Local Commentary

Editorial: F.C.’s 2 Rivers of Gold

Although it is still far from completed, the “branding” study being orchestrated by the Falls Church-based marketing firm, Smith Gifford, as commissioned by the City’s Economic Development Authority, has compiled enough data and held enough briefings among leaders in the community that some startling new insights are already coming to light.

It has been reported earlier that, based on a series of professionally-coordinated interviews and focus groups, residents living just outside the City of Falls Church have a far different impression and opinion of the City, a far less favorable one, than the City’s own residents and civic leaders do. That’s due in part, at least, to the fact that most of them only know the City of Falls Church by what they see and experience driving through it on Routes 7 and 29. In fact, there are one million cars that traverse the City on those routes each month.

Voila! This is a stunning discovery! Falls Church has done all of those studies and hang-wrenching efforts over all these years to figure out what will attract outside dollars to be spent in the City to help boost its revenues, thereby keeping its real estate taxes in check while maintaining its superb quality of life, including its first-rate schools.

But, lo and behold, the answer has been right in front of it, right below its nose, running right through it, all along, every day.

What an incredible blind spot, one that has been retarding the City’s economic potential for so many years. They’re right out there. They are the one million cars that drive through the City on Routes 7 and 29 each and every month, 12 million a year. The vast majority are persons who do not live in the City, but are part of the immediately surrounding region where there exists $4 billion in annual disposable income.

So, lo, here is the challenge: The City must figure out who these people are, and what they’re needs are that the City could help fulfill. Instead of viewing these clogged corridors as a nuisance, the way the City has for all these years, it should view them as veritable rivers of gold. Big crowds can be a bother, but they can also make you rich.

So, talk about an attitude adjustment that is being called for in Falls Church! It’s especially important to countervail the local consequences of the global recession. The City must do everything it can to entice, lure, cajole, convince, persuade, nudge, beckon, fetch, bribe and everything short of forcibly compel as many of those million cars a month to stop and spend money in Falls Church.

It doesn’t require garishness, but signs and directions are a big key. Right now, the City’s outlandish sign ordinance limits businesses to trashy looking sandwich signs. There are no lights in the trees. There is nothing to identify the City as a place for those motorists. With the exception of the Beyer pigs, there is no public art. So much could be done for so little, if only the City decided it really wanted to.