The Glossary in Reston Town Center (Photo by Hollee Ho)

The Glossary Nail Spa is opening a second location in Reston.

Owner Hollee Ho tells Reston Now that she plans to open a new salon in North Point Village Center in February 2022.

Ho, a Fairfax County resident, has operated more than 20 salons over the course of her career. She now owns five salons, excluding the future location in North Point Village Center.

The spa will be located at 1458 North Point Village Center, space formerly occupied by Ellada Studio, a beauty spa and studio. A sign permit was processed by the county in late August.

She hopes to “capture the clients of Reston and Great Falls by providing them a very spacious salon and easy parking.” The new location is roughly 3,200 square feet.

The Reston Town Center location opened in 2019. Ho says that location will remain open for the foreseeable future.

Several salons and studio have come and gone in the last few years at North Point Village Center, including Ellada Studio.

The sushi joint Matsutake Sushi is expected to fill the vacancy left two years ago by Boston Market in November.

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SpringPark Technology Center (via Google Maps)

A block of office buildings in Herndon previously known as the Spring Park Technology Center is getting rebranded as “Marker 20” as part of a revitalization that will emphasize the development’s proximity to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

Pedestrians already cut through bushes along the perimeter of the business complex at 450-485 Springpark Place to access the trail, so property owner Penzance is looking to formalize that connection with the new name.

During its public hearing at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday), the Town of Herndon’s Architectural Review Board will consider applications for building and site renovations as well as new signage to replace the Spring Park branding still posted at the front entrance of the complex.

“Penzance has been planning a rebranding to revitalize the park and enhance its connection to the W&OD Trail,” the developer says in a presentatation for the board. “The plan encompasses enhancement to four of the seven buildings, owned by Penzance, utilizing similar materials and levels of finish to create and maintain uniformity across the park.”

Penzance bought the Spring Park Technology Center for $71.5 million in September 2019 under the name Springpark Place LLC.

With the Herndon Planning Commission’s approval, the developer divided the property into eight separate parcels for potential sales last year. The parcel at 460 Springpark Place was sold to LDI Propco 2 LLC for $20.4 million in February, according to a Fairfax County property database.

According to the website and a video for the project, Penzance’s plans for Marker 20 include a 9,000 square-foot amenity center in 485 Springpark Place with a tenant lounge, conference facilities, a fitness center, bicycle lockers, and an outdoor patio.

To serve tenants and W&OD Trail users, the developer is seeking a brewery, distillery, or restaurant to occupy Suite 100 — a 18,688 square-foot space — in 450 Springpark Place, according to a site plan brochure.

Proposed outdoor amenities include a bicycle lane that connects to the W&OD Trail, a bicycle repair station, a hammock grove, a linear park with fitness stations, a bocce court, a golf putting green, and additional seating and landscaping.

With the applications submitted to the Town of Herndon, Penzance is seeking to add synthetic wood patios or decks and a garage door with a metal awning at Building 450 as well as a bi-folding door, a new floor-to-ceiling glass storefront, and a common area with a fire pit at Building 485, among other changes.

Town staff has recommended that the architectural review board approve the upgrades and new signage after previously raising concerns.

In an Aug. 4 staff report, town staff withheld its stance on the signage rebranding, citing a need for additional information.

Currently, signage at the business park is “indirectly lit” with ground-mounted spotlights, but proposed internal illumination of the new Marker 20 logo is something usually associated with shopping centers and other commercial uses along business corridors, according to the town.

Staff also recommended indirect illumination or a halo effect to reduce lighting impacts on the single-family townhouse development located on the other side of Spring Street.

Penzance’s revised application now calls for signage that satisfies town requirements, where the Marker 20 logo would be in metal letters highlighted by halo-lot light-emitting diodes, according to a memo that Herndon Deputy Director of Community Development Bryce Perry sent the board on Aug. 12.

“The applicant has submitted new information and revised drawings that address the issues raised by staff in the report,” Perry said in the memo. “A site plan was submitted that confirms all sign placement comply with the applicable zoning ordinance regulations.”

Signs for tenants currently at the business park include Windstream, Mark Construction Group, Acuity Brands Lighting, and Wärtsilä.

