One of the goals announced by Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille at the start of his administration was to make the West End of Alexandria a more viable and vibrant locale within the city. Achieving that goal came another step closer Sept. 15.
That was the day a group of business people in that area of the city, using the slogan "It's About Business," officially initiated the West End Business Association (WEBA) with the blessing of Euille and Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Inc. (AEDP).
"I'm very pleased that they've taken me up on my charge to become a voice for West End businesses and the West End overall," Euille said. He gave the welcoming remarks at the group's kick off meeting at Koons Collision Repair Center, 5800 Edsall Road.
"This is not just for the West End. We [West End businesses] are going to get involved in all facets of the city. But, this is a business group and we want to keep that focus," said Christopher St. Pierre, WEBA interim president and owner of Authentically Amish, 4609 Duke St., Fox Chase Center.
"We are already planning our ‘Business Extravaganza Event’ to be held on Dec. 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center. It will involve the whole city. And, the reason it's being held there is that have become a member," St. Pierre said.
Other activities will include: Monthly luncheons with speakers from various business sectors and government; orientation meetings to welcome new members; networking nights, and quarterly meetings, as well an annual meeting, to keep members current on issues impacting the local business environment.
"This is one of the most dynamic groups I have ever worked with and it has truly been a wonderful experience," said Paula Riley, executive director, AEDP. "They are extremely well organized."
DURING THE ORGANIZATION'S formation stage, AEDP hosted a series of informal meeting designed "to catalyze interest" among businesses throughout the West End, according to Marc Brambrut, AEDP.
"The original attendees were briefed on how a business organization could help increase visibility for West End businesses, provide resources, help business operators understand services available to them, provide networking opportunities, and present opportunities to interact with City staff and elected government officials," Brambrut said.
Joining St. Pierre on WEBA's Board of Directors are: Chris Patton, Victory Van Corporation, vice president; Marina Mack, Koons Collision Repair Center, treasurer; Juleen Stacy, Jan Davis Entertainment, secretary; Jeanne Page, Wise Women Consultants, assistant secretary; and Mary Lou Lindquist, LCSW, Counseling for You & Your Relationships, member-at-large.
WEBA is offering a $20 discount off its regular annual fee of $100. A new member can receive benefits through 2005 for only $80. "Although we are going to have two categories of membership there will only be one fee," St. Pierre said.
Regular members will be comprised of those who own and operate a business in the West End. This will include commercial real estate property owners, according to their presentation at the formation meeting. Associate members will be made up of businesses or individuals with mutual interests in development of the West End business sector.
A priority aim of the group is to form special interest groups (SIGs) within the organization to make membership even more specific to particular business owners and operators, according to St. Pierre. "SIGs provide an effective way to help members share information, expertise and experience on key topics," the new WEBA brochure states.
WEBA PLANS to facilitate the formation of three types of SIGs at the outset:
* Similar discipline/business sector members;
* Similar locations members; and
* Members with special issues. They are intended to be an action-oriented extension of WEBA's networking activities.
"They also intend to have civic organization representation. This will truly build representation throughout the West End," Riley said.
According to a 2003 city study, more than 2,000 business are located within the boundaries of what is called Alexandria's West End — the area west of Quaker Lane and King Street. Fifty percent of residents who use city services live in the West End.
WEBA's birth is aligned with two anticipated revitalization projects for the area: Redevelopment of Landmark Mall and additions to Fox Chase Center at Duke and Jordan streets.
Corporate sponsors contributing to the success of this new entity include: Charter Printing, Finn & Porter Restaurant, Houck & Associates, LLC, Koons Collision Repair Center, Mango Mike's Restaurant, Minuteman Press, Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center, Victory Van Corporation, and Washington Suites Alexandria.
The newly formed WEBA is inviting businesses and residents alike to "join the momentum in creating our own distinctive identity as a desirable and vibrant destination for city and regional residents, business travelers, and visitors."
Contact WEBA at P.O. Box 3213 Duke St., #128, Alexandria, VA 22314, call 703-739-3820 ext. 10 or log onto its web site at www.alexandriaWEBA.com. Its email address is info@alexandriaWEBA.com.