Dear Editor,

For many Americans, starting and growing their own business is a lifelong ambition. It is a vital component of the American Dream, something I remember every time I attend a “starting a business” workshop that my office has held almost monthly since 2003. It is inspiring to hear what Fairfax County residents want to do to build economic security for themselves and their families.

Small businesses also are a vital part of any local economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, almost half of the U.S. workforce is employed by a small business. In Fairfax County, which is well known as a location for corporate headquarters, 95 percent of the businesses here have 50 or fewer employees. Those businesses employ more than 200,000 here. Moreover, many of these businesses are minority-, woman- or veteran-owned, the center of a diverse economic base and entrepreneurial hotspot.

Along with the rest of the nation, Fairfax County celebrated National Small Business Week in May. The Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation declaring the importance of small businesses to the local economy, and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) held a special version of its monthly “Entrepreneurship 101: Starting a Business in Fairfax County” workshop. We invited one of the county’s most successful entrepreneurs, financial advisor and author Ric Edelman, to speak to those who would like to follow in his footsteps and create a successful venture.

But, helping small businesses start and thrive doesn’t begin and end in one week. The FCEDA has been helping small businesses reach their potential for more than 50 years, and we are proud to continue supporting entrepreneurs by providing them with the tools they need to launch and sustain a thriving company.

Our monthly workshops highlight resources available from the Small Business Administration, the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity and the Fairfax County-based Community Business Partnership as well as the FCEDA and the Fairfax County government.

In addition to the monthly workshops, the FCEDA's Business Diversity Division offers services for small, minority-, veteran- and woman-owned businesses. These include certification assistance and connections to possible funding sources, partners, customers and mentors. We link entrepreneurs to business planning and mentoring through SCORE. We also connect them to Community Business Partnership events on topics such as budgeting, financial planning, building a strong credit profile and to how to hire and retain good employees.

The FCEDA helps entrepreneurs foster a business environment focused on innovation. Our team creates ample opportunities for small business owners to learn from subject matter experts, established CEOs and business leaders, and each other. Examples include weekly events such as One Million Cups, where entrepreneurs gather to share ideas, and regular workshops including Procurement Academy, which focuses on various aspects of the government contract procurement process.

Helping entrepreneurs is a year-round passion for us. To learn more about the FCEDA can help build a business, please visit www.fairfaxcountyeda.org.

Catherine W. Riley

Interim President and CEO

Fairfax County Economic Development Authority

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