The architectural board is returning to in-person meetings after meeting online for the pandemic. It held an in-person work session on Aug. 4, but this will be the board’s first in-person public hearing since February 2020.

Photo via Google Maps

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Similarweb attends the Web Summit 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal (via Web Summit/Flickr)

The online metrics firm Similarweb is expanding into Reston.

The company, which has its global headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, announced yesterday (Monday) that it is opening an office at the coworking site Spaces that launched in Reston Station (1900 Reston Metro Plaza) in December 2018.

Similarweb is adding around 10 employees and expects to keep hiring more here.

“Our office in Reston, VA is now open,” the company said on Twitter. “A big welcome to our amazing team members who will collaborate there.”

Despite the announcement, the office is scheduled to open Sept. 1, the company said in a statement to Reston Now.

Similarweb provides marketing and research data to businesses looking to measure the effectiveness of their websites and other digital platforms.

With economic development leaders seeking to make sure companies have the talent they need in the area, Similarweb’s hiring between local candidates and those outside the area will serve as yet another example for whether an employee pipeline is meeting needs.

The Reston office is the company’s fourth in the U.S. and its first opening since going public earlier this year. Donna Dror, Similarweb’s general manager for North America, says the technology industry’s growing presence in Reston made it an attractive location for expansion.

“We see the Dulles Tech Corridor as a great opportunity to bring in new talent, especially for our Marketing and Sales teams,” Dror said in the statement. “We’re excited to join the many great companies already based in Reston and surrounding areas.”

Dror told Technical.ly that the company has 200 open positions that are remote, and half of those will be based in the U.S. She said the company is still reviewing its return-to-work strategy and would like to see at least 25 roles filled locally, but the openings aren’t tied to the Reston area specifically.

“We are actively hiring and planning to add a number of new employees before the end of the year and beyond,” she told Reston Now. “In the U.S. alone, we have nearly 100 open roles today, and we hope that many of those can be based in Reston.”

The new office will be home for the company’s chief marketing officer, Kevin Spurway, along with other employees in the sales and marketing departments.

Similarweb launched its initial public offering in May and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Its clients have included DHL, Lego, and Lending Tree.

Photo via Web Summit/Flickr

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McCormick & Schmick’s in Reston Town Center closes (staff photo by David Taube)

(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) The seafood and steak chain McCormick & Schmick’s in Reston Town Center has closed.

Notices are posted on locked doors, its logo on the front facade has been removed, and the first floor of the building at 11920 Democracy Drive has been approved for interior demolition, according to a permit issued July 29.

“We are grateful for the support of the community,” signs on the restaurant say.

The news was first reported Thursday (Aug. 5) by The Burn, which noted that the restaurant had occupied that space for over 20 years.

A company phone number on McCormick & Schmick’s Facebook page leads to the chain’s Indianapolis location, and an employee there said the Reston location closed about a week ago. The Reston phone number is no longer working.

A customer who noticed the signs when passing by on Friday (Aug. 6) fondly recalled the restaurant’s deals with happy hours and $1 oyster specials.

The chain has nearby locations in Arlington’s Crystal City neighborhood (2010 Crystal Drive), D.C. (1652 K Street NW), and National Harbor, Maryland (145 National Plaza).

A media line for the Houston-based hospitality and entertainment company Landry’s, which owns McCormick & Schmick’s, didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

Landry’s also owns another steakhouse chain — Morton’s — that’s still operating nearby at 11956 Market Street in Reston Town Center.

Media representatives for Reston Town Center did not return messages seeking comment by press time.

This is the latest Reston Town Center restaurant to shutter during the COVID-19 pandemic, following Famous Toastery, Le Pain Quotidien, and Big Bowl, which had been there for nearly two decades when it closed in April 2020.

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(Updated 12:20 p.m.) A new restaurant and day spa are opening nearby the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station around the holiday season.

Eve’s Garden Lounge & Bar and Emiline’s Day Spa are opening next to each other at the new Faraday Park development at 1831 Michael Faraday Drive, about a 10-minute walk from the Metro station. Both businesses are from the same ownership group, which also own Alo Vietnam in Herndon.

