The grand opening for Marana’s Business Development Center was held at the town’s Municipal Complex on Jan. 12.

The grand opening took place more than a month after the soft opening where Town staff worked alongside the Marana Council and the Marana Chamber of Commerce to simplify the complicated process of obtaining a business permit.

In the past, new business owners and builders were forced to speak with a number of different professionals, often located in various departments associated with the town, before a permit could be offered. 

The Business Development Center, located on the second floor of the Marana Municipal Complex, will eliminate such hassle by integrating engineers, planners, inspectors, and permit clerks into a single, cooperative workspace.

“A business owner can come in and get all the assistance they want in a one-stop shop,” said Marana Vice Mayor Patti Comerford. “We are ahead of the game in all of the region in helping businesses survive and strive.”

Since the Town of Marana does not have its own fire department, Town staff also partnered with the Northwest Fire District to help builders more efficiently receive fire inspections.

“We work very closely with them,” said Tim Mattix, the records’ center permit manager. “Previously an applicant would have to come here for submittal, and then go to Northwest Fire. Now they just come here. Their plan examiner resides here.”

Rodney Campbell, spokesman for the Town of Marana, highlighted the fact that the Business Development Center has supplemented its services by now offering wastewater management for North Marana businesses.

Recently, Town staff reorganized the layout of the office to allow the various professionals easier communication and collaboration. Previously, the employees were divided by technical trade.

“If someone has a technical question outside of their specialty, they can look over their shoulder now and ask,” said Campbell. “The team concept that has been established is unlike anything else in the region. It’s an opportunity to have planners work alongside engineers, who work alongside permit clerks. It saves a substantial amount of time.”

While new business owners and builders may have to speak with different specialists in the office depending on their technical trade, their project will be assigned to one team from beginning to end.

Mattix emphasized that while the goal is to make the permit process easier for developing businesses, they are still dedicated to following building codes and quality construction.

Since opening, the Business Development Center has already seen a steady flow of applicants. Campbell said the Town issued 46 single-family resident permits last month.

“Five years ago, we were doing an average of 150 home permits a month,” said Campbell. “In February of 2008, we issued two single-family home permits. One was cancelled. Now, we are back in business in the 30-40 per month range. It’s a very encouraging sign.”

Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson sees the Business Development Center as an opportunity to help Marana businesses multiply during tough economic times.

“Marana means business,” he said. “Without a thriving, healthy business community, we wouldn’t have the nice roads we have, the parks, or this building. We wouldn’t be able to do any of the programs that we provide to our citizens. Everyone in this room is a key part of helping make sure we are able to grow well into the future.”

Ed Stolmaker, CEO of the Marana Chamber of Commerce, recognizes that the economic recovery may take some time, but is confident that the goal will be reached with continuing initiatives like the Business Development Center. 

“Marana is a good place, but we’re going to be the best place in Arizona to do business. This is one of those steps to get us there,” he said.

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