The Alexandria Small Business Development Center is entering its 25th year of supporting and strengthening the small businesses that are central to Alexandria’s economy and character. It’s perhaps a good time to describe the center’s role and free resources for those who might not be familiar with them.
The SBDC works alongside the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Visit Alexandria and the City of Alexandria to assist the small businesses that comprise about 90% of Alexandria’s total businesses.
For businesses already in operation, the center has timely and specialized resources to help them where they lack in-house expertise. The center has nothing to sell them and is focused only on what is in their best interests. Several owners proclaim that having the SBDC as a free and objective go-to source is among the reasons they choose to stay and grow their business in Alexandria.
The center also helps businesses establishing in or moving to Alexandria to make the right connections, guiding them through startup and permitting steps or helping them solve problems that arise.
The past year has intensified the stress on small businesses coping with the devastation of COVID-19. The center teamed with our economic development partners, city government and business associations to keep owners updated and assist them with loans and grants.
Elected officials, city management and business community leaders undertook bold actions to sustain business operations under the worst of circumstances. We’re not yet out of the woods but expectations are hopeful, and there’s a clear sense that things could have been much worse had all of us not pitched in together.
Few communities have such ahands-on free small business resource that is an integral part of the economic development and business community and is interactive with city government. The center also works to improve communication and understanding between city staff and businesses, among business groups and among businesses themselves.
Over its 25 years, the center has answered many thousands of inquiries about a broad range of business matters. It has provided more than 28,500 hours of objective feedback and assistance to several thousand individuals, both existing business owners and startups. It has also helped individuals obtain more than $95 million in loans, primarily from Alexandria bankers.
Those who work with the center from the earliest stage of their business are typically better organized and prepared for the requirements ahead, and they launch with better connections and more viable operations. With the center’s proactive guidance and ready availability to help owners with challenges, the stability of businesses using SBDC resources exceeds the national small business failure statistics.
The staff and board of directors of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center are grateful for the opportunity to engage with Alexandria businesses for a quarter century. We value the support from and collaborative partnerships with city government and our economic development partners. To get the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 Relief Legislation or identify free SBDC resources for your business, go to: https://alexandriasbdc.org/
The writer is executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.