The businesses will open sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, co-owner Don Lee confirmed to Reston Now. They will occupy two 1,746 square-foot spaces — about 3,600 square feet in total — and operate next to each other.

“We were supposed to have construction late last year, but that was delayed because of COVID. So, we just started construction,” Lee said in June.

The day spa will offer services for both men and women like pedicures, facial treatments, hair salon, and massages.

The restaurant has yet to reveal its menu, but Lee says it will be similar to Herndon’s Alo Vietnam, which offers modernized Vietnamese fare like pho, banh mi, and rice vermicelli. The difference, Lee says, is that Eva’s will be “more Asian fusion and focus more on presentation and will be higher end.”

Lee told Reston Now in June that the ownership group’s ultimate goal is to have a business located within walking distance of all the Silver Line stations, extending out to Dulles Airport.

Alo Vietnam opened within a five-minute walk of the future Innovation Center Metro station in late 2019 in anticipation of Silver Line Phase 2’s opening. Of course, the line has yet to open, leaving businesses like Alo Vietnam in the lurch.

Lee hoped that, by being near a Metro station, the business would be buoyed by commuters, office workers, and tourists.

“We did invest in 2019…thinking that we will carry the load the first year until the Metro opens,” Lee said in June. “Then, we will have a good location with a lot of foot traffic with tourists and from all the businesses around.”

But between the long-delayed $2.8 billion public transportation project and the pandemic, that dream has yet to be realized for Lee and Alo Vietnam. Now, Silver Line Phase 2 is looking like it may not open until mid-2022.

When Eva’s Garden Lounge & Bar and Emiline’s Day Spa opens in Reston by the end of the year, they will be the first of Lee’s businesses to be open near a currently operating Metro station.

The businesses are two of four confirmed retailers coming to Faraday Park, which opened one residential tower for move-ins in April with a second tower expected to be completed in the next few months. The gym F45 and the salon A+ Nails are the others.

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The Center for Innovative Technology office building in Herndon (via Loudoun County Department of Economic Development)

A venture capital fund that invested millions of dollars in a startup later hit with a federal fraud investigation and bankruptcy is suing the Herndon-based business accelerator Center for Innovative Technology.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed with the Fairfax County Circuit Court on May 10, Savano Capital Partners III — a fund tied to a Baltimore-based investment firm — paid CIT nearly $4.5 million in 2020 to invest in a fraud prevention technology company called NS8.

“On paper, it appeared to be earning millions in customer revenue and to have tens of millions of dollars of assets on hand,” the civil complaint said, adding that “the fraud described above occurred under Innovative’s ownership of NS8.”

Savano Capital entered into its financial agreement with CIT on March 20, 2020. At the same time, the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating NS8 for fraud, issuing subpoenas to the company and its CEO in November 2019 and March 2020.

The SEC charged former NS8 CEO Adam Rogas with defrauding investors on Sept. 17, 2020, alleging that he had raised approximately $123 million from investors — at least $17.5 million of which he pocketed himself — by falsely claiming millions in revenue in 2019 and 2020.

NS8 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October before being acquired by the software company Avolin this past February. Criminal and civil cases against Rogas are still going through federal court, with the civil case halted while the criminal case unfolds.

Prosecutors allege Rogas’ actions “led to the illusion that NS8 had over $62 million in [revenue] when, in fact, it had just over $28,000” by June 2020.

In its legal complaint, Savano says it made the deal with CIT without knowing NS8 “was virtually worthless and was in the midst of a massive accounting fraud and SEC investigation.”

According to the complaint, the investment fund valued its NS8 stake at over $4.4 million as part of a tech companies portfolio with CIT. The plaintiff is seeking to rescind the contract, arguing that the business accelerator benefited from the windfall of worthless stock, attorney Jason Ohana said at a hearing on Friday (July 23).

CIT, which facilitated funding for NS8 and previously cited it as a success story, called the lawsuit meritless and asked for a dismissal with prejudice to avoid a trial. Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Mann denied the request.

During the hearing, Jack McCann, an attorney for CIT, argued that Savano’s investment purchase was a “unilateral mistake” by the plaintiff, because the nonprofit never detailed the underlying value of the companies.

