agritourism and recreational services34. Even with Montgomery County having more agricultural land, Loudoun County’s farm businesses generate about the same amount of annual revenue35. Montgomery County’s growth in this industry has generally been slower than the region since 2002. We must do better for our economy and to help sustain the next generation of agricultural producers.
Support and Enhance Processing and Distribution Infrastructure.
From 2012 to 2017, farm income in our Agricultural Reserve has decreased by 345 percent, resulting in more than $3.5 million in lost revenue for the County32. Cost-prohibitive policies hinder farmers’ ability to address the competitive landscape and diversify uses of their land for additional sources of income. Farmers have narrow margins and little control over global market prices. There is a huge opportunity to support our farmers by building the necessary processing and distribution facilities right here in Montgomery County to reduce operating costs and unlock economy-of-scale benefits.
The county can allocate part of its publicly-owned land to sponsor development of processing and distribution facilities. Preferably, these facilities would be in or close to the Agricultural Reserve, in locations such as Poolesville, Damascus, or Darnestown. In the City of Waterbury, Connecticut, nonprofit Brass City Harvest worked with the city and other partners to convert a four-acre brownfield site into the state’s first regional food hub, with a 40,000 square-foot facility where local growers can wash, prepare, package, and ship their produce36.
Provide Market Linkage Services.
Considering the impressive size of Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve, you may expect that large regional and national chains located in the county that market themselves as sourcing ingredients locally would procure most of their produce from our local farms. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Walk into the Sweetgreen location at Pike & Rose, for example, and you’ll find that none of the more than 55 “local” farms they source from are located in Montgomery County.
Incentivizing institutional purchasing of local food and providing county market linkage services will help increase the supply of locally produced table crop and processed foods. I propose a Market Linkage program with a designated coordinator to help connect suppliers with buyers in a wholesale market, while the county incorporates tax credits to private institutional buyers for purchasing from a local producer.
Just as the county has dedicated funding programs for industries such as technology and life sciences to attract and develop businesses, agricultural businesses need to be prioritized, incentivized, and supported to compete internationally. A $5 million Farmers’ Fund will help the Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board and other critical entities continue to keep for-sale agricultural land used for agriculture, finance development of processing facilities, and subsidize permitting fees associated with diversifying agricultural businesses like wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms.
Agricultural Support Enterprise Low-Cost Zoning Permit.
Farming is a costly and labor-intensive industry that provides essential resources for our communities. As new and next-generation farmers take on the demands of operating a farm, opportunities for innovation and diversification are critical to ensuring profitability and sustainability. The county must remove barriers that hinder farmers from leveraging their own resources to develop agricultural support enterprises such as, cold storage facilities, microbreweries, wineries, and meat-processing facilities. With the implementation of an Agricultural Support Enterprise Low-Cost Zoning Permit, projects with administrative approval can have fees waived or reduced to help mitigate the cost burden on farmers seeking to diversify the use of their land simply to keep their operations viable.
"I had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars on fees and permitting requirements, outside of the expenses to actually develop the vineyard. Farmers deal with the same requirements as down-county, but have many more restrictions on what we can do." -Robert Butz, Owner, Windridge Vinyards