This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on May 3rd, 2019.
The week of May 6th is being celebrated across the country as Small Business Week, highlighting the importance of small businesses to the US economy. In Alexandria we are particularly beholden to small businesses because they are such an integral part of our character and economy.
They comprise almost 90% of Alexandria’s total businesses and they are ideally suited to our scale. Retail spaces on King Street and Mount Vernon Avenue are perfect for small boutiques, intimate restaurants, and specialty shops. In fact, 78% of retail stores on King Street are small, local, independent businesses.
Our commercial office market also includes attractive offerings for small businesses. Smaller office buildings and historic spaces appeal to businesses like commercial creatives and small professional service providers.
Alexandria relies on our small businesses in many ways. First, we know that our citizens love the variety of small independent shops and restaurants that give Alexandria its authentic and unique flavor. In addition, these owners and their employees often sponsor events, serve on volunteer boards, contribute time and money to local causes, and have often provided community leadership through changing times and circumstances. Alexandria is a stronger and more adaptable city when our businesses are engaged, because they truly have their finger on the pulse of the community.
Since our economy and quality of life are so dependent on the success of small businesses, the question worth asking is whether we are doing our very best to be inviting and to help them start and grow. City government has worked very hard in recent years to streamline processes and minimize delays. While there are still frustrations, city leadership, economic development and business organizations constantly collaborate on solving challenges.
The city has a wide array of interconnected resources that encourage and promote small business. They focus on the infrastructure and business climate that preserves and enhances Alexandria’s ideal setting for small businesses. After all, the attributes that made our city and region so appealing to Amazon and Virginia Tech are also things that help small businesses thrive.
From the Alexandria city government, to the Chamber of Commerce, to Visit Alexandria, the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, and neighborhood business associations, many organizations work together on behalf of small businesses across the city. The Alexandria Small Business Development Center is at the core of these efforts. It helps interconnect the initiatives of support organizations and expedites the communications flow to and from small businesses. It also helps small businesses solve problems, overcome obstacles and make worthwhile connections throughout the community and region.
Robust small businesses help to broaden the tax base and improve the mix of business products and services offered in the city. They contribute to a positive resident experience and enhance our quality of life. The reciprocal role for Alexandrians is to support small businesses through shopping local.
As we commemorate small businesses this week, our charge is to make sure Alexandria continues to be such an attractive and nurturing home for their success.