Opinion Your Views — 07 January 2010

This past year was uncertain and tumultuous for many Alexandria businesses and it was no exception for us at the Chamber of Commerce. We had our share of challenges ranging from selecting a new CEO to re-establishing our value proposition to our members in the face of a recessionary economy and declining membership.     

The incredible news is that despite these challenges, we were able to accomplish a number of great things in 2009 to advance the Chamber, provide exceptional benefits to our members and improve the business climate in Alexandria.   

After a comprehensive search, we hired new leadership to re-energize our membership and confidently carry out the mission of the Chamber to provide valuable, high quality programs, events and services to our members and to advocate on their behalf.    

We further solidified our role as the voice for business in Alexandria, weighing in on relevant matters, such as the Old Town waterfront, Potomac Yard, Landmark, and BRAC developments. We also joined our economic development partners at Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association and the Small Business Development Center as the business authority for issues such as the citys strategic plan, its budget and various text amendments. Finally, we appointed representatives from our membership to serve as effective participants on, and keep us apprised of, the work being done by more than 10 city boards and commissions. 

We worked with the citys staff to reform policies and procedures and advocated for their implementation, making it a little easier to open and operate a business. This included matters such as opening a one-stop permitting center, reducing signage fees and allowing more signs to be administratively approved in the historic districts, as well as improving small business zoning regulations.   

We enhanced communication between the Chamber and the local and specialty business associations throughout the city. As a result, we have banded together to support each others interests and to speak with a single voice on matters of mutual interest that provide advantages for our members and the community as a whole. 

You will soon hear more about our efforts to institute change and improve the business climate in Alexandria in 2010 so that our city is poised to benefit during the next economic growth cycle. 

The valuable services we provide and the strong, public efforts weve made to improve Alexandrias business environment have shown in our membership numbers: We are up 25 percent over the last four months.   

We will continue to provide excellent opportunities to network and develop relationships to enable members to grow and expand their businesses. We will also launch several industry-focused programs to better serve the specific needs of restaurants, retailers, associations and government contractors, as well as other groups. 

We will further advance our role as the voice for business in Alexandria by advocating for businesses on relevant national, state, regional and local issues that affect our community. We will continue to work closely with the city on improving the policies, procedures and the overall atmosphere for business in Alexandria.   

And finally, we will develop a long-term strategy for the Chambers future to ensure that our members and supporters will continue to receive an outstanding return on investment for their time and money expended to support Chamber programs and events.   

Last year has been a turn-around year for us and the outcome is very exciting.  Alexandria has a stronger Chamber of Commerce, and we look forward to a bright future in 2010 and beyond.

-Tina Leone is president and CEO of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce

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Alexandria Times Staff

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