The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Finally, spring is here

The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Finally, spring is here
Bill Reagan, who has served as executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center for the last 25 years, is set to retire on Jan. 31.

This year’s annual column on making the most of our springtime is not going to require much convincing. It wasn’t a particularly cold or snowy winter, but it was drab, and everyone I know is beyond ready to get out and enjoy the spring weather.

Alexandrians are blessed with an abundance of ways to celebrate the warming season. Just getting outdoors will feel plenty good, but what incredible options we have. First, we can simply stroll our beautiful and historic neighborhoods.
This time of year, our neighbors are planting in their flowerbeds, window boxes, or pots on their sidewalks and hanging new door wreaths. For a closer look inside and a peek behind garden walls, don’t miss the Historic Homes & Garden Tour on April 21.

Baseball season is finally here and there’s no easier or more picturesque way to get to and from Nats Park than the Potomac Riverboat Company’s Baseball Boat that boards at our waterfront. And speaking of the river, Alexandria has access to incredible waterfront trails and parks where you can stroll, picnic or bike. For the more ambitious among us, there’s always the George Washington Parkway Classic, a ten mile race along the Potomac from Mount Vernon to Old Town on April 22.

Keep an eye out for festivals and events where you can sip spirits at galleries, brew houses or gardens or even historic sites such as the Mt. Vernon lawn. On Saturdays in May, enjoy Attics and Alleys, a three-hour walking tour of rarely seen historic sites in Old Town. Afterwards, check out one of the many new restaurants opening this spring, like Mia’s Italian Kitchen or Smoking Kow BBQ.
We should never take our treasures for granted – they’re not just for tourists.

Speaking of tourists, I’m sure you’ve heard that Money Magazine just selected
Alexandria as the #1 best travel destination in the United States for 2018. What
a confirmation that we live in an incredible place.

This calls on us to be gracious hosts for the visitors that designation is certain to bring. We know from Visit Alexandria studies that tourism generates hundreds of millions of dollars for local businesses and supports thousands of Alexandria jobs.

Tourism also reduces the tax burden on our households. Cities that are tourist destinations tend to also spur creative economies. The charm and vitality that lures tourists also attracts entrepreneurs and helps businesses recruit skilled workers.

The snowball effect adds to the diversity and strength of Alexandria. What can we do to enhance the visitor experience? First, be welcoming in every way, such as helping someone who’s struggling with a map or looking lost. You know how such help has made you feel in strange places. Second, be ready to suggest great places for them to visit, shop or dine. We all value recommendations from locals when we travel. 

Spring has sprung and it’s a great time to get out and enjoy our community – and let our enthusiasm become contagious to visitors.

The writer is the executive director of Alexandria’s Small Business Development Center.