He compared the situation to an “as is” used car sale in which a buyer could inspect the vehicle and review maintenance reports but would be responsible if they realized the next day that they had purchased a hunk of junk.

“I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but the used-car analogy was not well done,” Mann said during the virtual hearing. “It’s a completely different set of circumstances than an ‘as is’ sale.”

He also cited a 1993 Supreme Court of Virginia decision on the right to a jury trial.

Founded in 2016, NS8 was once located in Arlington, but its headquarters were moved to Las Vegas. Rogas resigned on Sept. 1, 2020, according to a legal filing.

In its lawsuit, the SEC said Rogas at one point provided false bank statements to an investors’ consultant who found line items that didn’t correctly add up. The executive allegedly re-doctored information after being questioned.

The SEC also alleged Rogas sent falsified monthly bank statements to NS8’s finance department. In January and February 2020, NS8 claimed $38 million and $42 million in revenue, respectively, on financial statements when in reality, it brought in around $39,000 and $45,000, according to the SEC complaint.

An attorney for Rogas declined to comment. Filings on his behalf refer to the charges as allegations.

Amid the SEC investigation, Virginia sold CIT’s Herndon office complex to a private real estate developer and capital investment firm. Gov. Ralph Northam said proceeds from the $47 million sale would go to the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority, which the General Assembly created last year.

Photo via Loudon County Department of Economic Development

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Shopping cart left in parking lot (via David Clarke/Unsplash)

Abandoned shopping carts can create problems and even be left in streams, but a new state law seems to provide little help, Fairfax County supervisors say.

During a land use policy committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the Board of Supervisors reexamined a Virginia law intended to discourage people from taking shopping carts away from businesses, worrying that introducing a local ordinance might just add an exhaustive and ineffective process.

“What we’re asking of our investigators is extraordinarily time-consuming and fruitless,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said of the draft abandoned shopping cart ordinance.

A leading concern is that adding an ordinance may take up time and put an unnecessary administrative burden on county staff, who could, for example, document the same incident twice since the state law dictates that a cart’s owner get a 15-day notification period before it can be removed.

Currently, if a cart is blocking a road or a group is cleaning up a stream, there is no restriction on removing it.

The Virginia General Assembly passed a law in 2020 to allow counties to pass legislation to:

  • Fine people with a civil penalty up to $500 for removing shopping carts from stores’ premises and parking lots
  • Make stores liable for returning or disposing of abandoned carts, including paying up to $300 per cart that the county removes

The land use policy committee discussed the issue in December, though staff advised against adopting an ordinance and board members were skeptical. During the meeting, Chairman Jeff McKay voiced opposition to fining people trying to get groceries home.

The draft ordinance that the county presented on Tuesday only referenced fines for businesses — not individuals.

Even before the 2020 state law, the Commonwealth made removing shopping carts from store premises and parking lots a misdemeanor, with the potential for a fine up to $500.

“My problem with this is…it provides absolutely no incentive for people to stop stealing carts,” said Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who also wondered if certain areas or customers might be disproportionately affected. “This is kind of outside the businesses’ control.”

Photo via David Clarke/Unsplash

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A new Herndon family-owned Pakistani breakfast restaurant may be the only one of its kind in Virginia and, perhaps, even the country, according to its co-owner.

Desi Breakfast Club on 3065 Centreville Road might just be the only diner that serves exclusively Pakistani breakfast all day, says co-owner Malik Waleed Ahmad.

“I have customers who come in, and they’re like ‘we go to Dubai and the Middle East and there’s breakfast places, but we’ve been looking here and there’s nothing,'” said Ahmad, who owns the restaurant with his father Zaheer Ahmed and brother Fahad Qadeer.

The family opened Desi Breakfast Club (in Udru, “Desi” means “of local origin”) in early June as a solution to their own breakfast-searching woes.

They also own Charcoal Chicken in Chantilly. After closing late at night, they often would go in search of breakfast, and there would only be one option: the IHOP next door.

“We saw the demand for a Pakistani restaurant to do breakfast,” Ahmad said. “And on weekends, brunch.”

They sensed a particularly acute need for this specific niche to be filled in the Town of Herndon, which has a population that’s about 18.5% Asian, as of 2019, with a growing number of residents from the South Asian subcontinent.

