Since Feb. 2, Greg LaMontagne has been trying to move his company's extrusion operations into a newly built, 11,200-square-foot facility. If all goes well, he could be in sometime this month. But after all the glitches he's been through, the general manager of Randolph Austin Co. isn't holding his breath.
Since the company sits on 15 acres of rural land outside the Austin, Texas, city limits, LaMontagne went to Travis County to obtain the proper development permits.
After the building had been built and the company began grading a road to the facility, the city of Austin came by and ``red-tagged'' him for not having the proper city development permits.
``I'm dead in the water until we get all the proper permits from the city,'' said LaMontagne.
And getting those permits has not been easy or cheap.
Numerous environmental studies had to be completed and fees paid, which so far have cost the small company more than $12,000.
``To Motorola, that's not much money,'' LaMontagne said. ``But to us little guys, it's a chunk of change.''
Tracy Watson, director of planning and development for the city of Austin, said several factors might have affected expediting the permits for Ran-dolph-Austin.
``In Texas, counties have no home-rule authority,'' he said. ``Cities have extra-territorial jurisdiction over unincorporated areas and companies have to go through the planning commission to receive the proper permits regarding site plans for drainage and water quality controls.''
Watson said the 100-year flood plain specifications must be met to control water quality and assure proper drainage.
``It's for their protection as well,'' said Watson. ``If someone gets flooded out because of [Randolph-Austin's] water problems, they'll have a lawsuit on their hands.''
LaMontagne said the permitting process is good and bad.
``I'm glad they're watching the environment, but angry at all the delays,'' he said.
Watson pointed out that the Austin area is experiencing rapid growth, which he admits might be responsible for slowing the permitting process.
``We're not choosing to give [Randolph-Austin] a hard time,'' he said.
Some small business owners feel, like LaMontagne, that cities discriminate against small firms trying to expand in present locations.
City officials ``work hard to lure a large company into an area, but do nothing for the little guy who's already here,'' LaMontagne said.
Location can be one factor in how smoothly and quickly the permitting process goes. When Revcor Molded Products Inc. decided to build a new headquarters facility in Haltom, Texas, the small town rolled out the red carpet for the company, said Vice President Tim Murphy.
``They seemed to be very cooperative in helping us get started in their community,'' said Murphy. ``But then we're probably the largest employer in town. Going to a small town is a plus in that regard; you have more clout.''
Revcor officials also found that it was much less expensive to move to a new site in a completely new facility than to try to renovate and expand their present plant in Fort Worth.
Murphy pointed out that the plant was built under old codes and laws, which meant that extensive renovations were needed to bring the building up to new codes.
``You get caught in a web of new laws,'' said Murphy. ``We found after studying the issue that it was cost-prohibitive to expand this site. It's easier and cheaper to start from the ground up.''
Revcor plans to sell the Fort Worth building after its move in August.
Will LaMontagne ever consider expanding on his site again?
``I can quite honestly say that this is the last building we'll ever build in Austin,'' he said emphatically. ``I do not foresee going through this hassle again.''