It happened quietly and without fanfare, but a change made by the Small Business Administration in December is expected to have a big impact on Leesburg’s business growth.
The town’s designated HUBZone doubled in size with the determination that a second census tract meets the qualifications to be included in the program. The designation gives businesses in the zone a leg up in the competition for federal government contracts and provides incentives for those businesses to hire residents of those neighborhoods.
Russell Seymour, Leesburg’s new economic development director, told a group of commercial brokers gathered for a Vaaler Commercial Real Estate forum last week that defense contractors and others seeking to do business with the federal government have been keeping his phone ringing. “I want to be in the HUBZone” is the message he hears.
Expanding the Historically Underutilized Business district south of the W&OD Trail to the Leesburg Bypass extends the business location and hiring incentives to the commercial areas in the under construction Crescent Parke development, the Virginia Village shopping center and Harrison Street corridor, and to neighborhoods including Brandon and Beaumeade Farms, and Crescent Place.
Eric Byrd, chairman of the town’s Economic Development Advisory Committee, said that town leaders knew the expansion was being evaluated, but weren’t sure it had happened until earlier this month. He said the action is not only good for business expansion, but will bring in high-paying jobs for town residents.
The first announcement of the change came in a line in Mayor Kelly Burk’s State of the Town address Feb. 5. “The recent expansion of our HUBZone will ensure this growth continues bringing even more new job opportunity for Leesburg residents,” she said.
The expanded HUBZone area, generally, is bounded by King Street, the Leesburg Bypass and Edwards Ferry Road. The designation is based on an assessment of median household income and difficult development areas, which are defined as places designated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as having high construction, land, and utility costs relative to its income of the residents. Those assessments are updated regularly, but the Leesburg HUBZone boundaries will be locked in until at least December, 2021, after the federal decennial census is tabulated, according to the SBA.
To qualify for the program’s incentives, a business must establish an office within a HUBZone and at least 35 percent of its employees must be HUBZone residents.
The new area includes 2,887 residents and 1,379 homes, according to Census figures. That increases the HUBZone employment pool from the 5,959 who live in the northern Census tract. The expansion area has different demographics than the original zone, with incomes ranked as moderate instead of low, although 10 percent have earnings below the poverty line.
To learn more about the program, go to leesburgva.gov/businesses/hubzone. Although, as of Tuesday, the site had not been updated with information about the expansion.
Previous HUBZone Map:
Leesburg’s HUBZone effective 2018: