During the annual State of the County address, the chair said Arlington County is well on the road to economic recovery but it has a ways to go before it enters into a period of renewal. The event was hosted virtually yesterday morning (Tuesday) by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, with a Q&A moderated by ARLnow founder Scott Brodbeck.
“We’re growing, but not as fast as at the start of 2020, before the pandemic, when our prospects seemed truly bright,” he said. “If we’re honest, recovery is not all we’re looking for at this moment. The state that we have not reached — that we must create — is renewal.”
Reaching renewal will mean supporting small businesses, working to eliminate inequities and increasing housing options, he said.
Recent data show the health of Arlington County residents has stabilized, with a 0.6% COVID-19 test positivity rate and about one case per day over the last two weeks. Unemployment is down, as well, from 7.2% this time last year to 3% today, he said. As vaccination rates rise, tourism is recovering, with hotel occupancy rates up to 40% from a low of 20%.
The county has also retained organizations with an Arlington footprint, including the State Department, while attracting new companies, from Microsoft to shipping company ZeBox‘s startup incubator. All along, Amazon continues to meet its occupancy and hiring goals while supporting businesses, he said, and will present its second phase of its HQ2 to the Board later this year.
Plus, new development is continuing.
“The County Board has approved numerous office and residential projects that will drive economic growth… and strengthen our economy in Arlington,” de Ferranti said. “We’re hearing from commercial real estate brokers that there is significant pent-up demand from [office] tenants who delayed real estate decisions in the pandemic. We expect to see these deals come forward in the fall of this year.”
Still, the office vacancy rate is a lingering concern for de Ferranti, who noted that it was 18.7% in the first quarter, up 2.1% from the same time last year.
“Part of the reason I sought this office was to bring down the vacancy rate so that we could invest in schools, housing, transit, transportation and the things that make Arlington a great place to live,” he said. “Our economic development projects show promise, our pipeline is strong, so I’m confident we can bring down the rate over the coming years.”
“We saw before Amazon that there was a time when we got a touch complacent working on our office vacancy rate,” he said. “That’s no one’s fault but we do need to stay focused on it.”
While it’s mostly larger companies that help to fill Arlington’s office towers, small businesses in Arlington need help, de Ferranti said, so Arlington Economic Development is preparing a grant program using American Rescue Plan funds. It follows up on a similar program last year that helped 393 businesses.
The county still has work to do to fix bugs with the online permit system and improve the customer service experience for businesses — lessons learned from the roll-out of temporary outdoor seating areas, or TOSAs, the chair admitted.
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Arlington’s four candidates for the County Board agree that Arlington County should take more steps to support small businesses.
The County Board hopefuls articulated their plans for supporting the business community and encouraging economic development during an Arlington Chamber of Commerce candidate forum last night (Tuesday).
Candidates suggested providing grants, cutting certain taxes and fees, expanding online permit applications, and improving both the county’s regulatory processes and how county staff help businesses navigate them.
The debate was moderated by Alex Koma of the Washington Business Journal, a former ARLnow reporter. Koma also asked candidates about office space vacancies, housing and development.
Citing his “Freedom and Justice Plan,” Democratic challenger Chanda Choun said he would encourage public-private partnerships that fund grants for startups and minority-owned businesses, which often struggle to get loans. He would also eliminate the Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax, which is calculated based on the gross receipts of a business.
“If you’re a small mom and pop, and you generate revenue — not even profit — of $10,000 or more, you have to start paying business license fees,” he said. “It makes no sense.”
Independent candidate and Yorktown Civic Association President Mike Cantwell said the county should eliminate the business tangible tax — which taxes the assessed value of business furniture, machinery, tools and computer equipment — and instead tax specific things like automated checkout machines.
“The business tangible tax takes in approximately 4% of revenue for the entire budget and it is a highly inefficient tax and an administrative burden on small businesses,” he said, adding that “we have a role to play to make sure machines don’t replace humans.”
Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement supported expanding the Permit Arlington portal, which took some permits process online in 2019 (a dozen others are already slated to go digital through 2022). She said the county needs to keep up its vaccine distribution efforts and review the real estate assessment process.
