Richland County cleans up bad reputation as a spot for business development

With new systems in place and an innovative overhaul of its development review process, South Carolina’s Richland County has repositioned itself as one of the state’s most attractive and friendly destinations for new businesses and industry.

Centrally located, Richland County has always been an advantageous location for businesses; however, a cumbersome application process and a reputation for poor services for facilitating land and buildings was a detriment. Now, with a new business model that provides efficient access to services and great opportunity for growth, Richland is back in the game.

“The development review process was commonly referred to as a black hole,” Sparty Hammett, the county’s assistant administrator, said. “The negative reputation of Development Services was one of the biggest challenges facing economic development in Richland County.”

Among many improvements over a three-year period, the most impressive change was consolidating several development-related departments into one team dedicated to an efficient coordinated process. A plan review for new developments once took a minimum of 60 days. Now, that time has been reduced to 12 business days. Documents can now be uploaded on an interactive website and approved rapidly.

With this new direction, the county has transformed its development review process from the slowest in the state to one of the most efficient and boasts that it is now completing 100 percent of reviews on time.

“Essentially, the overall culture of Development Services had to change,” Hammett added. “And, we had to convince the business and development communities that the county had changed.”

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