Sophie van Bastelaer
9th Grade
Walt Whitman High School
Bethesda, MD
Runner-Up Winner

The Heart of American Business
Junior Achievement Business Essay

    “The business of America is business.” –Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States.

    The Washington DC Metropolitan area is the warm heart of American business, as the area’s incredible educational reputation and gorgeous, historical panorama are high points of its business potential. This place so special to the running of our country sustains a supportive environment and infrastructure which blend perfectly with the positive attitude and spirit of its businesspeople. The beautiful location and highly-educated citizens balance flawlessly with the passion and drive of entrepreneurs in Washington, making it the perfect place to plant and nourish a successful business. Advantages to setting up a business near the District of Columbia are numerous, ranging from the abundant workforce provided by the area’s residents and immigrants, to the creative minds at numerous outstanding colleges and universities scattered around the metro area, and the countless number of customers afforded by tourism, generous federal spending and one of the highest median salaries in the nation.

    “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion”-Jack Welch, former CEO and chairman of General Electric.

    A mental image and dream is where success begins, where a business plan is born and nourished until it is huge and brilliant and attainable. Washington DC is the capital of the “land of opportunity”, where ideas and education have always been cultivated. This region has produced some of the country’s finest visionaries beginning as far back as Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia. The third president of the United States and mastermind of the Declaration of Independence later in his life did much of his thinking, planning and producing at his home Monticello, in nearby Charlottesville, Virginia. Later visionaries, such as the founder of W.T. Weaver +Sons hardware store, in operation in Georgetown since 18891, have helped make this area a proven success for business.

    “Location, location, location,” is a widely utilized expression in the business world, emphasizing the idea that where a business is set up can make or break its potential success. Many famous manufacturing and technology-related companies are running successfully in the metro area, such as General Motors, Volvo/Mack trucks, Phillips Seafood, Allstate Insurance, Ikea, and Giant Food2. Though there are many different routes to take in the process of becoming an entrepreneur, one aspect of building a company is universal; all businesses begin with a vision.

    “There will come a time when big opportunities will be presented to you, and you’ve got to be in a position to take advantage of them.” –Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.

    The metro area’s governments are extremely encouraging of young businesses, passing laws and regulations that help business owners come up with the capital needed to get started. There are a number of important tax credits in the area3, which provide incentives to businesses. Virginia also harbors six foreign trade zones, physically within the United States but outside the American Customs system4. According to a recent report made by Forbes magazine, Virginia is the best overall state for business, and both Maryland and Virginia clinch spots in the top 10 for labor rank5.
    A solid infrastructure is essential to delivering goods. The DC area works hard to build and improve its roads, rails and airports. Those efforts are crucial for the delivery of products. There are three main airports in the area, including Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Dulles International Airport, and Reagan National Airport.

    If enough is invested into the dream, and enough hard work and drive is exhibited, virtually any business can thrive and pulse in Washington’s diverse, international atmosphere. The DC metro area is filled with thousands looking for work, making it an ideal area to set up an employee search. Over 1 million of the DC metro area’s 5 million residents are foreign born6, and have chosen this area to live and work. According to BBC News, the District has in the past 20 years become a major destination for immigrants, adding 575,000 residents born outside the US7. These workers contribute to a vital economy, bringing with them ideas and skills to help our businesses thrive.

    A successful business relies on a strong and skilled workforce, and an influx of new ideas. In the metro area alone, there are 70 colleges and universities8, and in Maryland, over 40 places of learning are dedicated specifically to business9, the most prominent being the prestigious Johns Hopkins University. This area has a highly-educated population—over 30% of Maryland citizens and almost 40% of DC citizens have Bachelor’s degrees, for example, compared to an average of 24% in the nation as a whole10.

    “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises...he is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it.” –Mahatma Ghandi.

    Setting up shop in a small town, or an unpopulated area, though it may be quaint and quiet, is not the best way to make a living from a good business idea. Businesses need populated cities where marketing and advertising can be appreciated fully, and whose residents have the income to purchase goods and services. With over 15 million tourists visiting our nation’s beautiful capital each year11 and over half a million local residents12, the District of Columbia is the place to be. The Washington metro area has the second highest median household income in the country of $78,97813 and with a very large supply of money circulating in the area, potential customers abound. The federal government, based in the metro area, spends a great deal of money, hitting over 37 billion dollars in 2004. Much of the budget is spent on salaries for workers in this area, who then use that money to patronize other businesses.

    “As women leaders we must continually gather the courage to risk failure and pain in the hopes of attaining success and joy.” -Washington DC metro area businesswoman Sheila Johnson.

    Best known as the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), Sheila Johnson became America’s first African-American woman billionaire by picking herself up when she fell and continuing to pursue her dream. She found her success right here in Washington, as others have. DC offers a climate that fosters success for all entrepreneurs. Almost a third of all DC businesses are women-owned, and over a quarter of businesses are owned by African-Americans14. In the nation as a whole, only 28.2% are owned by women, and only 5.2% are African-American owned15.

     The Washington DC Metropolitan Area has every business high-point any potential or existing business leader could ask for. Along with over 443,000 firms in Maryland and 47,172 in DC16, the area contains historical influences and stunning scenery. But those aren’t the only reasons the DC metro area prospers. Hard-working citizens, dedicated customers, extensive visions and dreams, and opportunities for businesspeople of both genders and all backgrounds capture the spirit of DC business. The center of American business begins in our nation’s capital and radiates throughout the United States. This area gives inspiration to visitors heading home to follow their own dreams. A fusion of vision and energy, potential and success is at the soul of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area.

2 Iannucci, David S. Marketing Maryland for Economic Development, 24 October 2002,
3 Iannucci, David S. Marketing Maryland for Economic Development, 24 October 2002,
5 Badenhausen, Kurt Table: The Best States for Business, 31 July 2008, Labor rank measures education achievement, net migration, projected population growth.
6 Living Cities Census Series
7 Schifferes, Steve, Washington DC: a city of immigrants
8 Washington, DC Colleges and Universities,
10 Maryland,, District of Columbia
11 Smith, Kathryn S. Cultural Heritage Tourism in Washington, DC: A Community-Based Model for Neighborhood Economic Development,
12 District of Columbia
14 District of Columbia,
15 District of Columbia,
16 Maryland,, District of Columbia