“Indian, Pakistani, Nepali, Bangladeshi…our politics, our cultures, they all may divide us,” Ahmad said. “But food is one thing that unites us all. And we all eat the same food.”

He says because word has been getting around the local community, the restaurant is constantly crowded on weekends with people traveling from across the region to eat there.

In fact, Desi Breakfast Club is currently reservations-only on Saturdays and Sundays.

The menu consists of a mix of stews, flaky breads, samosas, fritters, eggs, and sweets like halwah (a sesame candy).

“The star of the show is Halwah Puri,” Ahmad said, referring to a dish that consists of fry bread, halwah, spiced potatoes, and chickpeas. “It’s the most popular dish. It outsells everything else by a hundred percent.”

All the recipes are ones his father brought from Pakistan when the whole family moved to Herndon 18 years ago. Cooking was always his father’s “hobby,” but, in 2010, he told his family he wanted to open a restaurant. That’s when Charcoal Chicken was born.

“In the beginning, when we first came to America, the restaurant was a means to an end,” Ahmad said. “But it’s a dream come true…We are building something.”

Ahmad, now 28, has lived in Herndon for nearly two decades. He says he grew up eating all of the dishes being served at Desi Breakfast Club, something that he likely has in common with others.

“Back home, every mom [and dad] makes the best food,” he said. “These are my family’s recipes, but I’m sure there are other people who eat this exact same food. They just make it a little differently in their home.”

Every Monday, the restaurant is closed so the family can mix spices and prepare food together. His father helps his brother prepare and manage the kitchen, while Ahmad works in front of the house, interacting with customers.

“It’s rewarding…I get to meet new people every single day. I get to feed people and just see happy faces,” he said. “I even put in 12, 13 hours daily, but I don’t get tired.”

Ahmad tells Reston Now that he encourages everyone to come by, regardless of whether they’ve tried Pakistani breakfast food before, so he can share a little piece of who he is with others.

“When you come eat with us, it’s like you’re eating at home. Our home,” Ahmad said. “I’m happy that all the food that I ate growing up and enjoyed, I get to share with everyone and my community.”

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The Fairfax County seal adorned on the Fairfax County Government Center (via Machvee/Flickr)

Fairfax County will conduct a “comprehensive review” of the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At today’s (July 13) Board of Supervisors meeting, Chairman Jeff McKay proposed as a board matter to have County Executive Bryan Hill review how county agencies responded to the challenges of the pandemic, how operations were affected, and how operational changes impacted the community.

The review will take place in two parts. The board directed staff to deliver a report with conclusions, recommendations, and areas of improvement in February 2022, and a follow-up is anticipated since the pandemic is still ongoing.

The motion passed unanimously.

“We did an amazing job [dealing with the pandemic],” McKay said, but he acknowledged that a review is needed since “there’s much to be learned about the county’s response and how we can improve upon that for the future.”

McKay also noted that a review is already essentially under way, but this formalizes the process and sets a deadline on it.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn agreed with the effort and asked the county executive not to pull any punches.

“I ask the county executive not to shy away from identifying challenges…[particularly] those in the labor market that were attributed to the pandemic and what happened after,” Alcorn said.

As noted in McKay’s comments, more than 75% of Fairfax Health District residents 18 years or older have received at least one vaccine shot. That’s above both national and state averages.

However, the county continues to face some challenges in convincing those who are still hesitant to get vaccinated.

When it comes to addressing COVID-19’s economic impact, the county has provided assistance with rent, food, and other basic needs to more than 10,000 households and helped get permanent housing for 400 individuals who were experiencing homelessness when the pandemic began, according to McKay’s board matter.

The county has also distributed more than $52 million in small business relief funding through the RISE program and is offering $25 million in their PIVOT program.

While half of the RISE grants went to minority-owned businesses, those particular businesses still suffered “acutely” during the pandemic. What’s more, the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce recently called out the county for their belief that they were neglected in the development of some of the grant programs.

