- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Richard Perry, managing partner of the Corporate Office, was on the verge of securing a lucrative $2 million deal with Motorola USA for information-technology consulting when he was turned away owing to insufficient business operating space.

“They told me I wasn’t credible. And from that moment, I was determined that would never happen again,” said Mr. Perry, who worked as a technical consultant at the time.

In February, his family launched the Corporate Office, a business center with virtual and permanent rental office space in Landover, for individuals looking to build on a dream for their own businesses in Prince George’s County.

“Those interested are individuals currently laid off from work, seeking to take advantage of the struggling economy in a positive way,” Mr. Perry said.

Unemployed and expecting his second child in 2002, Mr. Perry, 44, decided to turn his misfortune into success by outlining a plan with wife Cheryl, 44, president and CEO.

“I was a bit apprehensive at the time,” said Mrs. Perry. “When you’re not sure about your income, it’s hard to imagine starting a business.”

The Corporate Office, situated on the fifth floor of a sleek glass-and-steel high rise, provides affordable space for startup and established businesses in the Landover community. Spaces can be rented by the hour or for long-term periods.

Among the special features that present a professional image are a receptionist desk, a conference room, a training room, an executive office and a “telework” center, as well as mailing, faxing and copying services.

Lawyer Scott D. Arnopol relocated his D.C. office because of the affordable parking for his clients.

“The price of meter parking continued to go up, and less space was available for my clients,” said Mr. Arnopol. “I just wanted to make it more cost-effective for them.”

Six months since the start of the company, business owners and residents such as Ethel Neal, president and CEO of Women and Men of Integrity, were already receiving benefits from using the affordable space.

Residents in the community also gain employment opportunities from the Corporate Office, as it is a part of a county-operated program that pays individuals to work as administrative staffers, Web-site designers and sales and information-technology representatives. The Work Experience (WEX) incentive program, run by Arbor Education and Training, is for county businesses that hire people registered with the Department of Social Services who are looking for work. The program pays the salaries of those employed through the participating businesses.

Investing in the Prince George’s business community was a smart economic decision based on the number of businesses, many of them home-based, developing in the county during the recession, Mr. Perry said. The Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce reports 900 businesses in the county for 2009.

The business’ success does not come without a price, however. Mr. Perry wakes up at 4 a.m. for his daily workout in his Bowie home, kisses his children while they are still asleep and goes to his early-morning job with the federal government, which he found after starting the Corporate Office.

He spends several hours working in the engineering and networking department of a federal agency, for which he had to have a security clearance, then heads to the Corporate Office around 3 p.m. to meet potential clients. His day normally ends around 9 p.m.

“I would like to think I mean a lot to this community,” said Mr. Perry. “We have provided opportunities for employment with a good professional atmosphere.”

However, he mentions the pain he feels not having enough quality time with his children. Seated with his arms folded over his head, he stared at the ceiling and fought back tears.

“It’s hard because by the time I get home, my kids are asleep,” said Mr. Perry. “But it feels good when they bring me lunch. Sometimes they call me and remind me to come home.”

Mrs. Perry, the CEO, maintains the accounting side of the business while her husband works to solicit clients. They are looking to expand to five other East Coast markets.

“We really hope to make an impact by welcoming small business in the county,” said Mrs. Perry. “This is a training ground for those left out in the cold. It’s a tough time, and we know people still need to believe in some kind of dream.”

Odell B. Ruffin is a writer living in Prince George’s County.

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