Robinson Secondary School
Greater Washington—Why It’s the Best Region to Build and Grow a Business
Imagine looking out over the Potomac River and seeing the monuments perched on the horizon, the clouds a deep orange and purple as the sun begins its journey of sleep. The air smells of sweet cherry blossoms, and delicate pink petals linger on the stalks of emerald green grass just cut in the morning. The streets pulse with honking cars and people, conversing among themselves, walk to the beat of the road in short, determined footsteps. The spirit of Washington D.C. resonates visibly above them, snakes and throbs through the capital of the greatest nation in the world. It lobbies with politicians, studies effortlessly with students, provokes patriotic admiration from travelers across the country. It tells the story of the founding fathers struggling to unite a crumbling union into a powerful circle of unified brethren. The spirit of D.C. whispers to the businessmen, depicting a future of well-earned success or reckless failure. It promises them the opportunity to build and to grow. It promises them a chance to create a business.
The New World Dictionary’s definition of the word “business” is, “an occupation, profession, or trade; the purchase and sale of goods in an attempt to make a profit.” What the dictionary does not mention is the physical and mental toll it takes to start a business; it does not mention the anxiety new business owners feel as they watch people walk by their pristine doorstep. It does not mention hard-earned money sacrificed into a fragile creation unknown to survive. Nor does the dictionary mention the work, the new tax forms, the required Employee Identification Number used for federal tax purposes. The dictionary does not say anything about location, or surrounding neighborhoods; it does not talk about marketing, or human resources, or proper operation. It does not reference technology. In short, the dictionary says nothing about the true effort and soul of businesses and business owners.
If the dictionary would have mentioned such things, it would surely have listed the District of Columbia as one of the greatest areas for a business, for reasons like its rich history, diverse culture, high tourism, and close connection to the political nation. Individually, these reasons can be used for any city in America; but when melded together, these characteristics sum up the surreal uniqueness of a place that is not even considered a state, yet has representation in the Electoral College and taxes its citizens as if it were one.
Under Article One of the United States Constitution, Congress is given the power to lay the foundations for a “District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places”1. Writing Federalist No. 43 under the pseudonym Publius (with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay), James Madison argued for the need of such a district, especially one physically separated from the states. Thus, a new “federal city” was constructed on the north bank of the Potomac in 1791, heeding to the Constitution’s requirements of measuring 10 miles squared, in homage to George Washington, unanimous chairman of the Constitutional Convention and future figurehead of the nation. As time went on, issues began plaguing the United States, further separating men that were meant to be united as whole. Slavery, taxation, representation, were only a few, and, all the while, D.C.’s population had grown to nearly 132,000 by 1870—a major problem, since the capital still had dirt roads and lacked basic sanitation. Members of Congress even proposed moving the capital elsewhere. However, in 1871, the Organic Act was passed, which combined the areas of Washington County, Georgetown, and the current capital into one. Steadily the population grew until the Great Depression, when President Roosevelt expanded Washington yet again. According to the 2000 Census, D.C.’s population, in only 61.4 square miles, is about 572,000. Today, the population is projected to have risen by about 16,000 people.2 With so many people living in such a small area, it would be difficult to believe that their history (especially with so many reminders and monuments planted all over the city) would remain untold. And with such a prestigious history in your backyard, people are bound to explore it through sight-seeing and shopping.
If D.C.’s unique history is not enough to attract businessmen, its diverse clientele certainly would. According to the United States Census, 13.5% of D.C.’s population is immigrants from around the world. They bring philosophies, language, and a new way of life with them, forging into an already-rich American culture to make a place of welcoming and tolerant attitudes. No specific race should feel isolated in such a diverse area; businesses should not feel obligated to appeal to only one ethnic group. The freedom and diversity of Washington D.C. brings people together, rather than sorting them into different categories. In fact, a study conducted by the Greater Washington Ibero American Chamber of Commerce found that Hispanic-owned business in the region grew from 500 in 1970 to about 32,000 in 2002. 60% of the population is African American. 79.9% of the population is 18 or older.3 In 2006, the Washington Post recorded that there were about 32,000 veterans living in the capital. And as of 2007, Washington D.C., compared to other cities, is the 8th gayest city in America.4 With such diversity among the people, there can be no way that one would feel alone. There is always someone to connect to, someone to appeal to, in Washington for either business or recreation.
D.C., one of the most popular tourism destinations in America and home to countless landmarks and monuments and museums and stadiums, brings people in from all over the world. From the Kennedy Center to Chinatown, there is always something to keep people’s attention at hand. So whether they are taking a break from the Smithsonian Institution to grab a quick bite, or stopping for a few souvenirs after visiting the National Zoo, it would not hurt to own a business in the same neighborhood as these tourist giants. Tourists carry money; money buys merchandise; purchased merchandise is one step closer to maximizing profits in a brand new store. And since D.C.’s tourist season never really “ends,” there would never be a slump in sales.
Perhaps the most important characteristic of D.C. is how closely tied the area is to politics. With such important buildings like the White House, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of State, and the National Archives, what better way would there be of getting involved with the nation’s activities than living in the heart of it all and seeing the action first-hand? It would be possible to lobby for a bill that could be greatly advantageous for business owners; it would make protesting so much more valuable when it is done in front of people who actually watch. It would be almost effortless to have influence over actions that could help or hurt a company. Mendacious politicians could be stopped with a vote. The First Amendment, protecting our rights against abridging freedom of speech or petitioning the government for a “redress of grievances”5 can finally be put to use.
In conclusion, Washington D.C., though suffering its ups and downs from time to time, would ultimately be a beneficial place to start a business. A large, diverse population keeps stores busy. A never-ending tourist season brings people—and money—from all over the world. A vivid, captivating history makes for great conversation. And having the president as your neighbor could make for interesting stories. If there would be anything to stop someone from having a successful business, it would, truthfully, be their own inhibitions. Location, while important, is only a small factor in determining success. Hard work and devotion are key; time and struggle are key. When one overcomes their reservations, then one can truly be responsible for their own business. They can truly be a business owner.
1 Quotation of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution from http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#A1Sec8
2 Census information from http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/11000.html
3 Statistics from http://about.dc.gov/facts.asp
4 Statistics found at http://prorev.com/dctrendscul
5 Quotation of the First Amendment from http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html