Fairfax County’s geographic location, adjacent to the white-hot center of global politics, provides the foundation for an economy based on government employment and contracts. That was the image of Fairfax County for decades, as the county grew exponentially following the end of World War II. Sometimes overlooked was the small business sector, which maintains a symbiotic relationship with the community it serves. Customers rely on small business, and vice versa, for many of their everyday needs.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, many small businesses lost staff and customers. Some closed, others struggled to stay open, with reduced hours and fewer staff. The federal government provided assistance through the Small Business Administration and paycheck protection funds but, as the pandemic moved into its second year, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors established a PIVOT Business Recovery Grant Program in June 2021, to continue to assist small businesses toward recovery. The PIVOT program was the third Covid-19 recovery program created by the Board of Supervisors to assist small businesses. The original Microloan program in April of 2020 proved so popular that a second program, RISE Grants, was created in June 2020. The PIVOT program drafted a team of more than 50 county staff and 16 employees from the Latino Economic Development Corporation to develop and administer the program. Since it was established, almost $17 million in grants was awarded to more than 1,000 recipients. The average revenue loss per business was 40 percent, a significant hit to any business plan. The retail, services, and amusements sector received the largest award amounts – $8.6 million, followed by lodging and arts for slightly more than $4.6 million, and food service, $3.5 million. Nearly 70 percent of the awards were made to minority-owned businesses, many also woman-owned.
Mason District businesses (183) were awarded $2.4 million; the average number of employees was four. A quick, unscientific, calculation reveals that more than 700 families may have been helped by the PIVOT grants in Mason District alone. Most of the grants were made to businesses in downtown Annandale, in Bailey’s Crossroads, and Seven Corners, with a few more in Lincolnia and Springfield.
Awards ranged from $5,000 for Artisans United, which operates a gift shop at the Packard Center at Annandale Community Park, to $158,000 for the Fairview Park Marriott, which was located in Providence District at the time of the award, but was redistricted to the Mason District in December 2021. Ballet Nova and the Fairfax Chorale Society received $10,000 awards. Food service establishments included Barnside Diner in Lincolnia; Beanetics, Juke Box Diner, K-POP Karaoke, and Thai Sushi Eats in Annandale, each receiving a $12,000 grant.
The retail, services, and amusements sector had the most varied applications and awards. Gas stations, car wash establishments, hair and nail salons, physical therapy and pain clinics, cleaners, and dental offices received $12,000 grants, mirroring the services that residents and customers use every day. More information about the PIVOT grants can be accessed on-line at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/economic-initiatives/pivot.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at email@example.com.