Democratic incumbent Takis Karantonis called for small business grants; better customer service for people navigating county, state and federal regulations; and — for big businesses — a review of county processes to see if they are efficient.
“We need to create something that will sustain [the smallest, women-owned and Black- and Brown-owned businesses] in the long term,” Karantonis said, adding that continuing a pandemic-era business loan program “would be a signal that we welcome them and are committed to restoring neighborhood retail and retail diversity.”
The pandemic has dealt a blow to Arlington’s economy, but the county may be well-positioned for a rebound rather quickly.
In a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100 — the second of a two part series — local experts said that unlike past downturns that resulted in a lengthy recovery, this one is driven not by structural economic factors but by a virus.
As people are vaccinated and the pandemic recedes — whenever that may happen — expect a strong recovery.
“The economy right now is reacting to the health crisis and [that] is driving the recession,” said Jeanette Chapman, economist and director of the Stephen Fuller Institute at George Mason University. “This is not a normal recession.”
Due to the pandemic, consumer spending dropped significantly. Compared to this time last year, credit and debit card spending is down nearly a quarter in Arlington (less than D.C. comparably, which is down nearly 30%).
However, that is an improvement from early spring when spending overall was down about 50%.
As expected, the drop in spending was mostly concentrated in the transportation, apparel, hotel, and food service sectors. Grocery and food spending rose in 2020.
While job losses continues to be a concern, the Northern Virginia region is above the national average. Chapman says this is due to “mostly being a knowledge services economy and can send a bulk of workers home [to telework].” A big chunk of the job losses, as expected, are in the leisure and hospitality sector, accounting for nearly a third from November 2019 to November 2020.
“Leisure and hospitality jobs tend to have lower wage scales,” says Chapman. “Those jobs are hardest hit.”
In general, says Chapman, the losses regionally are skewed toward lower wage jobs. However, because this recession is due to a health crisis, Chapman says we can expect a near full recovery by 2022 due to the widespread availability of a vaccine.
Arlington’s small businesses, particularly those dependent on in-person interaction, are also being significantly impacted.
Telly Tucker, director of Arlington Economic Development, said that any business with fewer than 50 employees is defined as a “small business.” This encompasses about 90%, or 6,000, of the county’s businesses.
Arlington’s small business emergency grant provided nearly 400 businesses with a combined $2.7 million. More than half of those businesses were woman and/or minority-owned.
As for bigger businesses, Tucker also spoke about how office building vacancy rates actually were decreasing going into 2020 from a high of over 20% in 2015.
While the vacancy rate has since risen and now sits at 16.3%, that remains below the office vacancy rates of the mid-2010s. Commercial real estate like office buildings are a major source of tax revenue for the county, Tucker noted.
What’s more, a number of large, multinational companies have made a home in Arlington over the last five years. This includes Microsoft, which made the announcement just last week that it would have a significant presence in Rosslyn.
The Arlington housing market, meanwhile, is doing well. Homes are typically selling for between 3% to 5% over listing price, noted Tucker, which is a positive sign.
