2020 City of Charlottesville Office of Economic Development Annual Report

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City of Charlottesville Office of Economic Development


Picture courtesy of Stony Point Development Group

Director’s Message Dear Stakeholders,

Welcome to the annual update from the Office of Economic Development. 2020. What a year! The coronavirus pandemic struck swiftly in March dealing a major blow to economic activity nearly across the globe. Unlike previous economic downturns, the COVID-19 restrictions had immediate and severe impacts in the City, particularly in the restaurant, retail, and hospitality sector. Thus, the year 2020 will be forever marked by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and the months and years ahead will be focused on recovery efforts. The pandemic put the saying “you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it,” to the test, as we witnessed a spectrum of reactions to one of the most significant disruptions of our times. On the business front, we saw some amazing pivots with numerous local businesses joining in the effort to make hand sanitizer and other protective equipment, transforming business models on the fly, and altering menus and implementing delivery and curbside options nearly overnight. The OED staff adapted quickly as well by transitioning both our daily working environment and our programming to virtual environments and moving quickly to provide timely information and direct assistance to impacted businesses. While still in the month of March, the Economic Development Authority took early action and deployed $350,000 in reserve funds to a series of grant programs to help City business both adjust to and survive the initial shock. Next, federal CARES Act funding arrived locally and $1.6 million was disbursed in direct aid to businesses. In June, City Council redirected $1 million from the Affordable Housing Fund to quickly address urgent community needs with regard to housing. With Downtown Job Center and Home to Hope staff having direct access to those most in need, the OED was tasked with this effort and the Housing Relief Fund was implemented. Since the onset of the pandemic, OED staff has processed over 1,600 applications for either business or housing assistance and awarded grants totaling just over $3 million. As we reflect on one of the most challenging years many of us have experienced, we also recognize that the importance of our work has only increased, as we work to recover what has been lost and position the City to welcome exciting economic opportunities ahead. Thank you for your support in 2020. We continue to hope for a brighter future and better tomorrow. Sincerely,

Chris Engel Chris Engel Director, Office of Economic Development


Helping Business Following the initial shock, and after searching briefly for the pandemic playbook (which by the way does not exist), OED staff determined that regular communication and rapid financial assistance were the two top needs that should be addressed. The office moved quickly to begin bi-weekly, electronic communication with federal, state and local information focused on local business assistance. With $350,000 in emergency funds allocated by the Economic Development Authority, the OED launched the BRACE grant with a focus on helping businesses adapt their business model quickly, created a partnership with the County to start a new low interest revolving loan fund known as the Business Relief Fund, and added additional funding to two already successful programs: 1.) the Business Equity Fund for socially disadvantaged business owners, and 2.) GO HIRE for businesses struggling to retain employees at the onset of the pandemic. These actions helped 150 businesses and many employees in the first months of the pandemic. In June, the City received its first allocation of CARES Act funding and set up the Small Business Relief Grant (SBRG) program to facilitate the disbursement of funds. All City -based, small businesses were eligible to apply for grant funds. Preference was given to industries that have been recognized as being the most impacted by COVID-19 including: hospitality and entertainment, retail trade and employment, restaurant and food services, and administrative support services. In addition, one-half of the total number of grants

were designated for businesses owned by individuals who are socially disadvantaged. Following two application periods, $1.5 million in direct grants was distributed to 251 City businesses. In addition to providing direct funding to businesses, the OED also allocated $150,000 of CARES Act funding to assist businesses along the City’s main business corridors. These areas have been especially impacted by the absence of the daytime workforce, drastic decrease in tourism, and the absence of UVA students on Grounds. The grant funds helped encourage and rebuild consumer confidence in safely supporting City-based businesses and included: handwashing stations, distribution of reusable masks, marketing and advertising initiatives including: complimentary weekend parking, installation of curbside pickup signage and graphics, and a subsidy for tents purchased for outdoor dining.

“The curbside pick-up spot has been absolutely essential to The Pie Chest during this time. We have seen such a positive reaction when we can market that we have easily available parking to potential customers. In addition, it is encouraging to see customers utilize the spot for our fellow businesses such as Market St. Wine and Hedge Fine Blooms. We are absolutely grateful to the City for this.” —Rachel and Tina (The Pie Chest)