McKay said that getting a comprehensive report on Fairfax County’s COVID-19 response will help the county government “ensure we maintain the level of service and functionality our community expects” in any future large-scale crisis or emergency.

via Machvee/Flickr

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Morning Notes

A band performs at Lake Anne Plaza’s 2021 Roots Music Festival (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Herndon Elementary to Host Vaccine Clinic Today — The Fairfax County Health Department will provide COVID-19 vaccinations at Herndon Elementary School from 3:30-7 p.m. today (Monday), as the county urges adolescents to get vaccinated in time for the upcoming school year. Appointments can be made for individuals 12 and older through the Vaccine Administration Management System. [FCHD]

Thomas Jefferson HS PTSA Put on Probation — The Virginia Parent Teacher Association has reinstated the president of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s Parent Teacher Student Association after she was ousted by opponents of admissions changes at the magnet school. The organization stopped short of revoking the PTSA’s charter in response to parents’ complaints about its leadership. [WTOP]

Virginia Will Support Small Businesses with Relief Funds — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wants to use $353 million of the $4.3 billion in American Rescue Plan funds available to the state to help small businesses and industries hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic…The General Assembly will oversee the allocation of the funds during a special session.” [Patch]

How Reston Residents Can Help Pollinators — Walker Nature Center manager Katie Shaw explains how bees and other pollinators support local ecosystems by fertilizing plants, but their populations are declining due to habitat loss, pesticides, climate change, and invasive species. Reston property owners can host bee hives if they get approval from Reston Association. [RA/YouTube]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Bob Simon statue through LOVE sign at Lake Anne Plaza (via vantagehill/Flickr)

PIVOT Grant Application Deadline Today — This is the last day for hotels, restaurants, and other local businesses affected by the pandemic to apply for COVID-19 relief funding from Fairfax County’s PIVOT grant program. The application portal will close at 11:59 p.m. [Fairfax County Government]

Pfizer Seeks Approval for COVID-19 Vaccine Booster — Pfizer will request authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, which it says could boost immunity and help ward off variants if delivered within 12 months. Research suggests the Pfizer shot and other widely used COVID-19 vaccines offer strong protection against the highly contagious delta variant. [Associated Press/WTOP]

Expansion Proposed for Dulles Airport — The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is seeking environmental approval from Virginia to potentially build a new three-story, 535,000 square-foot concourse at Dulles International Airport to support United Airlines. The planned facilities would revamp a “temporary” hub that has been in use since the mid-1980s, but cost is a concern. [Airline Weekly]

Friday Night Live! Returns Tonight — After an unexpected cancellation last week, the Herndon summer concert series will kick off at 6:30 p.m. with Turtle Recall, a band made up of South Lakes High School alumni. Food vendors for this season include Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern, Dominos, and Egg Karne, and FNL has partnered with the local breweries Aslin and Mustang Sally Brewing. [Herndon Rocks]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Closed sign (Photo via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash)
Closed sign (via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash)

A new report shows that minority-owned businesses in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia as a region suffered more acutely due to the COVID-19 pandemic than businesses owned by their white counterparts.

The Community Foundation of Northern Virginia released a report in late June detailing findings and recommendations from their minority-owned business working group.

They found that at the end of 2019, there were 128,000 minority-owned businesses in Northern Virginia, which encompasses five counties, including Fairfax. That’s approximately 42% of all establishments in the region, well above the national average of 29%.

Of the 128,000 minority-owned businesses in Northern Virginia, about 55,000 are in Fairfax County, according to statistics provided by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (EDA).

More than 8,000 non-farm businesses with paid employees in the county are owned by people of color, representing about a third of all such businesses in the county.

“It’s turned out to be one of our winning hands,” says EDA’s CEO and President Victor Hoskins about the number and contributions of minority-owned businesses in the county. “It’s something grown up here over time…just part of the DNA of not just Fairfax, but Northern Virginia.”

While the number of minority-owned businesses remained essentially flat throughout 2020, revenue and staffing at those businesses has decreased dramatically, while unemployment insurance claims have gone up.

According to the report, minority-owned businesses are more likely to be smaller in size, concentrated in high-risk industries such as accommodation and food service, and face more difficulties in securing capital. Due to these factors, minority-owned businesses are more likely to have “poor or fair” financial health.

