Business Group Touts Hometown Innovation, Inventor Alexander Graham Bell

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At-large council member Vincent Orange with Marina and Emilio Alonso-Mendoza, AG Bell CEO. | Robert Devaney
It isn’t every day that you get to walk in the building and in the yard of a great inventor, especially when you happen to be in Georgetown.

The Georgetown Business Association held its monthly reception at Alexander Graham Bell’s Volta Bureau on 35th Street to talk up innovation in Washington, D.C., past and present. Most Georgetowners, much less Washingtonians, have never come to the AG Bell headquarters, but all use Bell’s most famous invention, the telephone.

The nonprofit, also known as the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, aims to change that. It welcomed guests to the yellow building at 35th Street and Volta Place, built in 1893, and explained that it is celebrating 125 years of Bell’s laboratory and legacy in Georgetown. Across Volta Place stands Bell’s original laboratory and the home of the inventor’s father, Alexander Melville Bell.

GBA President Sonya Bernhardt touted Georgetown’s innovation credo — take Herman Hollerith, for example, who located his Tabulating Machine Company in what is now the Canal Square Building on 31st Street, next to the C&O Canal. The company merged with others to become International Business Machines, IBM. You could say that the computer was invented here — at least part of it.

Tech firms, such as Palantir Technologies and EverFi, thrive in D.C.’s oldest neighborhood. Add to that initiatives like StartupHoyas at Georgetown University and S&R Foundation’s Halcyon Incubator. Bernhardt also mentioned that the D.C. government is calling this month, innoMAYtion, a program that provided resources to 500 disadvantaged small businesses, and welcomed at-large council member Vincent Orange.

There are anniversaries coming up, guests learned.

The GBA will celebrate 40 years as Georgetown’s biggest business advocate at the Rosewood Hotel, June 15, and salute one of its founders, Rick Hindin, who also began the legendary clothing store

To celebrate Bell and AG Bell’s 125th anniversary, a gala will be held Sept. 29 at the National Geographic Society. One of the awardees at the gala will be Gilbert Grosvenor, who retired as chairman of the society in 2011.

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