Several local chambers of commerce have come out in favor of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s much-debated 495 NEXT project, which will extend the I-495 Express Lanes approximately three miles from the Dulles Toll Road interchange to the American Legion Bridge.
The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce announced its endorsement of the project yesterday (Monday). It was joined by the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce, as well as chambers representing Reston, Springfield, Mount Vernon, the City of Alexandria, Arlington County, and Prince William County.
The organizations, which represent businesses that collectively employ about 600,000 people across Northern Virginia, say expanding the 495 Express Lanes will help reduce one of the region’s biggest chokepoints and generally improve local travel conditions, particularly in the Tysons area and in between Virginia and Maryland.
“The I-495 expansion will bring a much-needed economic boost to the area and provide long-term economic benefits,” Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Julie Coons said. “It will also add new transit choices that will help attract more businesses and help existing businesses flourish.”
According to the NOVA Chamber of Commerce, the 495 NEXT project is expected to create an estimated 6,300 new jobs and generate $880 million in economic activity during its development and construction.
VDOT is currently waiting for the Federal Highway Administration to issue a decision on the project based on an environmental assessment that was released last February. If the assessment is approved, the state agency expects to issue a contract, finalize the design, and start construction later this year.
The 495 NEXT project is being developed in parallel with a Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation study of transit options for the I-495 and American Legion Bridge corridor. State officials have proposed expanding bus service between Northern Virginia, particularly Tysons, and Maryland, though a final report is not expected to come out until March.
“The expanded transit service will help Tysons reach its long-term goals to reduce congestion and increase accessibility for Tyson’s residents, businesses, employees, and consumers, improving our quality of life and economic outlook,” Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce President and Chairman Andrew Clark said.
VDOT says that the 495 NEXT project will enable 2,500 more people per hour to move through the corridor starting in 2025.
However, it would be able to move even more people if Maryland finishes its plans to introduce toll lanes on the American Legion Bridge, leading some to question why the timelines for the two projects are not aligned. The environmental assessment for Maryland’s managed toll lanes study is not scheduled to be completed until this fall.
Community members and public officials have also raised concerns about the project’s potential impact on surrounding neighborhoods and the environment, especially when it comes to water quality.
The chambers of commerce that have backed 495 NEXT say it is necessary to “set the stage” for improvements to the American Legion Bridge, which currently sees over 230,000 trips per day.
“For years, neighborhoods in McLean have been inundated by cut-through regional commuters seeking to avoid the endemic Beltway backups approaching the American Legion Bridge,” Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce President Paul Kohlenberger said. “495 NEXT will alleviate this cut-through traffic, increase travel time reliability, and offer additional travel choices to the residents, customers and workers of the Greater McLean area.”
Photo via Google Maps
The board welcomed seven new members to its 24-member group. Those new members include: Cherylyn Harley LeBon (DBL Lawyers), Dane Scott (Seasons 52), Erik Olafsson (Reese Yeatman Insurance), Michael Bradicich (General Systems Corporation), Raea Jean Leinster (Yuck Old Paint), Sid Ghatak (GSA) and William Dyess (The Dyess Group).
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik joined the meeting to welcome the new members.
“You, as the Tysons Chamber, I think are a very important voice and presence making investments in Tysons, but also helping to transform it to make it the place we want it to be: this vibrant, cutting edge urban place that can set a model for the rest of the country,” Connolly said to the board members.
Board chairman Andrew Clark echoed Connolly’s sentiment of progress by commending the board’s efforts and accomplishments in 2020. Clark particularly emphasized the chamber’s ability to host 40 virtual seminars, its fourth annual Tysons 2050 event and its first-ever Tysons Restaurant Week.
“We want to make sure that we continue to build, not just places, but this vibrant community where people enjoy to live, to work, to play and to hopefully retire as well,” Palchik said.
The Tysons chamber has a number of items on its 2021 agenda. Among those include a federal contracting event on Jan. 25 billed as a “Bid or No Bid” webinar, a venture funding event for small businesses during the first quarter of the year, and Tysons’ first car show, which the chamber is partnering with Tysons Corner Center to host.
“One thing we’re going to continue to do is build out our business verticals because we’re focused on value propositions for our members,” Clark said.
The chamber is also planning two restaurant weeks this year, its annual Tysons 2050 event in November, a summer soiree on Aug. 18, and partnering with The Tower Club to co-host a chef series.
“I believe post-pandemic, we’re going to be looking at a really exciting place that’s connected directly to our Metro system and the airport, but that is a place where people can identify and live and see as a neighborhood themselves,” Connolly said. “I’m really proud of what we’re planning to do and what we are doing in Tysons. We’ve got to stay with it; we’ve got to pay attention to it.” Read More
The Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce has big plans for 2021.
As offices shuttered and pivoted to remote work when COVID-19 hit Fairfax County last spring, the chamber became a vital source of information and resources for local businesses scrambling to stay afloat and adjust to a new reality.
Now, with vaccines suggesting a potential end to the pandemic, the chamber faces the task of helping members recover from a year of economic upheaval, while recognizing that some of the changes to the workforce and business landscape introduced by the novel coronavirus may be here to stay.
“This is going to be a big year in transition,” Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce board chairman Andrew Clark said in an interview on Jan. 4.
Like many of the businesses it represents, the chamber shifted its focus online last year in lieu of holding in-person meetings and events, but that did not make its schedule less busy.
Clark says the chamber organized more than 40 webinars last year on subjects ranging from brand management and networking to health protocols for businesses looking to reopen and ways that nonprofits could compensate for declines in charitable giving.
The organization hosted its signature Tysons 2050 event for the fourth year in a row, and it held the first-ever Tysons Restaurant Week in October. The initiative proved so successful that organizers are planning to revive it this spring.
Clark says the Tysons chamber will bring that same spirit of creativity and collaboration to the new year with initiatives like a Chocolate Safari that Visit Fairfax is currently promoting and a car show that is being organized with Tysons Corner Center.
A spokesperson for the mall confirmed that a car show is in the works, but the event is still in the preliminary planning stages. Clark says the chamber is tentatively aiming for a date around the end of February or early March.
“It’s a communal effect,” Clark said. “…The restaurants are supporting the buildings, the buildings are supporting the restaurants, and now that we have a sense of the community that’s coming to Tysons, it’s fun to be a part, as the chamber, of being a conduit for that.”
With a new board of directors set to be inducted on Thursday (Jan. 14), the chamber’s priorities for 2021 will include intensifying its focus on technology companies and government contractors, two industries that have a strong presence in Tysons, current board member Vicki Warker says.
The chamber will also continue working with companies that manage or provide services to commercial real estate as they prepare for a potential return of office workers while maintaining cleaning protocols and other health measures necessitated by COVID-19.
Clark says safety will be “paramount” to ensuring a successful transition to a new normal for Tysons. The chamber strives to keep members informed on everything from how to obtain personal protective equipment to the legal issues to consider when reopening a business.
“What’s relevant today? We try to position ourselves to get that information as quickly as we can to our constituents,” Clark said.
Photo by Michelle Goldchain
Tysons’ first Restaurant Week, which ran from Oct. 12-18, was a “huge success,” according to restaurateurs.
When the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce followed up with each of the 19 participating restaurants, they each reported soaring sales.
“We followed-up with each restaurant, and they all reported significant sales increases, some as high as 50% since reopening after Covid-19,” said Dane Scott, the managing partner of Seasons 52. “And my restaurant is in that category.”
Guests had the option to eat in or take home food from fixed-price lunch and dinner menus that were designed specifically for Restaurant Week and showcase classic dishes, seasonal options, and fan favorites. The Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted the event.
Tony Bass, the general manager of Urban Plates, said his restaurant hit records.
“We actually had the busiest week of any week since we reopened, which was a huge win for us,” Bass said.
It was so successful that the overall company “is looking to replicate elsewhere what we did here,” he said.
The data is going to help Urban Plates keep up the momentum from Restaurant Week, Bass said.
The number-one feedback Bass said he received was, “Wow, I didn’t know you were open again.”
Although in-person guests were thrilled to be back, half of the total customers took advantage of take-out, he said.
Overall, “it was a much bigger event than personally I thought it was going to be,” Bass said.
Scott was nervous leading up to the weeklong event. Restaurant Week in D.C. was reportedly not as successful as in years past, and the Tysons Chamber had planned its restaurant week around not interfering with the week in D.C.
Although the Tysons chamber of commerce added a carry-out component — which is not offered during regular restaurant weeks — to give customers more than one way to participate, Scott still worried the event would be a flop.
“It was far from it,” he said. “Nineteen restaurants participated, and every restaurant said, ‘I had a great week — the best week since reopening. It really made me soar, I was so happy.”
Photo courtesy Andrew Clark
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Staff photo by Jay Westcott
Tysons Corner’s first Restaurant Week kicks off next Monday and runs Oct. 12 through Tuesday, Oct. 20.
Guests can eat in or take home food from fixed-price lunch and dinner menus that were designed specifically for Restaurant Week and showcase classic dishes, seasonal options, and fan favorites. The Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce is hosting the event.
Restaurateurs say they hope the week will bring customers back to their establishments after they experience the coronavirus precautions that have been put in place. They also hope that patrons who work and eat lunch in town but do not live there return to Tysons as a destination for foodies.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has obliterated the food service industry, with 37,000 jobs lost in Fairfax County, according to a recent report. The findings are the first step in a recovery strategy commissioned by Fairfax County and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.
Even after restaurants reopened, customers remain uncomfortable dining out.
“We realized that we can’t just open our doors and hope people go through them,” Dane Scott, the managing partner of Seasons 52, said.
Restaurants are taking extreme safety measures, Chamber of Commerce Chair Andrew Clark says.
“The irony is that restaurants are probably the cleanest places in town, but it will take a while for people to assimilate,” he said.
Tony Bass, the general manager of Urban Plates, is ready to change how people view Tysons with Restaurant Week.
“What I’m excited to show is that Tysons is a destination for food,” he said.
People who are dining for the first time since the pandemic started will see that things in the restaurants look different.
At Urban Plates, customers can still observe chefs making their food in the open kitchen, but can no longer approach the chefs, Bass said.
P.F. Chang’s has poured money into presentation, said operating partner Eric Padilla. The plateware is new, and dishes are served with a new flair.
“You’re not able to go to the movies, so we want to put on a show in the dining room,” he said. “Dinner is the main show: Come in, relax, have a good time, and take your mind off what’s going on.”
Scott, who sits on the Chamber of Commerce, said it has stepped up to care for Tysons’ businesses.
When Clark took over as chair this summer, he implemented some new initiatives. The chamber filmed a documentary on food safety and later threw a whisky-tasting event outside American Prime, complete with temperature checks and mask monitors.
Clark credited Restaurant Week taking off to volunteer photographers, videographers, printers and graphic and designers.
“There’s no money to be made,” he said. “They just love the community.”
Image via Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce
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Staff photo by Jay Westcott
After Reggie Holmes was laid off from his job, he decided to take control of his career path and begin his own business, Enthuse Creative.
Since its founding in Tysons around 2013, the company has branched out to offer customers a variety of branding, strategy and design services — helping clients develop a unique sense of identity, according to Holmes.
Enthuse Creative operates as a multi-functional branding agency to help companies distinguish their talents and focus their efforts. Though the final product will vary depending on a clients’ needs, Holmes said he wants to help people target their own sense of identity and market.
Regarding the creation of Enthuse Creative in 2013, Holmes said he “wanted to be in a position where I could create my own opportunities,” adding that the ability to be creative and think outside of the box in his professional career is important for him as an art degree graduate.
When Holmes was in the process of the career transition, he said he realized that creative positions were “tenuous,” especially if someone wasn’t a high-up and wanted to solidify their career.
Coming up with the name for his company, Holmes said that “‘to enthuse’ means to build joy or happiness, so at the end of the day I want to help businesses be enthusiastic about their brand.”
Since the beginning of 2020, Enthuse has worked with roughly 20 different clients, many of whom come from different backgrounds and need various degrees of assistance, Holmes said.
One of the most inspiring projects Holmes said he worked on was a campaign for Meridian International Group, which promotes global leadership and U.S. diplomacy efforts.
For the group, Holmes said he helped to create an annual report, as well as marketing materials and a logo for a specific program.
“It’s great to know work I’m doing is being seen outside the United States,” he said, adding that he found it humbling to help improve the quality of life for people he will likely never meet.
As a one-man-show, Holmes said he often hires freelancers and partners from around the area to help him keep up with the workload.
In the summer of 2019, Holmes became the co-chair of marketing for the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce and is now on the chamber’s board. He said he volunteers with the group, working to align upcoming businesses with the chamber, promoting economic success and helping to organize events such as Tysons 2050.
Currently, the group is trying to rebrand their image, according to Holmes, who didn’t feel at liberty to expand.
“We recognize the need to go a little bit deeper and create a compelling case as to why a business should partner with us to keep growing,” he said.
Photo courtesy Reggie Holmes
A panel of local businesswomen will lead a discussion next week in Tysons on communication and leadership as a woman.
The “Taking the Lead with No Apologies” event is hosted by the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce Women’s Leadership Committee. The event’s description says it will offer simple, easy-to-use tips to help women communicate effectively in the workplace.
The event will be held at Embassy Suites Tysons (8517 Leesburg Pike) on Wednesday (Feb. 27) from 5-7 p.m.
The panel is scheduled to be moderated by Virginia Case, a strategist for Falls Church-based marketing agency Strategic Tactical Marketing, LLC. The panelists will be:
- Nicole Geller, senior director of Springer Lawson & Associates
- Michelle Walker, founder of Trebla Consulting
- Danielle Turcola, president of Professionalism International, Inc.
Tickets are $35 for members, $45 for non-members, or $65 for a two-ticket pack.
Photo via Facebook
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