Businesses in Foggy Bottom – including GW, by far the largest employer in the neighborhood – are banding together to establish a professional association to influence local government and community groups.
The Foggy Bottom/West End Business and Professional Association has been in the works for about a year, and the group is trying to become legally recognized by the city as a trade association. So far, the association contains about 100 local businesses, including University-owned entities, hotels, restaurants, offices and non-profit organizations.
Thom Puccio, director of sales and marketing at the Melrose Hotel at 24th and Pennsylvania Avenue, said there are many incentives for businesses to join the association.
“One of the most intriguing (opportunities) would be to establish a network,” he said, adding that the association also provides a forum “to talk about issues and opportunities to explore how to better present the Foggy Bottom neighborhood.”
Puccio said the Foggy Bottom/West End area previously lacked its own identity, but the association could change that. He said right now, people do not distinguish between Foggy Bottom and Georgetown or the Golden Triangle, between Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Connecticut avenues.
The association brings together voices in the business community with common objectives, giving them more leverage with the local government than if they were dealing with them individually, Puccio said.
Heather Ward, a sales manager at the Hotel Lombardy on Pennsylvania Avenue, which is represented in the new group, said the association is awaiting recognition from the city before it can begin to operate in full force.
“(The association) is still working on legitimizing itself as a legal entity,” she said.
Paul Kendrick, a graduate student working in GW’s Office of Foggy Bottom/West End Affairs, has been involved with the group as the University’s representative. While the idea to start the professional association was initially conceived by GW, interested participants decided that they would rather the group be independent instead of run by the University, Kendrick said. While GW is only considered a member of the group, Kendrick stressed the significance of its role in the association.
“GW is the largest member of the community, and it brought all the smaller establishments together,” he said.
Kendrick said the association’s legal work will not be completed for at least two more months and added that until the association is legitimized there will not be any election of officers or executive members. The tentative plan is to elect a five-member executive board to guide the association, he said.
The D.C. branch of the Pepper Hamilton law firm is working for the Foggy Bottom/West End association probono to help legitimize the group. Ward, from Hotel Lombardy, said now the focus is on getting businesses to join. She said there is no timetable in place for electing officers.
“The association’s focus is on growth. Small entrepreneurial establishments are the focus at the moment,” Kendrick said.
Several similar organizations exist throughout the District to protect the collective business interests of a community, including the Georgetown Business and Professional Association and the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals.
Puccio said there is an annual fee of $150 for each business to join the association, which he thinks is affordable for the smaller businesses and insignificant for the larger businesses.
“There are no negative drawbacks (to being a part of the association),” he said. “It’s all about business and our bottom line.”