Arlington’s ‘Bachelorette’ Contestant Talks — “For me, I like the hole-in-the wall bars. Just like, a dive bar where I can just like, grab a beer. Like I love drinking Guinness or some sort of Allagash White or something like that. If I were to go to a bar in Arlington to watch a game, I don’t know — maybe like, First Down in Ballston or like Spider Kelly’s.” [Washingtonian]
CaBi Comes to DCA — “The Capital Bikeshare station at National Airport is live! Traveling to the airport just got a whole lot easier.” [Twitter]
National Landing BID Expanding — “The National Landing Business Improvement District (BID) today announced two new executive appointments and three promotions within the organization.” [National Landing BID]
Fmr. Interim Superintendent Leaves APS — Arlington Public Schools staff wished goodbye to Cintia Johnson, the long-time school staffer who recently served as interim superintendent. [@APSVirginia/Twitter]
Chamber Continues Supporting Dillon Rule — “As part of its 2021 package of legislative priorities, the Chamber of Commerce is continuing its position that the ‘Dillon Rule’ needs to be maintained, and urged members of the General Assembly to do nothing that would lessen it. Leadership of the business organization comes and goes and other policy positions evolve over time, but the Chamber’s support for the Dillon Rule has remained steadfast over the decades.” [InsideNova]
Hospital CEO Staying On, For Now — “Virginia Hospital Center is experiencing some leadership changes — and holding off on others. VHC president and CEO Jim Cole, who’s held the position for 25 of his 35 years with the Arlington hospital, has continued and will remain in the top slot for now after announcing a year ago his intention to retire in September 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]
‘Section 230’ Explained With ARLnow — So what is Section 230, exactly? Per cybersecurity law professor Jeff Kosseff: “[An] example is that I go to my favorite local news site, @ARLnowDOTcom, and post a terrible, defamatory rumor about my neighbor… Neighbor can sue me, but a suit against ARLnow would fail because ARLnow was not responsible in whole or in part for creating or developing my defamatory post.” [@jkosseff/Twitter]
Nearby: Bethesda Encouraging ‘Streeteries’ — “A fund with $1.25 million from federal aid money might help. The county is considering using that money to give outdoor ‘streeteries’ — blocked-off streets filled with tables and chairs for patrons to eat outdoors — tools to prepare for operating during winter, such as heaters.” [Bethesda Magazine]
New Italian Eatery Opening Soon — “Antonio Ferraro, whose Napoli Pasta Bar in Columbia Heights was named a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant in 2018, is opening a new market concept in Arlington’s Pentagon Row. Napoli Salumeria is specializing in grab-and-go-style meals, including Neapolitan street food (fried mozzarella and focaccia), homemade pastas, and sauces. Expect classic sandwiches, including cheesesteaks, Italian subs, and sausage and peppers… the hope is to open the market late next week.” [DCist]
Arlington ‘Bachelorette’ Contestant Still On — Jason Foster, a former pro football player who lives in the Courthouse area, remains a contestant on ABC’s ‘Bachelorette,’ though Bachelorette Clare seems focused on another beau: Dale, who the other contestants spent part of Tuesday’s episode roasting. [Washingtonian]
Some Skeptical of County’s Race Conversations — “James Moore is an Arlington community activist and owner of a 60-year-old neighborhood barbershop in the Hall’s Hill neighborhood. ‘Our communities in Arlington will want action more so than just conversation,’ Moore said. Moore said he would like to see the county support Black people living in the community by providing more mental health and housing resources.” [The Wash]
Kid’s Skatepark Petition Gets 600 Signers — “I would like for the Arlington county board to add a new skatepark to our area. As you may have noticed the Powhatan Springs skatepark is starting to get very crowded and is hard to ride around without bumping into other people. This park is actually becoming dangerous with all of the people riding in the bowls at one time.” [Change.org]
Chamber Names ‘Best Business’ Honorees — “Last night, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce celebrated the 34th Annual Arlington Best Business Awards at the Crowne Plaza Crystal City-Washington, D.C., in a hybrid format that allowed attendees to join in person and virtually.” [Press Release]
Arlington Among Top Places for Nature Lovers — A list of the “best places in America for outdoor enthusiasts to live and work” has ranked Arlington No. 21, between Scottsdale, Arizona and Tampa, Florida. Seattle ranked No. 1. [SmartAsset]
‘Open Schools’ Signs Also Being Stolen — “The debate over whether kids should be learning in or out of schools is getting ugly in Arlington. So much so, dozens of signs that said ‘Open Schools Now’ have gone missing. ‘Some of them have gotten stolen and neighbors have found them in trash cans,’ parent Russell Laird said Friday, standing near 100 new signs that had just been delivered. ‘I told people, keep count of how many were stolen, come back with double.'” [Fox 5]
