Small businesses are the core of Alexandria’s economy and culture, and fittingly, the city happens to be a great locale for entrepreneurs to start as well as grow their ventures. The Port City’s advantages are well known: It’s inside the Beltway; close to interstates and airports; full of historic charm; popular as a tourist and local visitor destination; home to top restaurants; and renowned for its full range of quality-of-life factors.
It’s also the right scale — small enough so people know one another and don’t get lost, yet large enough to have the communication networks, cosmopolitan flair and vibrancy of a big city. With all of these assets, it’s clear why so many small businesses are drawn to Alexandria.
However, Alexandria’s success as a small business hub is not just because of its location and charm. The city is home to a wide array of interconnected resources that support and promote small business.
These groups focus on building an infrastructure and business climate to make Alexandria an ideal setting for a small business. It is important for small businesses to be aware of these groups and the resources they provide, as these partners can offer assistance, advice and support.
The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership promotes the City of Alexandria to attract and retain business. The Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association is a membership organization that promotes city tourism and is a key partner for businesses in the hospitality industry. The Alexandria Small Business Development Center helps businesses solve problems, overcome obstacles and think up new opportunities. It provides timely and innovative services for all business stages, from startup through growth, and there is no charge for its assistance.
Another key partner in the network of resources for small businesses is City Hall. We’re fortunate that city staff is very focused on small businesses. It recognizes the complexities associated with Alexandria’s density as well as historic designation and has undertaken many initiatives in recent years to enhance its processes to make them easier for small businesses to navigate. City staff strives to find ways to improve the experience for small businesses in Alexandria.
Small businesses also have resources in the community. The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce is a voice for area businesses and advocates on their behalf whenever state or local government is weighing in on a business issue. At the grassroots level, there are numerous neighborhood business associations that offer networking and cooperative efforts on common local matters. These groups provide local support for small businesses in all areas of the city.
All of these various organizations coordinate efforts to make improvements and offer a broad range of assistance to our small businesses. We know that with greater collaboration and more opportunities, our small businesses will continue to strengthen the local economy.
The writer is the director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.