Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille has proclaimed this year the year of business in the city. Tom Fairchild’s hiring as Alexandria’s first business facilitator has made that much more than just a proclamation.
Fairchild was hired six months ago. “It will be his job to serve as a liaison between city government and the business community,” said city manager Philip G. Sunderland when he introduced Fairchild to City Council. “We are committed to making businesses welcome in Alexandria and Tom will help small and large businesses alike understand various city processes.”
What exactly does that mean? “It means that I answer lots of questions about starting a business in Alexandria and about how different city departments function in the context of working with the business community,” Fairchild said. “I provide a lot of information and referral and help solve the mysteries of city bureaucracies. There is no such thing as a typical day.”
The job of business facilitator was created at City Hall for many reasons, not the least of which was the lobbying effort of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.
“When the Chamber first envisioned the business facilitator position, we hoped that the individual would help the small business person who needed to navigate the bureaucracy at City Hall and make that experience a more pleasant and efficient process,” said Ken Moore, Chamber president. “In the short period of time Tom Fairchild has been on the job, he has taken the time to become acquainted with the leaders of the business community so that he has a better understanding of how his new office can assist the customer. He already has a number of wins in his efforts to assist businesses that have called on him for assistance.
“While the position is still relatively new, the Chamber believes that Tom is making a positive impact. We are sincerely appreciative of both city manager Phil Sunderland and assistant city manager Mark Jinks for their leadership and commitment to the business facilitator position,” Moore said.
FAIRCHILD COMES TO the position with many years of living and working in the region. He worked with businesses on Columbia Pike and in Clarendon, helping them to navigate the county bureaucracy in Arlington. Even before that, he was involved in business in Alexandria.
He moved to the Mt. Vernon area in 1970. “My very first job was delivering the Gazette in middle and high school,” he said. “I still drive the car that I bought with money I earned from that job.” (A 1967 Mustang Convertible that is in good, but not show quality, condition.)
He has a degree in industrial engineering from Perdue University. “I have always been interested in engineering but I also really like working with people. Industrial engineering is the only engineering field that allows me to do both,” Fairchild said. “Industrial engineers look at processes and their impact on people. I hope to be able to look at some of the city’s processes and make suggestions for improving them. My work with many different departments, I believe, will allow me to get the kind of broad overview that many people don’t get because they are so involved in their own individual departments.”
Members of City Council also hope that Fairchild can help streamline processes. “We need someone in city government who is looking at our processes from the point of view of the business community,” said Councilman Paul Smedberg. “The position is new but Tom has done an excellent job so far and we look forward to even more successes in the future.”