County Getting More COVID-19 Aid — “The Arlington County Board today accepted more than $3 million dollars in additional federal aid to support low-to-moderate-income residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aid included more money for housing vouchers and funding for a range of relief programs to support families and small businesses.” [Arlington County]
Restaurant Week Starts Today — “Arlington Restaurant Week will run from October 19-26. During the week, diners can try set menu items from many local restaurants, at a discounted price. The idea is for diners to find a new to-go place for dining out.” [ARLnow]
W&OD Trail Detour Shifting — “The current W&OD Trail detour route just east of Lee Highway (Route 29) will be shifted for about two weeks beginning October 19 to allow additional construction activity. Crews will reconstruct sidewalks on Lee Highway, the Econolodge entrance on Fairfax Drive, and nearby curb ramps on Lee Highway. Trail users will be directed to a new sidewalk and trail adjacent to the new trail bridge during this detour.” [VDOT]
Gutshall Posthumously Honored By Chamber — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that the late Erik Gutshall is our 2020 inductee into the Arlington Business Hall of Fame.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Local Church Gets Big Donation — “Today, Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington received 40 pallets of toiletries and household products worth $250,000 from @FoodForThePoor. They plan to give away the items during their weekly food distribution and through the parish thrift store.” [Arlington Catholic Herald/Twitter]
AED Wins Prestigious Awards — “Arlington Economic Development took home numerous honors at this year’s International Economic Development Council (IEDC) 2020 Excellence Awards, which were announced earlier today at the organization’s annual conference. AED’s programs and partnerships were recognized for Economic Excellence in several categories.” [Arlington County]
Arlington Chamber of Commerce is organizing its second annual Arlington Restaurant Week later this month.
Arlington Restaurant Week will run from October 19-26. During the week, diners can try set menu items from many local restaurants, at a discounted price. The idea is for diners to find a new to-go place for dining out.
“The Chamber is thrilled to celebrate and showcase the diverse restaurant scene in Arlington through hosting the second annual Restaurant Week event specifically for the Arlington community,” said Chamber President Kate Bates. “Now, more than ever, restaurants need our support… We are proud to support and highlight the importance of the entire local restaurant community, particularly during this trying time.”
The current list of participating restaurants includes:
- Bonefish Grill
- Celtic House Irish Pub & Restaurant
- Colony Grill
- Copa Kitchen & Bar
- Fire Works Pizza
- Good Company Donuts & Café
- Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe
- La Moo
- La Côte D’or
- Potomac Social
- Rien Tong Thai
- Smokecraft Modern Barbecue
- Rocklands Barbecue
- Thai Select
- TTT Mexican Diner
(Colony Grill, as we reported yesterday, is planning to open Oct. 14. Potomac Social, on which ARLnow has not previously reported, is the restaurant connected to the Crowne Plaza hotel in Crystal City. Potomac Social opened earlier this year, then closed, and then reopened in August.)
The full press release about the second annual Arlington Restaurant Week is below.
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce our second annual Arlington Restaurant Week, happening on October 19-26. Through this event, diners will enjoy some of the best food the area has to offer at special prices. This is a great opportunity for participants to take the week to explore the diverse restaurant scene in Arlington and find a new go-to place for dining out.
Now, more than ever, restaurants need our support. Arlington Restaurant Week is designed to help local restaurants gain exposure through extensive media promotion and to attract new patrons through experiencing their food. This event runs differently from your average Restaurant Week in that it is open to all restaurants from fast-casual spots to five-star dining establishments. Restaurants pick their own price point, market their menu on our website, and offer both dine-in and carry-out options. The Chamber is pleased to offer free participation for member restaurants, courtesy of our sponsors.
“The Chamber is thrilled to celebrate and showcase the diverse restaurant scene in Arlington through hosting the second annual Restaurant Week event specifically for the Arlington community,” said Kate Bates, President & CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. “This event offers participants the opportunity to try a variety of dining experiences and culinary options at discounted rates, and in return, restaurants gain exposure and are able to expand their customer base. We are proud to support and highlight the importance of the entire local restaurant community, particularly during this trying time.”
The current list of participating restaurants and their menus can be found here. Visit the Chamber’s website and follow the Arlington Restaurant Week event page on the Chamber’s Facebook to keep up-to-date on the event. Diners are encouraged to further support the restaurants by posting a picture of their dining experience to social media. Make sure to tag the location, tag the Chamber @ArlVAChamber, and use the hashtag #ArlRestaurantWeek.
