The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Finally – the joys of summer

The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Finally – the joys of summer
Bill Reagan (Alexandria Small Business Development Center)

After the last year and a half of the pandemic, many of us are ready to get out and experience the fresh air, warm weather and human interaction.

Easing of pandemic restrictions coincides with the start of summer, and it’s a sensory overload. We’ve yearned for this and now we have the chance to get out and perhaps even go maskless here and there.

Alexandrians are blessed with an abundance of ways to celebrate the summer season. First, we can simply stroll our beautiful and historic neighborhoods. Our neighbors have groomed their flowerbeds, window boxes or pots on their sidewalks and hung door wreaths. It’s not just the beauty – it’s experiencing history where it happened.

We locals can also gain fresh perspectives from Black history and ghost tours that are educational even if you’re not a tourist.

Old Town now has an incredible chain of waterfront parks and public gathering spaces connected by public walkways. You can stroll, picnic, dine or bike alongside the Potomac River from Jones Point to Daingerfield Island. If you haven’t yet experienced it, take in the view of the Alexandria waterfront and the Capitol in the distance from the pier near Barca, a recent riverfront addition to the city’s restaurant scene.

Baseball will also soon open to full capacity, and there’s no easier, more scenic or safer way to get to and from Nats Park than the Potomac Riverboat Company’s baseball boat. Think fresh river air versus a crowded Metro car. Hopefully it will be boarding soon at our waterfront.

There are certain to be festivals and events where you can sip beverages at galleries, brew houses, parks or gardens and visit the numerous outdoor dining and cocktail options all over our town.

Alexandria has been cited in premier travel publications as one of the country’s top destinations. This calls on us to be gracious hosts for the visitors those designations are certain to bring. We know from Visit Alexandria reports that tourism generates hundreds of millions of dollars for local businesses and supports thousands of Alexandria jobs, and, after the pandemic, our restaurateurs and retailers – and their employees – need and deserve patronage more than ever before. 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, and the snowball effect adds to the diversity and strength of Alexandria. That’s part of the rationale for Amazon and Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus locating here.

What can we do to enhance our experience, as well as visitors’ experiences, this summer? First, be welcoming in every way. Help someone who’s struggling with a map or looking lost. You know how such help has made you feel in strange locations. Second, be ready to suggest great places for them to visit, shop or dine. We all value recommendations from locals when we travel.

Summer is here and it’s finally a time when we can get out and savor our community – and let our enthusiasm become contagious to visitors.

Get out there and enjoy this summer!

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