Leading up to the Greater Wilmington Business Journal’s WilmingtonBiz Expo, I’d like to focus on how New Hanover County works with, and for, the business community. New Hanover County is open for business, and we will take the opportunity at the expo on March 30 to highlight the many services we offer that make our county a great place to operate a business.
Some of the county government’s best-known interactions with business are regulatory and permitting in nature, aimed at public health and safety. These services include such important tasks as encouraging property development through zoning, the subdivision approval process and enforcement of building codes, as well as restaurant inspections and similar oversight. It’s useful to think of these services as helping to set a high standard for the private sector: protecting responsible businesses’ investments by ensuring they won’t be undermined by competitors trying to cut corners. The county’s Environmental Health, Planning and Zoning and Code Enforcement offices together help to ensure that businesses conduct themselves in ways that respect the environment and their neighbors, safeguard public health, and make the community attractive to new business.
To ensure ease of doing business with the county, we established the Development Services Center, a place for builders and entrepreneurs to go for assistance in managing the government application processes. The center coordinates the efforts of the planning, environmental health, fire rescue, engineering and inspections offices. The staffs of those departments also will help business people navigate the complexities of state and federal regulations, including flood zone maps, Coastal Area Management Act permitting, clean-air and clean-water permitting, and much more. Businesses are welcome to visit the Development Services Center in Suite 170 of the Government Center, where they can get personalized assistance Mondays through Fridays, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Permitting hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. More information about the Development Service Center can be found on the county’s website: www.planningdevelopment.nhcgov.com.
As part of the county health department, the inspectors in environmental health ensure that commercial kitchens are clean and sanitary, and inspect facilities including nursing homes, food trucks and school lunchrooms. The health department also oversees installation of private water-supply wells and septic systems, which are still a vital part of development in some of the county’s less-developed areas.
A separate department with a similar name, Environmental Management, oversees solid waste collection, disposal and recycling. At the expo, its staff will be promoting efficient recycling practices. This is directly applicable to businesses in the county’s unincorporated areas and beach towns.
The county Soil and Water Conservation District has a long history of encouraging responsible use of land and water resources. Current initiatives are selling rain barrels to reduce demand on wells and public water supplies for lawn and garden irrigation, and a community conservation program. We’ll have more information about that at our booth, as well as a rain barrel to show.
Another essential service the county provides is to systematically store, catalogue and index vital data. The New Hanover County Register of Deeds manages everything from property transactions to wills and marriage licenses, and makes them easy to find, cross-reference and copy. The registrar’s office is now housed in the recently restored 320 Chestnut Building downtown. Many services are also provided online.
The county’s various public attractions are well known, and they include the New Hanover County Arboretum, Cape Fear Museum and our extensive Parks and Gardens Department, which administers 25 facilities, including Airlie Gardens. While a number of these are attractions for tourists, benefiting local hospitality businesses, these are also quality-of-life amenities that help make our community attractive for economic development.
One little-known aspect of the parks and gardens department is that it manages an event space for business conferences and training, the New Hanover County Executive Development Center. The center is in the Northeast Regional Library building on Military Cutoff Road. For more on this, see my recent article about the county's parks and gardens. Additionally, Riverside Park in Castle Hayne has an event space suitable for off-site meetings and offers a view of the Cape Fear River.
In the public safety arena, the New Hanover County’s Sheriff’s Office will be promoting its Business Crime Prevention program for retail businesses. The sheriff’s office also offers free security surveys to homeowners and businesses. The Fire Rescue Department consults with developers as projects are designed to ensure they meet the best current standards for fire prevention and emergency access. The staff also offers advice about entertainment-related safety, such as managing crowds at large events and ensuring that fire exits are properly marked. The Emergency Management Department will be at the expo to offer advice on how businesses can develop individual emergency plans to safeguard both life and property, and to ensure business continuity in the event of a fire, natural disaster or other emergency. Remember, it’s only a matter of time before we have another hurricane! Every business should plan ahead and be prepared.
Some other departmental programs that you can learn more about at our WilmingtonBiz Expo booth include:
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