Dozens March for Racial Justice — “A group of about 100 people marched more than three miles on a hot August afternoon through Arlington demanding justice for victims of police brutality and calling on the county’s elected officials to bring police reform to the county.” [Patch]
Police Investigating More KKK Stickers — “Stickers that appear to promote the Ku Klux Klan have been found on traffic signs and utility boxes in Arlington over the past month, Arlington police said… They were found between July 2 and 28 in four locations, mostly in the Yorktown neighborhood, on the back of traffic signs and on a utility box.” [Washington Post]
Big Power Outage on Saturday — “A power outage in South Arlington has about 3,000 customers without power, according to Dominion Energy. The outage is affecting several neighborhoods between Columbia Pike and Interstate 395, including Arlington Mill, Columbia Forest, Douglas Park, and Nauck.” [WJLA]
Parents Rally Against School Plan — “All 12 school jurisdictions in the D.C. area have announced their intentions to start the 2020-2021 school year virtually, and not all parents are pleased with that decision. Vienna, Va. resident Jill Gartin rallied with other parents and students today at Arlington district headquarters to make their voices heard… ‘It’s been awful because I have five kids running on one wifi. It’s draining and the kids are miserable.'” [WJLA]
Ribbon Cutting for Vida — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony last week for Vida Fitness’ new Ballston location, its first outside of D.C. It’s only the second ribbon cutting pictured on the Chamber’s Instagram account (the first was Bowlero in Crystal City) since the pandemic started. [Instagram]
Meridian Pint Fighting for Survival — “As you all may have heard, there is a possibility we may have to permanently close our doors. With the effects of Covid-19 the restaurant industry is feeling an enormous impact, Meridian Pint is no exception. We did get a Payroll Protection Loan but those funds have since been fully depleted. We are asking for your help.” [Facebook]
Nearby: MoCo May Reinstate Restrictions — “COVID-19 cases have been increasing across the state while Montgomery County’s have plateaued to about 70 to 80 new cases a day. But now officials are considering whether to reinstate some restrictions to try to decrease the virus’s spread and reduce cases.” [Bethesda Magazine]
Yes, But Where’s *This* Story? — Wondering why something that happened over the weekend was not included in Morning notes? We may be planning to cover it later today. Or, if it’s something that we might not know about, you can tell us about it for potential future coverage.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Big Response to Small Biz Grant Program — “Those hit hard by the pandemic can receive help through the small business emergency grant program. More than 1,100 businesses have applied, [County Board Chair Libby] Garvey said, and at least 63% of them are owned by women or minorities. ‘With an additional $1.6 million, we can provide grants to a total of 400 businesses, more than 50% of those that… were eligible,’ Garvey said,” during her State of the County address Tuesday morning. [WTOP, Zoom]
Chamber Presents Valor Awards — Also on Tuesday, “awards were presented to honor Arlington County’s public safety personnel and first responders. Fourteen honorees were recognized for their courageous, and often lifesaving, actions in the line of duty. Leadership of all respective departments submitted nominations for the honorees, based on their performance over the past year.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce, InsideNova]
Road Closures for Grad Parades Tomorrow — “On Thursday, June 18, the Arlington County Police Department’s Special Operations Section will support Senior Graduation Parades for Wakefield High School and Washington-Liberty High School. Traffic around the schools will be impacted at the below listed times. The public can expect to see increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods.” [Arlington County]
CivFed Wants More Open Space — “The president of the Arlington County Civic Federation on June 13 delivered his message quietly but bluntly: The county government needs to put much more emphasis on acquiring land for parks and open space before the window of opportunity closes. Allan Gajadhar handed County Board members a Civic Federation resolution calling on the county government to better balance open-space and passive-recreation needs with facilities for sports and active recreation.” [InsideNova]
COVID Cases Among DCA Construction Workers — “Employees with 17 contractors working on Reagan National Airport’s massive capital improvement project have tested positive for Covid-19, according to a staff report issued ahead of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s upcoming board meeting… The most recent positive result was confirmed June 7.” [Washington Business Journal]