Helping Business The Minority Business Program (MBP) launched the first GO Start-Up entrepreneurship training program in February 2020 with 10 students. The program allows participants to test their business concept through hands-on program development and management skills in a low risk environment. GO Start-Up puts an emphasis on participant self-organization and goal setting as a critical component of business ownership. Participants learn challenging concepts that come with starting a business in a fast-paced environment. The program includes things such as: completing business licensing, engaging in product development, estimating start-up costs, developing a marketing strategy, evaluating the product/service, and more. Students receive a toolkit to start their business, as well as $1,500 in start-up costs for their business that can be used towards expenses such as: licensing, marketing, equipment, inventory, supplies, etc. Right before the graduation of the first cohort, class was abruptly halted due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff checked in with the students weekly to discuss adapting their business plans and models to better suit their changing lifestyles and the new entrepreneurial landscape. After a few weeks, staff revised the entire delivery model of the program in an effort to finish out the first cohort and offer new classes based on high demand for the program. By June, the OED began conducting its second cohort virtually. Six students were tasked with the same assignments as the first cohort but with a new element – virtual learning. After receiving positive feedback from the first virtual class, another virtual session with 10 students was offered in October. With the completion of the October cohort, the Minority Business Program has successfully assisted in the start-up of 24 new businesses. The Minority Business Program plans to have four new cohorts in 2021. “So far, I have accomplished perfecting my craft of doing nails, taking a nail class which leads me to getting my nail technician license, and finally – I am very appreciative of finally having A BUSINESS! Thanks to the GO Start-Up program!” —Dyshe Smith (Nails Next Door) (Pictured: Dyshe Smith, owner of Nails Next Door created during the June 2020 cohort, exhibiting at an event at Jefferson School.)

"With the funds from the Office of Economic Development, we are definitely going to be able to keep our doors open during this challenging time.” —Sombrero’s Mexican Cuisine & Café

“The money from the Small Business Relief Grant has been integral to our business to surviving during these financial times.”

“Covering the rent was our main concern during the pandemic. The money from the Office of Economic Development has helped us stay open.”

—Oasis Day Spa & Body Shop

—The Hive Art & Craft Bar

"I am greatly appreciative of the assistance provided to me by the BEF Resiliency Loan. Your assistance will allow me to keep my barbershop operational. Financial assistance during this difficult time will allow me to pay my business expenses in addition to buying cleaning products and barber supplies. As owner and operator of Cavalier Barbers, I am used to financially assisting community members and community organizations. My journey through COVID-19 has been a humbling experience. I look forward to getting to the other side and reaching back to help others, serving and providing service to our Charlottesville community." —Eric Massie (Cavalier Barbers)



Helping People In July 2020, Home to Hope entered into a partnership with the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) to place local residents into stable employment and housing. This collaboration has since resulted in three City residents, all individuals with lived criminal justice experience, being placed into new careers as Retrofit Technicians who are helping to weatherize homes throughout the Charlottesville community. According to Chris Meyer, Executive Director of LEAP, “The building sector continues to face staffing challenges, so collaborating with Home to Hope made sense to help us source the new staff we needed. We are excited to offer these new hires a living wage of $15 per hour, plus a full benefits package, to serve their fellow residents here in Charlottesville.” The collaboration with LEAP is unique because of LEAP’s ability to provide temporary housing out of its office located on Ridge Street in addition to employment and on-thejob training. Once selected, housing begins immediately for the new hires, and they are taught the fundamentals of the trade before being sent to formal technical training sessions and receiving certifications as Retrofit Technicians. After they are certified, their pay is increased and opportunities for further training and promotions become available. LEAP prioritizes low turnover and professional development in its staff, so hiring individuals who consider this technical trade job a career is critical. This partnership with LEAP has addressed two of the major barriers that Home to Hope participants face upon release from incarceration – housing and employment. Not only are those selected for this opportunity provided stable housing so that they can get back on their feet, but they are also given the chance to learn a new trade that will result in upward career mobility and self-sufficient wages. This collaboration has truly been life-changing for Home to Hope participants. “I always thought that because I am a convicted felon and had been to prison before that I would never be given a real chance at finding gainful employment, but I was wrong. It’s because of the Home to Hope Program that I am now employed with a great company called LEAP that has provided me with a stable source of income as well as a life during COVID-19. This job with LEAP has given me a good, stable job and the boost I needed to see a positive future for myself.” —Norman Bell, Retrofit Technician with LEAP

Home to Hope Adapts The City’s Home to Hope Peer Support program (H2H) continued its work with over 350 new participant intakes and more than $66,000 disbursed to clients in supportive services. In 2020, staff reacted quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic by organizing the distribution of care bags for City residents in need. These bags included non-perishable food items and other essentials necessary for stemming the negative impacts of coronavirus. Home to Hope also expanded its relationship with Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail (ACRJ) due to COVID-19. As a direct result of this collaboration, many of those incarcerated or recently released were connected to peer support and vital services needed to achieve stability post release. In response to the pandemic, many low level offenders and/or those with little time left to serve were released for their own and the public’s safety. A large portion of these individuals were ordered to be placed on home electronic monitoring as an alternative to incarceration. H2H staff assisted the jail in facilitating these releases and in delivering critical services as well.


