Opinion: Commentary: Local Small Business Owners – We’re Here for You

Opinion: Commentary: Local Small Business Owners – We’re Here for You

Supervisor Dan Storck visiting businesses in Belle View, Tuesday, April 28.

Supervisor Dan Storck visiting businesses in Belle View, Tuesday, April 28. Photo contributed

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a huge toll on our economy and we will feel its impact for many months and years to come. As small business owners, we know this economic crisis may be unlike anything we have ever weathered before. The Fairfax Economic Development Authority (EDA) reports that approximately 200,000 people are employed by small businesses in the County and our office has identified almost 1,100 small businesses along the Richmond Highway corridor. I know from the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce, individual business owners and many residents that our local small businesses need our help now more than ever.

As a fellow small business owner, I have been looking for and evaluating any and all resources available to my company, including applying for the Federal PPP Loan, as I’m sure many of you have. I understand the angst and frustration that you’re feeling.

As your Mount Vernon District Supervisor, I have pushed hard on the Board and County staff to find ways to assist small businesses. As a first step, we have created a MicroLoan Program, consisting of $2.5 million to provide up to $20,000 each to qualified applicants. I encourage you to apply for this program starting on April 28 and closing at midnight on April 30. I am also committed to increasing this application time and providing millions more in support.

For County construction permitting, we have approved the extension of the validity of all expiring Director-approved land development items until 60 days after the Board mandated COVID-19 emergency ends. I see these actions as a valuable and necessary start, but we need to do more and quickly.

As soon as the Embark Richmond Highway Comprehensive Plan improvements were approved, I launched the Strategic Economic Development Team with Supervisor McKay to proactively grow businesses; we also established a Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) team to focus on businesses along the corridor. That team now consists of myself and Supervisor Lusk, Fairfax County EDA, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce (MVLCC), South Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC), and the County’s Department of Economic Initiatives. During this crisis, we have been convening the BRE weekly to coordinate our efforts to best support you.

SFDC has developed a COVID-19 Business Directory webpage to rally the community around our local businesses to buy local and help them survive. All businesses in the southern portion of Fairfax County have been asked to input their information, with questions like: Are you open for business? What type of business? What are you currently offering? This page is growing by the day and we expect the community’s use of it for shopping will, as well.

MVLCC has developed a similar webpage, “Open for Business”. This page lists the local businesses open during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chamber has also spoken with their members and several of their business consultants have graciously offered to provide free business counseling to other small business owners. Contact the Chamber at 703-360-6925.

In addition, the Fairfax County EDA has been focused on employment, by identifying companies out who are hiring at this time. Through their webpage, you can find open positions for companies who are hiring immediately. They are also working with companies who have furloughed employees to direct those employees straight to businesses with job openings.

Together, we are working hard to be innovative and to bring additional resources to our local small businesses and will continue to do so until we get through this together. I am here to help you! If you’re in need of any type of assistance, please reach out to my office at 703-780-7518. If you are a resident reading this and are looking for ways to help those in our community, check out our “Get Help, Give Help” webpage for ways to support our small businesses and not-for-profit service providers during this critical time.

Helpful Links

SFCD has released a video designed to encourage support of our local businesses. Please share if you are able: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1utDpotBd67rAWi1NvGokkMSbg7u2A3K5/view?usp=sharing

Helpful links for print publications:

MicroLoan Program: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/economic-success/county-small-business-covid-19-recovery-fund

SFDC COVID-19 Business Directory: https://sfdc.org/directory/

MVLCC Open for Business: https://cca.mountvernonleechamber.org/PromoListing.aspx

Get Help, Give Help: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/mountvernon/get-help-give-help