Juneteenth May Become State Holiday — “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said Tuesday that he will support legislation to make Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery, a state holiday in Virginia. He gave executive branch state employees the day off Friday — June 19 — in recognition of the event. On that date in 1865, federal troops told enslaved people in Texas they had been freed, more than two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.” [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Arlington Waiving Affordable Housing Loan Payments — “The Board approved allowing borrowers of County Multifamily Revolving Loan Funds the option of waiving their 2020 loan payments if they commit to using the money to address rent and vacancy losses and emergency needs that are associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Arlington County]
County Delaying Purchase of Property Near Shirlington — “In order to keep their options open, the Arlington County Board will make another $175,000 payment to hold open the possibility of acquiring two parcels adjacent to the Arlington Cultural Affairs facility in the Four Mile Run corridor.” [InsideNova]
Masks Required at County Courthouse — “Beginning May 22, 2020, cloth facial coverings will be available for all people who do not have one as they enter the Arlington County Courthouse, Sheriff Beth Arthur announced. This comes after the Honorable Judge Newman, Arlington County Chief Judge, ordered that all patrons who enter the Courthouse will be required to wear a cloth face covering or face mask.” [Arlington County]
Chamber Supports Extra Outdoor Dining Space — “Allowing restaurants to use parking lots and street parking spaces for additional outdoor capacity, similar to how they have been allowed to reserve parking space for carryout patrons, will provide additional flexibility for socially distanced service. We also encourage the County to consider block closures where restaurants may set up tables on a pedestrianized right of way to expand overall capacity.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Pair in Stolen SUV Crash into Parked Cars — “The victim’s Ford F-150 was parked when he observed the unknown suspect enter it and and drive away. An officer en route to the call for service observed the F-150 and a Toyota Land Cruiser in the area travelling at high rates of speed. The officer attempted to effect a traffic stop on the F-150, however, it the driver refused to stop and fled onto I-395 NB. The Land Cruiser, which had previously been reported stolen out of Arlington, was later located, unoccupied, after it crashed into multiple parked vehicles.” [Arlington County]
Fund Established for Gutshall’s Kids — “A memorial fund to support the education of the late County Board member Erik Gutshall’s children has been established… The fund was established by a ‘generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous.'” [InsideNova]
Nearby: Fairfax Parks Reopening — “The Park Authority has begun reopening of parking lots and parks in the park system to be open for the Memorial Day weekend. Park Authority staff will begin the process of clearing barricades and opening parking lots at all 427 parks for our community on Wednesday, May 20 through Friday, May 22. These parks will reopen for limited use in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines.” [Fairfax County]
Meridian Pint Closes Temporarily — “I regret to inform you that one of our employees has contracted COVID-19. He was hospitalized and tested positive on Sunday, April 19th after not working in the restaurant for 9 days. In an effort to keep the rest of our staff healthy, as well as ensure the safety of our guests, we have decided to shut down until further notice.” [Facebook via @fritzhahn]
DCA Is a Ghost Town — A series of photos of emptiness at Reagan National Airport can make one envision tumbleweeds blowing through the terminals. [PoPville]
Beyer Critical of Administration’s Supply Chain Management — “A group of House Democrats today raised serious issues with the Trump Administration’s handling of the supply chain for COVID-19 response, and sought improved transparency and federal coordination to mitigate the inadequate, harmful, and dysfunctional engagement.” [Press Release]
Arlington Chamber Holds Volunteer Day — “Local volunteers from various Chamber member businesses and organizations lent a helping hand to area nonprofits as part of the 21st Annual Arlington Chamber Volunteer Day… The projects provided were in accordance with the CDC guidelines to ensure that participants were practicing social distancing.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
No Word Yet on APS Graduation — “Will members of Arlington Public Schools’ Class of 2020 have an in-person send-off to celebrate their achievements? That remains an open question. Bridget Loft, the school system’s assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, on April 16 said the school system was looking for ‘creative ways’ to celebrate graduation – and neither ruled in nor ruled out some sort of communal send-off ceremony.” [InsideNova]