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ECONOMIC COOPERATION: Business owners working to bring new life to Washington

A new group in Washington, composed mostly of female business owners, is seeking to bring new life to the area through economic cooperation.

While the group is still loosely organized (they don’t have a name just yet) the group of approximately 12 women is poised to make a big impact on the city’s tourism scene.

The brainchild of business owners Barbara Hardy and Colleen Knight, the group met for the first time only a few months ago, but is already formulating big plans. After its first meeting, an informal affair complete with food and drink, the group came to a pair of conclusions that will help guide it moving forward.

“What it boiled down to at one point is that the two things we need downtown are organized and cooperative events and cooperative advertising,” Contemporary Art Exchange director Tina Jandrow said.

With the expense of advertising outside of the immediate area, the business owners are starting to pool their money together to promote Washington in markets within a few hours’ drive.

Raleigh, Wilson, Southern Virginia; the group hopes to tap into these areas through collective advertising campaigns, drawing the weekend warriors who might come to Washington for a day trip or an overnight stay. By pooling the resources of multiple businesses, the group is able to undertake advertising campaigns that might otherwise be prohibitively expensive for a single business owner.

While the collective advertising has potential to draw in new customers for the business owners, the second element of the plan may make Washington a more enjoyable place for everyone. Collaborative events such as progressive dinners, mini-lectures, presentations and receptions may be a draw to visitors and residents alike, as well as a boost to the businesses.

“We will put together itineraries and events that will involve our entire group,” Jandrow said. “As we advertise and push for this, we’re offering choices, kind of a menu of events and services.”

Although tourist dollars are limited, the hope among the business owners is that a rising tide will lift all ships. With the group working together to market the Washington experience, the appeal of a trip from out of town will be far more compelling than it might be if a reader saw an ad for just one business.

“It’s going to be a tough sell to convince someone to drive to Washington to go shopping for 35 minutes at one place and go home,” Jandrow said. “That’s a five hour round trip. I think it will be quite easy to convince people to come to this charming, dynamic mix of a downtown that is really friendly to outsiders and offers a lot.”

While group is coincidentally made up of women at this point, Jandrow made clear that the group is open to all business owners interested in increasing business traffic in Washington, with a particular eye to the Main Street and downtown areas. The group’s first advertorial will appear in the WDN’s widely-circulated Welcome Magazine, a publication that reaches potential visitors and individuals interested in relocating to Washington.