Consistent with the rest of the region, Fairfax County minority-owned businesses have also suffered more acutely due to the pandemic. Because these businesses tend to be smaller in size, they simply have had less ability to overcome the economic hardships brought by the pandemic.

“Smaller businesses were disproportionately impacted by not having the financial wherewithal to weather the storm that this pandemic caused,” said Stephen Tarditi, EDA’s director of marketing intelligence. “They tend to be concentrated in industries more adversely…impacted by the pandemic.”

The report offered a number of recommendations for ways to better support these businesses, including better tracking of data and information to understand more specifically which businesses need help and when.

It also notes that more financial help is needed, including with grant funding and better strategies to improve access to capital for these businesses.

Officials agree with the report that more can be done. For example, specific data, like numbers related to revenue and number of paid staff, can drive policy, but there’s often a lack of up-to-date information.

“I was just surprised at how little…or regularly updated data that we have on hand to make these decisions,” Tarditi said. “I’m having a tough time knowing what the pandemic’s impact has been on our minority business community. This data drives the decisions and drives the strategy, which is extremely important, especially in this past year.”

EDA officials say the plan going forward is to disseminate more surveys more often with better outreach to be able to compile more and better data.

Last year, Fairfax County distributed more than $52 million in relief funding to small businesses through its RISE program, about half of which went to minority-owned businesses.

“We actually designed the RISE program to target a portion of small and minority-owned businesses,” says Hoskins. “I think the target was 30%, but we ended up [with] 72% [going to] women, veteran, or minority-owned businesses.”

The county is currently accepting applications for its new PIVOT program, but that doesn’t have any provisions directly dedicating a certain portion of funds to minority-owned businesses.

The Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce told Reston Now last month that they’ve felt neglected in the development of some of Fairfax County’s major business grant programs.

When asked about this, Hoskins said the EDA works with the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce all the time and are located in the same building. Beyond that, he wasn’t familiar with the details of their comments or complaints.

Photo via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

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Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce logo (courtesy Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce)

The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce will host a panel tomorrow morning (Wednesday) to help employers help navigate questions about whether they can require COVID-19 vaccinations as more workers return to offices.

Co-sponsored by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and the accounting firm Miller Musmar, the hour-long discussion will be lead by attorney Maureen E. Carr, a shareholder of the law firm Bean, Kinney & Korman. She specializes in employment law and commercial litigation.

According to the event description, Carr will go over the legal rules and implications of businesses requiring their employees to get vaccinated:

Attendees will learn:

  • How to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (?ADA?), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (?Title VII?), and other federal, state, and local employment laws.
  • The latest Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) COVID-19 guidance to address vaccination issues.
  • Potential legal consequences of requiring employees to be vaccinated.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new guidance on May 28 stating that federal laws do not prevent employers from requiring all employees to be vaccinated in order to enter a physical workplace.

“In some circumstances, Title VII and the ADA require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who, because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, do not get vaccinated for COVID-19, unless providing an accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business,” the guidance said.

The Washington Business Journal reported yesterday (Monday) that a survey conducted in February by an employment law firm found that less than 1% of responding employers were requiring vaccinations, with another 6% saying they planned to implement a mandate in the future.

However, there are some signs that businesses could be warming up to the idea, particularly after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by workers over a Texas hospital’s vaccination requirement.

“Employment law attorneys say more businesses are now seriously considering vaccine mandates than they were three months ago,” the WBJ said. “They anticipate the number of employers implementing a mandate will climb in the months to come, with health care providers likely to lead the way.”

The Reston Chamber event will take place from 8:30-9:30 a.m. tomorrow. Registration is required by 8 a.m. the day of the talk to receive the Zoom link. Chamber members can participate for free, while non-members pay a $15 fee.

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A customer uses a handheld credit card reader (via Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash)

Fairfax County is slated to send additional funding to businesses that suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a Black nonprofit says more can be done.

The Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce has repeatedly been neglected in the development of major business grant programs connected to Fairfax County, the nonprofit’s executive director Sheila Dixon says.

“I would have thought we would have had the opportunity to be at the table,” she said.

The county says it’s committed to working with more than 55 chambers, including minority chambers, multicultural groups, and other community and business support groups in multiple languages with its most recent financial assistance initiative.

