In 1992, I opened my one-man free-lance photography business in Arlington County, Virginia. When you open a one-person shop in Arlington, home of 39 Fortune 500 companies, you don’t expect to make much of a dent in the local economy.
Yet, in the first month of business, the county administrator, chairman of the board of supervisors, my local supervisor, the director of economic development, the fire chief and the police precinct captain, dropped by to say "hello" and to welcome me to the Arlington business community. Several gave me their home and cell phone numbers and urged me to call them anytime I had a question or problem.
Over the next 12 years, I had contact with many county officials and most always asked "how’s business?" and "is there anything I can do to help?"
In 2004, Amy and I opened a studio in the Jacksonville Center and stayed there for three years. During that time, no county official set foot in the studio or dropped by to say howdy. Last year, we opened a new studio in The Village Green in downtown Floyd. On Sunday, a member of the town council dropped by — not so much to visit but to discuss a recent story critical of town government. He was the first town council member to pass through the door.
Newcomers and those interested in relocating to Floyd often ask me if the area is friendly to small business. I usually tell them of the contrast between the welcome I received in Arlington and the indifference in Floyd. Floyd is not unfriendly to new business. It’s just indifferent at best. It might offer rent subsidies to a Volvo-owned company that wants to locate a recycling plant in the industrial park but it is, by and large, benign when it comes to the many small, more entrepreneurial operations that form the backbone of new business in the county.
During a break at a recent meeting of the county board of supervisors, which I attend each month to cover for The Floyd Press, I told the story about the treatment of small business owners in Arlington and noted that no supervisor has ever set foot in my either of my earlier businesses in the county or come to the front door of my home.
Virgel Allen, newly-elected supervisor of Little River District, overheard the conversation and said: "Doug, if I were your supervisor, you would have heard from me."
"Virgel," I responded. "You ARE my supervisor."