Special Projects Venture Central Two recent assessments of the entrepreneurial environment in the Charlottesville/ Albemarle area both reached similar conclusions: there is need for a coordinating entity and singular focal point for entrepreneurs. With the help of GO Virginia, a more detailed plan of what that entity could entail was developed. More recently, a steering team comprised of economic development partners with the City of Charlottesville, the County of Albemarle, and University of Virginia have sought ways to bring such an entity to fruition. A collaboration with the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce to serve as fiscal agent and to revive a dormant non-profit foundation for this purpose has been promising, as has the recent award of a $300,000 implementation grant from GO Virginia. Venture Central, as it will be called, will create a singular focal point for entrepreneurship and innovation in the Charlottesville and Albemarle area that has long been missing. Specifically, Venture Central will provide: 1) a physical front door for entrepreneurs at all stages complete with personal concierge type service, 2) a connected network of support organizations, all with access to the space for meetings, lectures, and events, and 3) targeted programing – such as pitch nights, mentoring, and accelerator activities. Once launched, Venture Central is expected to be the place to start and grow new businesses of all types in the area. Venture Central expects to launch in 2021!

Project Rebound As the pandemic moved into its second month, a group of local economic developers began to discuss how they could help reopen the economy once health conditions permitted. With leadership from the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, this effort morphed into Project Rebound. Project Rebound created a blueprint for economic recovery in the region through a series of facilitated virtual meetings including over 300 members of the business community. Meeting facilitation was provided by a team of professional facilitators from the UVA Organizational Excellence. In June, the report, which was authored by national consulting firm KPMG, with support from a GO Virginia grant, was released along with free reopening toolkits for businesses. In October, Project Rebound received a Gold Award from the International Association of Facilitators.

Buy Local A reoccurring theme from Project Rebound participants was a strong desire to support local businesses. In an effort to further leverage this community sentiment, the City of Charlottesville and County of Albemarle Offices of Economic Development partnered on a buy local campaign focused on holiday shopping. The effort included radio and television ads, traditional print, social media, and editorial pieces to help share the importance and impact of local spending. Studies have indicated that a dollar spent locally returns three times more money to the local economy than one dollar spent elsewhere. In addition, local businesses create job opportunities for our neighbors and help maintain our community’s distinct character.


Parking Management The COVID-19 public health emergency brought new challenges to the City of Charlottesville’s public parking program as well as many of the City’s other public and private programs. After nearly a decade with the parking program operating at capacity, in 2020, parking demand dropped precipitously in March in conjunction with the pandemic restrictions. Reduced parking utilization resulted in reduced revenue to the parking program. In an effort to conserve the limited resources available, efforts were made to reduce program expenditures while still providing clean and safe public parking for visitors. Maintenance staff began to perform many functions rather than sub-contractors, as had been the practice for many years. Deep cleaning of the parking decks, as well as restriping of the spaces in both the Market and Water Street Garages were completed. The lighting retrofit effort continued with replacement of florescent light fixtures with new more energy efficient LED fixtures. With the continued growth of the electric vehicles, two fast charge electric vehicle charging stations were installed in the Water Street Garage. This was made possible at no charge to the City through a partnership with EVgo, the nation’s largest fast charging network for electric vehicles. During 2020, the City made significant progress on the planning for a new parking facility to be built at 7th and Market Street. This project is in fulfilment of some of the requirements of a City/County Memorandum of Agreement to build a joint courts complex in the historic downtown area. The City obtained formal approval for the project using the Design/Build approach—the first City construction project to utilize Design/Build. The process begins with a Request for Qualifications to pre-qualify three to five design/build teams. Then, a Request for Proposals will be issued to the qualified teams to provide an actual design concept. The City will then award a contract to the Team with the “best” overall concept which will then be fully designed and built. This approach is expected to reduce both the cost and time of construction. In 2021, the City looks forward to a recovering economy with a resurgence in overall economic activity and a return of strong parking demand.

Photo courtesy of Joe Rice


Chris Engel, CEcD Director Hollie Lee Chief of Workforce Development Strategies Jason Ness Business Development Manager Rick Siebert Parking Manager Zoie Smith Minority Business Development Coordinator Trish Carpenter Administrative Assistant Roy Fitch Job Center Coordinator—Outreach Darrell Simpson Job Center Coordinator—Administration Melissa Hannah Job Center Customer Service Representative Shadeé Gilliam Home to Hope Peer Navigator Ramanda Jackson Home to Hope Peer Navigator

Whitmore Merrick Home to Hope Peer Navigator Stacey Washington Home to Hope Peer Navigator

610 East Market Street Charlottesville, VA 22902 434.970.3110 ecodev@charlottesville.gov www.charlottesville.gov/econdev www.charlottesville.gov/jobcenter www.charlottesville.gov/hometohope

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