You don’t have to look far to find “one year ago today” headlines. Our Alexandria version would point to a city full of businesses with suspended normal operations, completely shifted to remote work or forced to temporarily shutter their storefronts; a state of emergency declaration; and grocery stores full of neighbors stocking up on supplies. Back then, so much was unknown about the coronavirus pandemic, and the future was largely uncertain.
As weeks and months passed, we learned how much more widespread the effects of the pandemic were, and would become, and how it would steadily impact and change our business community. We also immediately witnessed, across the city, the people and businesses of Alexandria rising to meet this unprecedented challenge.
While it feels strange to commemorate the one-year mark of an ongoing crisis, it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to celebrate the ingenuity and innovation of Alexandria’s businesses, and to acknowledge their overall resilience – thanks in no small part to support from our community.
Over the years, the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership team has met so many businesses that are proud to call Alexandria home – one amazing trait that differentiates Alexandria’s economy from the dozens of others in our region. Never has that pride been more prominently on display than during this past year. It has created a sense of solidarity between our local businesses and the community they love. We clearly feel like we are in this – and surviving this – together.
The combined public health crisis and economic downturn has resulted in what will likely be the hardest year for many business owners and residents. But, in true Alexandria form, so many success stories have also emerged as part of our city’s tale of COVID-19.
Companies pivoted to remote work and found new ways to meet clients’ needs. Small businesses moved sales online, and restaurants relied on takeout models. AEDP is proud to have supported our business community during this challenging year, encouraged and funded by the Alexandria City Council, to provide critical information and grant funding to more than 600 businesses through the Alexandria Back to Business grant program.
As a testament to our local economy’s continued strength, we’ve seen recent announcements about plans to redevelop the Old Town North waterfront and former Landmark Mall site, new business openings in every neighborhood and an acceleration of the buildout and development in Potomac Yard – all significant investments, with more on the horizon. In any year, these developments would be cause for celebration; in 2021, they deserve a parade, fireworks and lots of celebratory cheer!
The AEDP team looks forward to a day soon when we can safely and responsibly celebrate these signs of strength. As we mark the “one year ago” milestone, we honor the difference a year can make: one year ago, our future felt very uncertain. Today, we are confident that Alexandria’s economy and future are bright due to the strength and resilience of our businesses and community.
The writer is president & CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership.