The primary candidates for the Potomac district supervisor seat – Derrick Wood and Andrea Bailey – spoke to the business community at the Prince William Chamber of Commerce headquarters this morning.
Wood is currently a councilman for the town of Dumfries. The incumbent for the Potomac district seat is Supervisor Maureen Caddigan.
Bailey and Wood are both small business owners in the county. Wood runs a BBQ catering company, and Bailey runs an event planning business.
When speaking to the group, they shared their thoughts on how to improve the business climate in Prince William County.
“I own a company called Affairs Remembered…I’m a small business owner – I do event planning. And I left corporate America to do so…I’ve been in and out of Prince William County since 1976. I’ve studied Prince William County – I know [the county]…I understand that Prince William County is one of the most up and coming world-class communities in this country,” said Bailey.
Wood stated that during his time as councilman, he has voted to reduce BPOL (Business, Professional and Occupational Licensure) tax, and property taxes in Dumfries.
“I’m always thinking from the business perspective. How can the business community make more money? Because as a small business owner, I want to know how we can increase our profits…not so much to have so much regulation. Because I think regulation is the key to a dying society…but just to be able to put some guidance in place, but not make it so hard for business owners,” said Wood.
In addition to their thoughts on business, both candidates shared information about their priorities for the community, including transportation and education.
“We need to build a stronger relationship with the PRTC [Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission] organization – we need to build a stronger relationship with the VRE [Virginia Railway Express],” said Bailey.
“I feel like widening the roads is like loosening the belt on the obesity problem…all you’re going to do is put more cars on the road…I believe we’ve got to study ways on how to bring jobs down here, and bring in pedestrian walking communities and get people out of their cars and off the road,” Wood commented.
During a question and answer session, Wood and Bailey fielded questions from the audience, including a question on the viability of the county board’s revenue sharing agreement as the funding source for the county’s school system.
“I think there needs to be some reform. It’s an outdated system. We can come together to find a better solution. We can bring together administrators and teachers and figure out what’s a better, feasible solution than this revenue sharing program,” Wood stated.
“I think part of [the] solution is sitting down and understanding what the issues are, in terms of managing the budget…I think there is an opportunity for us to build relationships across the county and the school board, to make sure that we are retaining the resources within the county that we want to retain, in terms of teachers and resources in terms of our students,” Bailey said.
They will meet on Thursday night in Dumfries for a candidate debate. The vote for the primary is on June 9.
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The Apple Federal Credit Union branch in Gainesville turned one-year-old this week.
A business after hours event held on Tuesday, May 12, attracted members of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce lined up for networking. They also dined on fresh-off-the-bone barbeque catered by “The Bone” in Downtown Manassas.
The branch on McGraws Corner Drive in Gainesville is one of 23 branches in the company. It is one of the three Apple Federal banking centers in Prince William County. Others branches in Prince William are in Woodbridge and just outside Manassas.
Residents of Prince William and Fairfax counties may join the credit union, said Bill White, the bank’s regional vice president.
An Apple Federal Credit Union branch is soon to open in North Stafford, at Stafford Marketplace next to Firehouse Subs. Stafford residents cannot simply sign up to join the credit union as Prince William or Fairfax may, added White, due to banking rules.
Gary Belt, owner of Prospero’s Books in historic downtown Manassas, Va., has announced Erika Walser is the new sales manager of the independent bookstore. Walser takes over for long-time sales manager Bob Chase, who retired May 13.
Walser is a 2009 graduate of Osbourn High School and earned an associate’s degree from Northern Virginia Community College in 2010. She has worked alongside Chase at Prospero’s for nine years.
“Bob hired me at age 15,” said Walser. He taught me everything I know about books and much, much more. He has watched me grow up, go off to college at Virginia Tech, get married and become a mom. He has been much more than a boss, he is a great friend.”
Prospero’s sells, trades and consigns books in the 104-year-old Hibbs & Giddings building at the corner of Center and West Streets. The currentinventory of about 85,000 volumes includes general hardback and paperback fiction and non-fiction, with extensive collections of military history, especially the American Civil War. On-line book listings through AbeBooks make it easy for customers to purchase and send gifts of any book in the inventory anywhere in the world. Prospero’s has access to rare, collectible and out-of-print books, and offers a growing inventory of antique maps and prints.
“Being a specialty book shop in such an old and beautiful building, we have become a destination store for a lot of people,” explained Walser. “We have regulars who come in every week, and out-of-towners who shop whenever they’re visiting.”
Belt, who has owned the building since 2003, recently freshened the interior and exterior of the century-old building with the approval of the city’s architectural review board. “No one loves this building more than Gary does,” said Walser. “He’s always saying he can’t imagine anything but a bookstore being here.”
Prospero’s is named after the character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a duke who valued his books more than his dukedom. The shop’s beloved and creatively aging cat, Pringles, passed away last year. “Sometimes I think the Ghost of Pringles Past is following me around the store when no one else is around,” said Walser.
Bob Chase has been a well-known and vocal advocate for “shop local” campaigns. Walser plans to continue that advocacy, as well as support for local authors with book signings that complement Historic Manassas Inc. events, such as the upcoming First Friday on June 5 and the Railway Festival on June 6. “I’m currently filling all our summer weekends with book signings. Any interested parties should give me a buzz!” invited Walser.
Walser will represent Prospero’s at meetings of the Washington Antiquarian Booksellers Association (WABA) and the Old Town Business Association (OTBA).
“We also belong to the exclusive, coveted, and absolutely non-official guild of independent bookstores,” she added. “Sadly, the last one loses members every year. We’re competing with smartphones, tablets and short attention spans.”
Virginia Living Magazine’s 2015 “Best of” Readers Poll recently named Prospero’s Books the Best Locally Owned Bookstore in Northern Virginia.
Bob Chase attended his last OTBA meeting May 13 at City Tavern in Manassas. He plans to travel and take advantage of a free schedule to pursue other projects and activities. His favorite quote is from Mark Twain: “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
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Part 2 Read part one.
Aquia Towne Center may finally be rescued from the eyesore it has become. North Stafford residents have been waiting for years for Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust to fulfill its promise to rebuild it. Ambitious plans for a mixed-use town center were put on hold not long after the recession hit in 2008. Since then, the center has consisted of old one-level buildings, vast spaces of asphalt, gravel and dirt, and one modern five-story office building.
Ramco is the company that owns most of the property, which is now known as The Town Center at Aquia. At this time, Ramco is keeping the office building, which also requires about 400 parking spaces. But much of the rest of the property may be going to two companies that plan to revitalize the dilapidated shopping center. If all goes well, the new town center will provide some desired retail establishments, host brand new apartments and improve property values for nearby subdivisions.
The Franklin Johnston Group of Virginia Beach has purchased the southeastern portion of the shopping center where it plans to build apartments.
Stafford County Supervisor Jack Cavalier (I-Griffis-Widewater) said the residential component is likely to happen before the commercial component. Jeff Harvey, director of planning and zoning for the county, agreed and told Potomac Local News that the developer plans to break ground in two weeks.
“The proposed development includes 256 apartment units in eight multi-story buildings [that] include an in-ground pool with a community center,” said Harvey.
The residential portion of the development is expected to take more than a year to complete.
“I just built relations with the developer to allow food trucks in [The Town Center at Aquia],” declared Steven Cook of Steve-O’s BBQ, Burgers & Bacon, a mobile restaurant. Cook made the surprise announcement online May 13. “I will be coordinating a rotating schedule of trucks… during construction,” the post said.
Speaking to Cook via instant messaging, he shared that he has an agreement with Issac Pretter of Mosaic Realty Partners of Maryland to station food trucks in the town center at least until construction is complete. Mosaic plans to redevelop a large portion of the shopping center for commercial use.
The Stafford Board of Supervisors unanimously approved $6.25 million in tax breaks to Mosaic Realty Partners, according to county documents. The tax breaks are an effort to get The Town Center at Aquia project out from under the rubble.
“The Town Center at Aquia… has long been a key commercial gateway to the county,” stated the supervisors’ resolution for the tax break. “The board believes that an active and vibrant major commercial gateway located adjacent to Interstate 95, Route 1 and Garrisonville Road is in the best interest of the citizens of the county and that attractive mixed-use properties significantly increase the potential of attracting much-desired high-end retail to the county.”
It goes on to say the county worked hard to attract an investor for the property and that the board determined that incentives were necessary for the town center to be revitalized.
The most anticipated component expressed by nearby residents is the possibility of a grocery store in the shopping center.
Eron Sodie of Mosaic wouldn’t say which grocery store the company plans on bringing into the site, but he gave a few hints and let it slip that the grocery chain was based in North Carolina. Residents of Aquia Harbour, the neighborhood located behind the town center, have come up with a number of possibilities, but most seem to think Sodie was referring to Harris Teeter.
But there’s a small hiccup. According to Cavalier, the grocery store that is expected to come into the center requires an easement that it will use to create a second entrance on Washington Drive, which is the road that leads into Aquia Harbour from Jefferson Davis Highway. Cavalier said the second entrance would sit approximately 400 feet outside of the Harbour’s front gate. Such a transaction would have to be made between Aquia Harbour and Mosaic since the Harbour owns that portion of the road.
Supervisor Paul Milde III (R-Aquia) said the second entrance being proposed is supposed to be only for traffic in and out of Aquia Harbour.
Sodie said a traffic study will be done. He added that delivery trucks will not be allowed to use Washington Drive, though it’s unclear how that promise would be enforced.
According to site plans, the new grocery store would be built where the movie theater is currently located, at the rear of the shopping center. As for the businesses at the front of the shopping center, they are independently owned, according to officials.
The cost for a government employee booking a hotel in Prince William County may be changing, as organizations fight to raise the rates.
When a government employee travels, they book a room using a “per diem” rate – a rate set by the General Services Administration (GSA), that is different from the rate any other traveler would pay.
Using a formula, the GSA looks at these rates each year, and despite Prince William County’s proximity to Washington, D.C. the current per diem rate for the county is far lower than other localities.
According to the GSA, the per diem rate in Washington D.C. is $177 off peak – $229 per night during peak occupancy. Fairfax also has the same rate. But for Prince William, the rate is only $85 a night.
“There’s a huge disparity between the per diem rates that are charged in Fairfax, and those that get charged in Prince William and Loudoun…huge disparities between where the GSA determines [whether] they’re ‘in’ [Washington] D.C. or not. And there’s not much rhyme or reason to that,” said Eric Terry, president of the Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association.
Terry stated that the process for determining these rates is very arbitrary, and sometimes doesn’t make sense.
“I think it’s just arbitrary decisions that got made by the GSA. To tell you how arbitrary it is – one side of Dulles Airport, on the side towards Fairfax, you’ll pay $177 for a room. If you go to the other side, you’ll pay $96,” Terry said.
What does a lower rate mean?
While a person may think that a lower cost for booking a room would bring more government travelers to the area – which would in turn be beneficial to the county – that isn’t actually the case.
Terry said that while it’s technically cheaper for the government to book rooms in the county, because the rate is lower, the county gets a much smaller percentage of profit – as compared to localities like Fairfax.
“A portion of the [transient occupancy taxes] go to roads and other things in the county, so if you start with a lower rate, and the [taxes collected] are a lower part of the revenue – it’s a percentage tax, rather than a hard dollar number – yes it does in fact effect the counties,” Terry commented.
What is the impact?
The impact of the lower per diem rates is felt by the county, in relation to their tourism growth efforts according to Discover Prince William & Manassas President Ann Marie Maher,
“The per diem issue has been one that has been challenging for Prince William County in terms of securing government business here,” said Maher.
Maher also stated that Prince William is being clumped together with localities that are further south – including Spotsylvania and Stafford counties.
Jennifer Decker, a general manager at the Manassas Hampton Inn, expressed her frustration with the county’s lower per diem rates, and how it effects their own bottom line.
“Since Prince William County is situated just outside of DC, it is predominantly a government market and it is definitely by far our largest market for our hotel. There are many large local government contracting companies, state government employees, state universities, etc that are requesting the government per diem rate so it reaches far beyond just the federal government,” stated Decker. “The per diem rate being as low as it is definitely affects our business and makes it hard to continue to grow year after year when the per diem rate continues to decline. It affects our bottom line which in turn affects our decision to hire verse lay off employees and that affects the local economy. It’s almost like a snowball effect for the county… It is very frustrating knowing that you can drive just 10 minutes away and the per diem rate increases by $100.00 or more especially when we provide the same services as they do.”
What will it take to change the rate?
Maher said that the county is currently fighting to get the per diem raised, and they are working with the county’s lobbyist – Jon Stirrup – to explain to the GSA why the rate needs to be adjusted during their next rate assessment period.
“The only way that our rate can be changed, according to the GSA is if a government planner basically sends a request to the GSA, letting them know that they can’t find rooms in Prince William County. That they’re running into trouble getting their needs met in a particular area…when a government planner calls – let’s say they call Quantico – and they say ‘hey we’d like to book’, [the hotel] can say ‘sorry we don’t have any rooms for the per diem rate’. Even though they have rooms – they don’t want to sell them at that rate because they know they can get a higher rate from people on the street,” said Maher.
Terry anticipates that in the next year the rates in the county will increase a bit, but they will not catch up with the rates of surrounding localities like Fairfax.
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Purchase of Rite Aid, Regal Cinema buildings at Aquia Towne Center expected to close this month
For the better part of a decade Aquia Towne Center has been in limbo. Older businesses sat scattered among rubble and pavement while one modern office building towered above them like a beacon, which in a way actually made the preceding structures appear even more stale. It would be an immense understatement to say that residents of North Stafford and tenants of the town center have been annoyed at the lack of progress by Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust, a Michigan company that owns most of the property. Some citizens of Aquia Harbour, the subdivision that sits directly behind the shopping center, have been downright angry about the matter.
The Stafford County Board of Supervisors changed the zoning to mixed-use years ago so Ramco could build a totally new town center with offices, retail stores and residential apartments. Many tenants of Aquia Towne Center were told to vacate, and most of the strip mall type of buildings were demolished in preparation for the rebuild.
Then the recession hit in 2008. It hit particularly hard in Michigan and other parts of the Midwest where Ramco does much of its business.
A lone five-story office building was erected in 2007. The demolition of the strip buildings (with the exception of Rite Aid’s location) continued through 2008. Then construction appeared to stop.
Occasionally, a construction vehicle would be seen pushing some dirt along an empty plat of land while rumors of a new movie theater or some other improvement would make its way around the community only for nothing to come of it.
Now, after years of rumors, hopes and let-downs, plans to revitalize Aquia Towne Center, renamed The Town Center at Aquia, may actually go through.
Two separate companies have been in negotiations to purchase the available property since last year. One company reportedly just closed on a site and plans on building apartments within the boundaries of the shopping center. (More on that in Part 2.) While another company has plans to rebuild the commercial section.
Mosaic Realty Partners of Maryland is the other buyer. According to its website, Mosaic is a private real estate investment firm by Isaac Pretter and Eron Sodie “for the primary purpose of investing in office, retail and industrial real estate in the Mid-Atlantic.” It was founded in 2012.
Sodie acknowledged that the company is buying the Rite Aid and Regal Cinema buildings. That deal is expected to close this month.
He wouldn’t discuss all of the company’s plans but did say that the office building owned by Ramco requires 400 parking spaces and that limits what Mosaic can do.
The most anticipated component expressed by residents of Aquia Harbour is the possibility of a grocery store anchoring the center. The town center has been without one since Shoppers Food Warehouse relocated to Stafford Marketplace more than a decade ago.
What has prevented a grocery store from moving into The Town Center at Aquia all these years has most likely been a non-compete clause that Rite Aid has in its lease. This means that another pharmacy is not allowed in the shopping center. However, most grocery stores have a pharmacy inside them.
The coming grocery store — though not a done deal — may indeed have a pharmacy in it. However, Mosaic has negotiated with Rite Aid to build a separate free-standing building for them.
A new, big standalone store gives them a bigger footprint than just a storefront, Stafford County Supervisor Jack Cavalier (I-Griffis-Widewater) told Potomac Local News.
Allowing the center to move forward with this development will likely improve the Aquia Rite Aid’s situation, as well.
Sodie was cryptic about which grocery store he was planning on bringing into the site, but he did say the store would be approximately 75,000 square feet in size although its stores are usually only 55,000 square feet and that it’s known for having lots of prepared foods.
According to site plans, the new grocery store would be built where the movie theater is currently located, at the rear of the shopping center. County officials have indicated that the movie theater could possibly be rebuilt elsewhere in the town center but that it’s more likely there will be a new cinema down Va. 610 (Garrisonville Road).
As for the businesses at the front of the shopping center, consisting of a gas station, motel, bank, tire store, dental office and restaurants, they are independently owned, according to officials. The multistory office building will remain Ramco’s property for the time being.
“I really think this is the best prospect we’ve seen in a long, long time,” said Cavalier.
Part 2: Apartments, taxes and a hiccup to bringing in the grocery store
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Cutrate Barbershop had its grand opening last weekend in Downtown Manassas.
The unisex shop is located on the corner on Center Street across from Okra’s, in the old Post Office building.
“You can’t beat a corner shop. No matter where you go, the best location is always the corner shop – because it’s always a bigger shop, and you’ve got everything sitting right there and everyone can see you,” said Shaun Lewis, manager at the shop.
According to Lewis, a lot of time and investment was put into the shop in order to make it comfortable for customers.
“We were going for that old-school [feel]. You know you’re going to come in, and if you ask for a shave, you know you’re going to get the lather, the hot towel – the whole nine yards…we want everyone that walks into the shop to feel comfortable,” said Lewis.
Lewis said that having the barbershop in the downtown area of Manassas has already proven to be good for business.
“We’ve been getting a lot of phone calls lately from people that have gone over to like Okra’s at night, when we were closed, and [asked for] our store hours, because they like the spot,” Lewis commented.
The shop has both barbers and stylists who can work on men and women’s hair.
The standard hair cut pricing ranges from $18 to $25, and $20 for a shave. There is also coloring service available.
The store will soon have a full service shoeshine as well.
“A good atmosphere, a good clientele and a good haircut can change anybody’s day,” said Lewis.
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HighGrain Bread Company, a locally owned bakery, is making a presence in Manassas with their “from scratch” philosophy and unique menu.
The store, which just opened about a year ago, is nestled in the Bull Run Shopping Plaza area, off of Sudley Manor Drive.
They offer standard lunch fare, including sandwiches, salads, soups and sweets. Some of their top items include the chicken gyro, hummus wrap and their Caesar salad.
One thing that makes this location unique is their baking. They offer a monthly baking schedule that constantly offers up new items and their menu staples – that customers can order for their own homes or events.
They also have a weekly schedule available for customers, so they can see the breads and different baked goods being baked on-site each day. From their challah bread, to their tea loaves and other baked goods, they try to keep their goods high quality and interesting, said an employee.
