The Town of Purcellville is getting a fresh look at the challenges facing local businesses.
The town’s Economic Development Advisory Committee recently published the results of its business sentiment survey, which was conducted from January to March 2017 and is being used to better understand the difficulties facing the Purcellville business community and what the town can do to help. Gathering feedback from 65 respondents, comprised mainly of professional service, retail and restaurant business owners who have operated in town for 2-5 years, the 18-question survey asked about business operations, economic growth and the respondents’ assessment of town services.
The question that solicited the most detailed responses dealt with challenges that in-town businesses face, with the majority of respondents indicating some displeasure with tax rates. Currently, the town assesses anywhere between 5- and 50-cents per $100 of annual gross receipts for business licenses. While the rate for professional services, retail businesses and restaurants is 17 cents, food trucks pay $500 per year.
Restaurants are also required to tack on a 5 percent meals tax on top of the 6 percent Virginia general sales tax. Mark Osborne, owner of Adroit Theory Brewing Company, said this costs his customers about $20,000 annually.
“I agree it is too high,” said Mayor Kwasi Fraser. “I’ll continue to try to convince my peers that this is a high transaction cost for businesses and customers compared to other towns.”
Parking was another area of concern among respondents, as most indicated that they would like to see more parking the downtown area near 21st Street. Some respondents also noted that the town should do a better job enforcing the two-hour parking limit.
“Parking is the biggest issue,” said Phil Message, the office manager of Movement Mortgage on the corner of Main and 21st Streets. “We were not anticipating that when we signed the lease.”
Fraser said the town would work with businesses to address the concern. He suggested that a shuttle-based solution could be an option, given the amount of open parking lots in town on the weekends.
When asked what the town could do to stimulate more customer traffic, nearly half of the respondents indicated that creating more town events and increasing advertising efforts would lend some help.
Fraser said he would focus on attracting start-ups, technology consulting firms and other businesses with small footprints that could bring the town more revenue. He also mentioned that events like the Purcellville Pop Up Sale, which is held each year on Columbus Day weekend, provide “significant value” to the town.
Out of 60 respondents, 70 percent agreed that they were either very or somewhat satisfied with the town’s quality of services, while about 8 percent indicated that they were either somewhat or very dissatisfied with it.
The committee is now reviewing the survey results and deciding whether to conduct another, more in-depth survey.
“We will now have the ability looking at this, if we’re going to do another one, to do it more fully, more accurately,” said Warren Grossman, acting chairman of the committee. “The town really wants to be responsive.”