A working group of local minority business owners is also trying to make changes and build bridges. A webinar co-hosted by the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia on June 23 seeks to address the needs of minority-owned businesses and how they can be helped.

The group has reached some conclusions and recommendations about equitable recovery across the region and is sharing data, according to the event description. Georgetown University adjunct professor Melissa Bradley, who also co-founded a business mentoring service called Ureeka, is the keynote speaker.

The county has noted these kinds of inequities. A consultant report for the county completed in January detailed how low-income and minority households faced greater difficulties in the workforce, along with women, who have been held back by affordable child care challenges.

Those findings came from working with businesses and a roundtable of minority chambers. The Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce was invited to give input and was also asked to participate in a survey about impacts and recovery, according to the county.

Fairfax County’s Relief Initiative to Support Employers (RISE) program, which gave grants to small businesses and nonprofits, dedicated at least 30% of funding to businesses owned by women, minorities, or veterans. Those businesses ended up with 72% of the approximately $53 million of RISE funding, according to the county.

“We are building on and expanding those efforts,” county spokesperson Wendy Lemieux said in an email, adding that the county is committed to extensive outreach with businesses, particularly ones owned by women and people of color affected by the pandemic.

Unlike the RISE program, the county’s new PIVOT grant program didn’t include any provisions explicitly dedicating funds to often marginalized groups when the Board of Supervisors passed it last week.

Meanwhile, the Black chamber of commerce has shared the PIVOT grant information, but it’s also continuing its own initiatives to help businesses recover from the economic effects of COVID-19.

The organization recently launched an outreach called BTRNow (Build Thriving Returns Now) that provided an online workshop for kid entrepreneurs this spring, held a “Caring through COVID” panel discussion on Monday (June 14), and is currently carrying out a listening tour, among other programming.

Dixon says a lot of the chamber’s members have pivoted amid the pandemic and have been thriving.

But she also noted that there can be disparities, and various Black businesses might be reluctant to apply for resources if they’re skeptical that the support will materialize, even if race is considered as a factor in applications.

“It will be interesting to see if people feel more comfortable,” Dixon said. “We are building up and scaling up our businesses and providing them with the education and the resources that are available within the community.”

Photo via Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

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A “We’re open” sign in a business window (via Clay Banks on Unsplash)

Arts organizations, museums, and hotels are some of the key targets for Fairfax County’s new initiative to get money to those in need, and informational sessions are providing help.

Approved by the county board last week, the PIVOT program will provide financial grants to small businesses as well as other recipients, and webinars about the effort will begin at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) in English and at 2 p.m. Thursday (June 17) in Spanish.

Links to the webinars can be found on the Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives website.

“Fairfax County is committed to helping businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic,” Board of Supervisor Chairman Jeff McKay said in a news release. “Through the PIVOT grant we will help those businesses who saw the greatest financial impact regain their momentum so they will be able to thrive in the reopening marketplace.”

Federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act is supporting the program with $25 million to the county.

Applications can be submitted online through a grant portal that will be open from June 23 to July 9. The money is being administered through the nonprofit Latino Economic Development Center, said Rebecca Moudry, director of Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives.

The areas targeted will give relief to food services, lodging, retail, services, amusements, arts organizations, museums, and historical sites.

Potential monetary awards for individual businesses and nonprofits include the following:

  • $18,000 for restaurants with less than $3.5 million in annual receipts or gross revenue per establishment
  • $12,000 for retail, services, and amusements with less than $3.5 million in annual receipts or gross revenue per establishment
  • $10,000 for large arts organizations, museums, and historical sites with annual receipts or gross revenue greater than $100,000
  • $5,000 for smaller arts organizations
  • $1,500 for food trucks that don’t belong to a restaurant
  • $400 per room to hotels with a minimum of 10 rooms

The money will go to businesses that have no more than 500 employees, among other criteria. Nonprofits don’t have an eligibility restriction regarding the number of workers they have.

The new outreach comes after the county ended its Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers (RISE) program last year, distributing around $53 million, one of several financial outreaches by the county.

The PIVOT grants will go to hotels first, then to other organizations if demand is too great. The county could also add to the funding in the future.

Photo via Clay Banks on Unsplash

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