August 3, 2017

Planting the Seeds for Growth in Alexandria

At its core the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership’s (AEDP) mission is to attract and retain business to grow and maintain the City of Alexandria’s commercial tax base. Our successful execution of this core function yields tangible results such as job creation, private capital investment, and increased tax revenue which produces a healthier and more resilient local economy. With the recent conclusion of FY 2017 it’s a good time to share some highlights on how AEDP improved economic conditions in Alexandria over the past year.

AEDP made great strides to put in place and deploy a key tool to help our business attraction and retention efforts. The Alexandria Investment Fund is a local incentive fund that AEDP designed and City Council allocated money to during the FY 2017 budget process. The Fund provides cash grants to businesses seeking to locate or expand in Alexandria and was created as a direct response to the increased use of deal closing incentive programs by our regional competitors.

In FY 2017 the AEDP business development team used the Fund twice to fight off regional competition to retain The Motley Fool and Port City Brewing Company. These retention deals, which both leveraged state incentive dollars, resulted in increased private capital investment and job growth, and retained two home-grown businesses with national brand recognition. Best of all, AEDP is projecting the City will collect over $4 million in net new tax revenue.

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Since closing The Motley Fool and Port City Brewing deals, Alexandria has competed for five additional major business attraction deals. Clearly having the right tools at our disposal and a proven track record to execute deals is moving Alexandria into a more competitive position.

The AEDP team also led some innovative economic development projects in a diverse number of areas. In a previous post I explained how AEDP launched BOOST Alexandria last fall to help early stage pre-revenue startups stabilize, scale, and grow. The spring 2017 cohort just wrapped and we are pleased to report our startups generated $169,000 in revenue, raised over $200,000 in investment, and created 10 new jobs. Looking ahead, this summer AEDP will be evaluating our cohort model and considering ways to improve our support for startups, including how AEDP can work with regional partners to support the startup ecosystem in the DC area.

We are equally excited about the continued success of AEDP’s Pop-Up Retail Initiative which began last October with the launch of 116 King, a temporary retail activation in the heart of the Old Town central business district. Led by Vice President of Commercial Real Estate Christina Mindrup, the pop-up retail program has brought AEDP, the City, and the private sector together to create an exciting opportunity aimed at drawing new retail brands to Alexandria. AEDP played a leading role in ironing out complex details with city regulators and landlords to curate a vibrant atmosphere in a vacant storefront. The program attracted 28 brands to Alexandria and generated over $2 million in sales during the holiday season which far exceeded expectations. The program was so successful during the winter holiday season that 116 King reopened in the spring and AEDP received an additional $50,000 for FY 2018 to study how to expand the program to other parts of Alexandria.

Over the past year the AEDP team also led several significant studies to measure the economic environment in Alexandria and provide policy recommendations to City Council to enhance the city’s competitive position. We worked with Alexandria-based Brightline Strategies on a Business Climate Survey which asked existing businesses, regional prospects, and real estate brokers to identify factors that drive businesses to locate and remain in Alexandria. The findings identified 8 key recruitment and retention drivers for these stakeholders. The study measured Alexandria’s performance, which revealed never before captured information about key attributes of the city that need to be promoted/protected and areas that need improvement. Working with the AEDP Board of Directors we used the survey data to outline 7 emerging priorities to focus on in the upcoming fiscal year.

The second important study was co-led by Director of Business Attraction and Place David Remington and focused on understanding issues related to Office Obsolescence and Conversions in response to several significant office building conversions in recent years. The study revealed that recent conversions of older underperforming office buildings into multi-family residential buildings in Alexandria actually had a positive impact on city revenues and a minimum impact on demand for city services like social services and school enrollment. With this new knowledge AEDP staff is developing policy recommendations to encourage adaptive reuse of legacy office properties that will be presented to City Council this fall. AEDP’s successful completion of these key initiatives advanced our core mission and moved the economic needle in a positive direction for Alexandria. Our efforts also produced great outcomes for our team by increasing our knowledge-base and expertise, creating tighter team cohesion, and strengthening our partnerships across Alexandria, the region, and in Richmond. The AEDP is primed for another great year working to #GrowAlexandria.