By Hamzat Sani, Special to the AFRO

The District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce hosted its 2018 Small Business and Economic Development Summit highlighting the contributions small businesses make to D.C.’s booming economy. As part of a full day of events the D.C. Chamber of Commerce awarded several local businesses and leaders with small business awards recognizing their contributions to making the “state of business in D.C. exceptional.”

Representatives from several D.C. government agencies, major business partners like PEPCO and Verizon and local financial institutions were present. On hand for the morning session were Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council Chair Pro Tempore Kenyan McDuffie, Director of the D.C. Department of Small Local Business Development Kristi Whitfield and Karen Dale of AmeriHealth Caritas. Former D.C. Councilmember, and current President and CEO of the D.C. Chamber, Vincent Orange served as emcee for the event.

Mayor Muriel Bowser with her Small Business Champion of the Year award. (Courtesy Photo)

A theme throughout the event was the District’s exceptionalism. While other cities are still digging themselves out of the fallout from the recent recession, D.C. has found sure footing with a mixture of rebranding the city as a hub for the innovation sector, streamlining pathways to entrepreneurship and creating a culture of government that reinvests in businesses.

Participants were able to take part in workshops about opportunities available to small businesses in the District. Representatives from agencies like the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the D.C. Office of Planning and Economic Development covered a range of topics including “Procuring Business with the Federal Government” and “Key Economic Development Projects in D.C. Neighborhoods.”

The Chamber’s Small Business Award Luncheon highlighted some of the extraordinary people and businesses that shape the growing small business community in the District. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s remarks at the the Award Luncheon touted recent economic successes in landing dedicated funding for Metro, $656 million spent with local small businesses enterprises and the city’s 23rd straight balanced budget. “We are different than our friends in Congress, we actually balance our budgets,” she told the crowd.

Bowser also noted changes that her administration has worked to uplift Wards 7 and 8 by adding 21,000 jobs in Wards 7 and 8.

“In just a little bit we are also going to be with Starbucks, in Ward 8, on Martin Luther King Ave…What it means to have a Starbucks go in to a great neighborhood that hasn’t had that opportunity is that it is signal to the rest of the market that these residents want the same thing as everybody else,” Bowser said.

The Chamber awarded Bowser their Small Business Champion of the Year Award highlighting her focus on creating business opportunities for SBEs in D.C. government. Other awardees included:

Small Business of the Year – CODICE

Small Business Person of the Year – Stacie Lee Banks of Lee’s Flower and Card Shop

Non-Profit Organization of the Year – 100 Black Men of Greater Washington

Women in Business Champion of the Year – Carolyn E. Howell of Event USA

Young Entrepreneur of the Year – Juan Pablo Segura of Babyscripts

Along with awards given by the chamber the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development also presented awards. Recipients included:

Shea Yeleen for DC Maker of the Year

Sou Sou Investment Solutions for Sustainability and Innovation Business of the Year

JLAN Solutions for Certified Business Enterprise of the Year

Once titled the Negro Chamber of Commerce the D.C. Chamber is celebrating 80 years of serving the business community and advocating for prosperity for all in the changing D.C.