The parts of District government that Georgetowners interact with most often are public safety and utilities. But the District’s Department of Small and Local Business Development is working to change that.
“I used to think Georgetown’s small businesses didn’t need our help,” said Ana Recio Harvey, the department’s director, appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser in 2015. “But after meetings the past year with small business owners about their many challenges, even on Wisconsin Avenue, Georgetown’s District councilman Jack Evans was able to successfully allocate funds for a DSLBD Main Street project dedicated to Georgetown.”
Competitive proposals for projects, and to develop an infrastructure to manage them and carry out crucial project fundraising, are due to the DSLBD on Friday, Aug. 4 at 2 p.m.
The Main Streets program is one of almost two dozen services and programs that the DSLBD oversees and, in some cases, manages. Its stated vision is to “provide a range of services to meet the needs of both start-up and existing businesses in the District. The mission is to support the development, economic growth, and retention of District-based businesses, and to promote economic development throughout the District’s commercial corridors.”
DSLBD services are broad ranged and individualized. They include one-on-one counseling, workshops and seminars for both entrepreneurs and small business owners. The department helps with securing government contracts and assures project and agency compliance.
Main Streets comes under the department’s Neighborhood Revitalization division, which supports designated nonprofit organizations working to revitalize specific retail districts. “The individual boards must comprise equal representation from three groups: business owners, community people and building owners,” according to Martin Smith, director of the oldest Main Street program in D.C., Barracks Row.
“Main Street projects have absolutely transformed H Street, Shaw and Barracks Row commercial districts. We’re looking forward to what Georgetown Main Street will do.”
— Ana Harvey
Projects must fall within a four-prong approach: commercial revitalization; promotion (i.e., branding campaigns and special events); design and streetscape projects, including those improving the appearance of business storefronts and interiors; and economic vitality projects to help businesses with retention, recruitment and expansion.
“Main Street projects have absolutely transformed H Street, Shaw and Barracks Row commercial districts,” said Harvey enthusiastically. “We’re very excited for the prospects of the newest one, Eastern Market, and looking forward to what Georgetown Main Street will do.” In 2016, according to the DSLBD, DC Main Streets created 1,018 jobs, served 70 net new businesses and completed 55 rehabilitation projects and five public improvement projects.
“A small business can have as few as one owner-employee up to around 100,” said Harvey, who knows personally how tough it can be to be a small business owner. Born and raised in Mexico City, she came to the U.S. as a foreign student and later started a single-owner Spanish-English translation business, Syntaxis LLC. It grew to be a fullservice multi-lingual communications firm, translating in 25 languages.
In 2009, Harvey was appointed by President Obama as the Small Business Administration’s assistant administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership. She developed collaborative programs with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and served as the D.C. chapter president in 2007- 2008. In addition, Harvey was appointed to the White House Business Council and the SBA’s Executive Review Board and Council on Underserved Communities.