News — 25 November 2008

Foreclosure. Grim. Challenging. Shortfall. Depression. Tough economic times. Repeated ad nauseam, these phrases encapsulate the seemingly endless negative aspects associated with a downed local and national economy.

Revamp. Shot in the arm. Partnership. Local business. Disposable income. These phrases, now seemingly buried deep in our lexicon underneath the weight of falling markets, represent the citys distant but bright lighthouse amid a dark sea of deficit. At least that is what the city government and local business owners hope.

The City of Alexandria kicked off an initiative Monday that puts the citys economic future in the hands of its residents and their disposable cash. But instead of kissing the cash goodbye, the Buy Alexandria, Our Dollars Count initiative aims to inform that injecting that money locally goes a long way for every one. The educational and marketing campaign encourages residents to eat out, entertain and shop for essentials and gifts for oneself and for others locally.

The knowledge of Alexandrias ailing economy and $10.5 million budget gap is inescapable, but promulgating the benefits of local businesses in this strategic shopping season, coupled with small businesses partnering together, could be an effective remedy.

We are in a better place than other jurisdictions, Mayor Bill Euille said at a meeting of the West End Business Association earlier this month. We are going to come out of this with holes and our shirts torn. We need to hold hands and support each other and we will get through this.

Euille said at the meeting that if 60 percent of households in Alexandria spend $50 a week, we will be on our way to offset the difference of the budget gap.

According to a report by the George Mason University School of Public Policy and the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Northern Virginias economic fundamentals are still intact and OK. Being closer to the District, where steady federal jobs mean a steadier economy than the rest of the nation helps, as does the citys proximity; shorter commutes mean less money spent on gas.

But Alexandrias Convention and Visitors Association, Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Partnership and the Small Business Development Center began the initiative as a way to make the city a more attractive and efficient place to ride out the recession. If Alexandrias households spent the national average on gifts this holiday season, the tax revenue would generate enough money to pay the salary of five police officers or cover the average cost of a snow plows expenses for one snowy day, according to a statement from the city.

Support local business by doing your holiday shopping, going out to dinner and buying the basics right here in Alexandria, said Mayor Euille. Your purchases, from big-ticket items to everyday necessities, directly benefit the citys tax base.

To further promote the citys local shops, the City Council is even toying with the idea of allowing temporary signs in the Central Business District (Old Town) to line the otherwise strictly historical streets. The emergency ordinance is up for discussion at the councils legislative meeting Tuesday.

The city is promoting the initiative with an eco-friendly slant as well, noting that the closer you shop, the easier it is to use public transportation and shoppers will spend less money on gas and more on toys, all the while reducing ones carbon footprint albeit somewhat marginally. But the more who participate, the less marginal the deed.

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Alexandria Times Staff

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