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Imagining a Transformed Springfield

Executive Director of Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce shares her thoughts on 2014.

New businesses continue to open in Springfield. From left: Ann Vandehey, DOS Embassy Suites Springfield; Taylor Holland, chief of staff for Lee District Supervisor; Michael Drobnis, 2013 president Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce; Dean Miller, National Sales Manager Visit Fairfax; Brad Wymer, GM Embassy Suites Springfield; and Francesca deVito, Catering Sales Manager Embassy Suites Springfield

New businesses continue to open in Springfield. From left: Ann Vandehey, DOS Embassy Suites Springfield; Taylor Holland, chief of staff for Lee District Supervisor; Michael Drobnis, 2013 president Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce; Dean Miller, National Sales Manager Visit Fairfax; Brad Wymer, GM Embassy Suites Springfield; and Francesca deVito, Catering Sales Manager Embassy Suites Springfield Photo Contributed

Last year may have been a big year for Springfield, but according to Nancy-jo Manney, the executive director of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, 2014 will be even better.

"I’m sitting here in January and thinking wow, what a year this is going to be," Manney said.

The opening of the Springfield Town Center and Wegmans in late 2014 will be catalysts for growth in the area, Manney said.

"Projects like that are projects that people have been waiting for so long, so it is just going to be a good year," she said.

According to Manney, the Springfield Town Center and Wegmans should open in time for holiday shopping.

"They have not yet released a list of their tenants, and they aren’t going to for obvious reasons, until everything is in place," Manney said.

The Washington Business Journal reported on Tuesday, Jan. 14 that LA Fitness, Regal Cinemas, Michael Kors, and many others will be among the new additions to the Springfield Town Center.

Other projects to look for include the Interstate 95 express lanes, which Manney said should open after the 2014 holiday season. A Q&A on her thoughts on 2014 follows.

Q: What are the big things the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce is looking forward to in 2014?

A: The Springfield Town Center is the major development. We can be assured these are going to be really nice, high-end retail tenants that have been long desired to be in the area. The restaurants will be really nice. I’ve seen some initial designs for the food court, and it is a hospitable place where people would want to meet somebody for coffee or for lunch in a very casual environment, and then do some shopping. All of these things are things we have not been able to do in really five years, so as a community we are looking forward to getting back to that.

Q: What are some other projects coming to Springfield in 2014?

A: We have smaller projects, and they all kind of add together to make people see a new, greater Springfield area. The Metro Police substation will open up this year, and that is a very positive thing for the area. We don’t know yet, but it is looking more and more like the FBI may pick this location. Springfield Toyota is moving their dealership to a bigger spot and they are putting in a ball field for the community. A lot of these things may seem like just another business, but it’s not. They have bigger impacts on the community than we may think.

Q: What priorities do you think the General Assembly should tackle?

A: What we have said is, please don’t disturb the transportation bill that was successfully accomplished last year. As they look at congestion mitigation, we as a chamber would like that to include multi-modal, biking and pedestrian. That is very important for a mixed-use, high density area. It’s not just about building roads or adding another bus line. While those things are very important, we need to provide safe walkable and bike-able environments for people, so if they want to travel from West Springfield to the Franconia/Springfield metro station, they have a safe route to bike or to walk in the area. Otherwise they are just stuck in their car and then they have to drive there. When we can develop safe environments, then I think people will be more willing to get out of their car to bike and walk. We ask our representatives in the General Assembly to keep us posted on issues that are important to the business community. We work very closely with our other chambers here in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia to present a cohesive voice for the business community.

Q: What are some challenges that members of the chamber are facing?

A: There is still the economy. I’m still hearing from a fair number of members concerning hiring. There are still a lot of people looking for jobs and looking for the right fit. Employers are still a little cautious about hiring, but there is also still a demand. For the past years, we’ve had fewer people doing more work, because they are cautious about hiring, but they also know they need to hire more people. That is something I think businesses struggle with on a daily basis.

It was a slow holiday season for some, but not everybody. It will be interesting to see what this winter does with regards to the weather. In general, I think people are excited with regards to the development that is coming and the potential that brings. There is always concern with health care reform and how that will impact business-there is a lot of uncertainty there. Again, that could potentially impact someone who is trying to hire or decide if they should hire more.

Q: What are your thoughts on the possibility of the FBI coming to Springfield?

A: The main reasons the FBI should come are convenience and accessibility. Quantico is just down the road, the Pentagon is up the hill. That is why Springfield being at the crossroads at so many interstates is convenient and good for a lot of things.

Q: What is your vision for Springfield in 2014 and beyond?

A: I think our vision is to look to the Greater Springfield area and to call it home: for people to want to be in the area and to build that sense of place. For many years it’s been spread out and everybody has their little niche neighborhood, and we tend to get in our cars and go to work and nobody sees anybody. I think the Town Center is going to be key- having attractions in the Greater Springfield area, where people want to come, that will build that sense of community and place that will be good for the chamber, good for our business community, and our residents.