Alexandria business leaders praised recent business-friendly developments in the city and called on the public and commercial sectors to work together at a Thursday morning marketing forum sponsored by the Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association.
About 250 people attended the event, the “ABC’s of Business in Alexandria,” held at the Crowne Plaza Alexandria in Old Town. Guest speaker Rashad Young, Alexandria city manager, stressed the importance of the aligning of the public sector with the business community to create a winning team.
“I want to win,” Young said. “I want to win this community. I want to make this community continue to be a highly desirable and economically sustainable to live, work and play."
Stephanie Landrum, senior vice president of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, said the city has made recent business-friendly changes, including the creation of a one-stop permit center, changes to the special-use permit process, availability of items such as the marketing fund and the development of small-area plans.
“It’s our job to to help spread the word about those changes,” Landrum said.
Bill Reagan, executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, said city government is an integral part of helping local businesses thrive. “Business-friendliness has improved of late, and it really makes a difference,” he said.
Reagan said 91 percent of Alexandria businesses have fewer than 20 employees and that these businesses generate 55 percent of the city’s gross receipts -- more than 13 times that of Potomac Yard businesses. Small businesses, however, face numerous challenges -- notably, they are often under-capitalized, don’t have deep pockets to allow them to withstand business mistakes and have little time to invest in growth and new opportunities.
The center helps businesses overcome some of those hurdles, Reagan said.
Andrew Palmieri, chairman of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber advocates for small businesses through its legislative agenda, which includes speaking against the commercial add-on tax. The chamber also supported the city’s waterfront plan, which council approved on Saturday.
“The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce is among the largest chambers in the northern Virginia area,” Palmieri said. “We have approximately 800 members. But when we say we are a large chamber, in reality we represent small businesses. So we are very much a small-business chamber.”
The new permit center is an excellent example of the city working to benefit local business, he said. “That was a project that the chamber worked very hard on for multiple years,” he said. “… We’re very proud of the fact that it’s now easier for you to do business in Alexandria due to the one-stop permitting center.”
ACVA President and CEO Stephanie Pace Brown thanked the business community for its contribution to Alexandria’s economic health and overall reputation.
“Today is not the only day that we work together,” she said. “We really foster a collaborative environment and teamwork. We’ve really made economic development in Alexandria a team sport.”
Representatives from the Arlandria-Chirilagua Business Association, the Del Ray Business Association, the Eisenhower Public-Private Partnership, the Old Town Business & Professional Association and the West End Business Association also spoke at Thursday’s event.