Meet Marie Plishka Spittell, AEDP's Business Development Associate
Have you heard about AEDP? The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership is based right here in Old Town and serves as a FREE resource for local businesses and neighborhood development as a whole. We are so pleased to share with you an introduction to AEDP’s business development associate, Marie Plishka Spittell.
If you’re wondering who had the brains behind our exciting Summer Pop-Up Competition, please meet the super organized, creative, and incredibly helpful woman behind the big idea. I have brainstormed with Marie off and on about The Seedling Collective and how to grow our concept for many, many months now. Each time I meet with her I am thoroughly impressed with her fresh take on development in Old Town and her creative ideas on how to share our concept. I decided to sit down with Marie to learn more about AEDP, how she helps businesses in Alexandria grow, and why she loves our fair city so much…
Tell us about your role at AEDP.
I have been with AEDP since January 2018 and work on the business development team. We work to market the city as a good place to do business as well as help existing businesses grow and expand. In the day to day of my job, that means I attend conferences and preach about how great Alexandria is, meet with businesses that are interested in moving to the city to talk specifics like available real estate, or work on some of our placemaking and activation initiatives. Placemaking and activating various neighborhoods around the city is part of our efforts to make Alexandria an attractive place for businesses to locate. AEDP supports placemaking activities in Carlyle and Eisenhower – like fitness events, happy hours, outdoor concerts – because these neighborhoods are going to see major growth in the coming years.
What brought you into this field of work?
I used to work on international development projects in Southeast Asia. It was really interesting work and I enjoyed visiting the region, but ultimately I wanted to work on projects closer to home. I used my grad degree to learn more about how economic development works at the local and regional level, and I was fortunate to get a job in the city I have called home for the past three years.
Can you describe AEDP for someone who has never heard of it? What types of services does AEDP provide?
AEDP is a free resource for businesses that seek economic data, customized reports and maps, information on tax and financial incentives, and further details regarding the city's business and development processes. If we cannot help a business directly, we can refer them to someone who can. We also work closely with the state economic development agency to promote Virginia as a whole.
What is the pop-up ALX program and why has AEDP started focusing on this type of development?
Pop-up ALX was created in response to some vacancies along our main retail corridor in Old Town. Instead of letting the storefronts sit empty, we were able to help fill them with some really great retail businesses. The program is flexible enough to evolve based on the current retail market and what our pop-up businesses need. Recently, we have gotten a lot of interest from people that have online or home-based businesses and need somewhere to pop-up for a few hours or weeks in order to better connect with their customers. The Seedling Collective provides this opportunity and is going to be a great asset to Alexandria moving forward.
Do you have any success stories you can share from the work you have done with the organization?
I think the biggest success so far has been Old Town Books. The owner worked with our Small Business Development Center, and when she was ready to sign a short-term lease, we helped her find the space. She started with a six-month lease, and it has been so successful she signed on for another year at her current location while she looks for a permanent storefront. She has been a great addition to the community by hosting all kinds of events and workshops, and I think these first months in business have helped her work through some of the kinks that all new businesses experience as they grow.
What inspired you to run the pop-up competition?
We thought it would be a good way to create buzz for Pop-up ALX and are lucky to have a partner in The Seedling Collective studio. We are excited about the studio and want to support it in becoming the new workspace for creatives in the region.
What do you hope to achieve with the competition as a whole?
We hope to attract the attention of entrepreneurs who might not have had Alexandria on their radar. It is also a great exercise to help small businesses get the feeling of what it would be like to have their own storefront. When they are interested in taking that next step, AEDP and our partners can help ensure they get off to a successful start.
Any suggestions for small businesses hoping to participate?
Alexandria is full of boutiques with owners that have a deep passion for the products that they are selling – an author is the owner of Old Town Books, the owner of The Hour cocktail shop has created her own glass and barware line. I think any entrepreneur that brings that deep knowledge and love for their products will do well here.
Neighborhood in Alexandria and why?