Orange County’s “Dream Builders”: First-ever Conference Celebrates Team 400


Orange County issues roughly 81,000 vertical building permits a year — including projects small in scope, like a 150-square-foot addition to a single-family home, to projects that are truly “Epic” in size, like Universal’s new 750-acre theme park along Universal Boulevard.

Residential and commercial properties in unincorporated Orange County — popular restaurants, thriving subdivisions, grocery stores and healthcare providers — wouldn’t be here without the work of Orange County’s Development Services employees.

These employees, numbering more than 400, are known as Team 400, and they’re embedded within 17 divisions and nearly a dozen County buildings. Despite working together on thousands of projects, they’re never together under the same roof.

That changed at the first-ever Dream Builders Conference on March 15, 2024, at the Orange County Convention Center. The inaugural conference celebrated Team 400, their commitment to customer service, and the valuable role they play in the community.

“This is unprecedented in that we’ve never pulled the entire services staff together for one program,” said Jon Weiss, Deputy Orange County Administrator.  “We’re here to support the community in building their dreams, and as people move here, they need our help with this. The analogy ‘hitting on all cylinders’ truly applies when it comes to understanding the dynamics and the dependencies of the permitting process.”

When Mayor Jerry L. Demings took office in 2018, he prioritized improving customer service within Development Services. He encouraged County leadership to find creative ways through innovation, teamwork and problem-solving to help projects get through the approval process.

Through this initiative, Team 400 was born. Each Team 400 employee is required to participate in training to ensure consistency, standardize and improve communication protocols, enhance customer-service culture, adopt the newest technologies, and collaborate for efficient records research. Another product of the Team 400 initiative was the formation of a nine-member Project Assistance Team. The Project Assistance Team, created in the summer of 2023, works with developers from concept to completion to identify challenges and find solutions.

Team 400 is “all about training and culture-building,” said Leslie King, Orange County Development Services Learning Advisor. “The approach is cross-functional and collaborative because there are 17 divisions that have a hand in the permitting process, which can be complicated and complex. With everyone on the same page, we’re better able to move the process forward to get projects completed in a timely and convenient manner.”

The inaugural Dream Builders Conference showcased the work of Team 400 and encouraged relationship strengthening with a full afternoon of breakout sessions, presentations, team-building exercises, panel discussions, and more.

Several development industry leaders were present to share the results of their projects and give thanks to County staff. Employees in attendance were encouraged to connect with teammates they had never met in person through a scavenger hunt. This activity proved to be extremely valuable and highly engaging for County staff.

At the conference, Mayor Demings noted that over the last three years, Team 400 has led to the issuance of 243,324 building permits with the average annual development value exceeding $2 billion.

“A unified approach to development services better serves the community, and Team 400 was created to drive home this culture of collaboration and taking customer service to a new level,” Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings said during his welcome speech. “Progress has been made, but we’re still not perfect. However, we continue to strive for perfection.”

The Team 400 initiative and conference succeeded in creating the type of work environment in which employees feel part of something bigger as they continue to grow and develop both professionally and personally. The team has been strengthened and team members report that they feel good about the services they provide to the local community.

To find out more about becoming part of the Orange County Dream Builders team, go to Employment and Volunteerism.

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