HighGrain Bread Company is closed on Mondays, and open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Ornery Beer Company is another brewery that will be opening in Prince William in July – but they plan to stand out for their offering of beer and food.
“We will be the first brewpub in Prince William County – meaning it is a restaurant with a brewery. The others ones that are in the county that are under construction – they’ll bring in food trucks…but they don’t have on-site restaurant services,” said Randy Barnette, the owner of the brewery.
Barnette, who is also the owner of the Hard Times restaurant locations, will put the brewery in the current Woodbridge Hard Times location – which has been open since 2001.
“The business has changed, the clientele has changed, and it was time to do something different…the lease came up here at the [Woodbridge] location of Hard Times, and it was either time to relocate it, close it down or make it something new and different,” said Barnette.
The brewery will have six beers to start, including the Ornery Blonde and the California Dreamin’ IPA, with plans to have 8 to 12 beers on-tap at all times in a few months.
According to Barnette, a chef announcement will be made soon, and he hopes to have a menu with dishes primarily made from scratch, including flatbreads, shareable appetizers, sandwiches and entrees.
“[We want] a non-standard menu that says ‘this is created by the chef’. That it changes every month, and is handmade…original and comfortable to eat in a community setting,” commented Barnette.
Additionally, Barnette acquired the space next door to the former Hard Times, and will be using that to expand and create another bar space.
Recently a vehicle crashed into the front of the location, but Barnette stated that the incident was not the reason behind the move from Hard Times to Ornery Brewery.
“This has been in the works for almost two years. We signed the lease with the landlord to make this transition a year and four months ago…all the accident did was to make a hole in the wall where we can bring in brewery equipment – it actually helped us out a little bit,” said Barnette.
Stafford’s Economic Development Authority will hold a special event at the Stafford Regional Airport to celebrate and congratulate Stafford’s business community.
The 2015 Business Appreciation Reception is sponsored by University of Maryland University College and will feature a keynote address by Virginia Secretary of Technology Karen R. Jackson.
It will be held June 11 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., with the keynote address beginning at 3:30 p.m.
To register, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office of Economic Development-540-658-8681.
The Stafford Regional Airport is located at 75 Aviation Way, Stafford, Virginia.
The City of Manassas partnered today with the Prince William Chamber of Commerce to recognize city business owners.
A special breakfast was held at the Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory in Downtown Manassas.
Business owners were invited to attend the event free of charge.
See photos from the event
Pollo Campero, a Latin chicken restaurant chain, will be celebrating Mother’s Day this Sunday by giving mothers a free dessert and flowers.
Any mothers that stop by one of the Pollo Campero locations on Sunday will get a free flan dessert and a fresh flower, said a release.
According to a release, Campero’s flan is a vanilla custard topped with caramelized sugar.
Here are the participating area locations:
14083 Jefferson Davis Blvd.
7705 Richmond Hwy.
Several small brush fires occurred along Garrisonville Road in North Stafford yesterday, two of them in the same place but hours apart.
The first incident was a mulch fire on the side of the building where Alliance Physical Therapy is located in the North Stafford Plaza shopping center at around 3:15 p.m.
Two hours later, the Stafford County Fire and Rescue Department headed to a brushfire at 627 Garrisonville Road, in the area of Barton & Williams School of Dance.
Minutes after that call, another came in for a bush on fire in the parking lot of Home Depot in the Doc Stone Shopping Center. The main concern about this incident was that the burning bush was near parked cars.
Around the same time as the Home Depot parking lot fire, a mulch fire by Alliance Physical Therapy, in the same location as before, was reported.
Each fire was extinguished in minutes.
Although the causes of these fires have not been determined, Assistant Fire Chief Mark Doyle said that a lot of times in these situations the fire department will find “improper disposal of smoking materials” to be the cause. Since so few businesses allow smoking inside, people will go outside to smoke and then throw the cigarette on the ground. Sometimes the cigarette is burned up in the subsequent fire, so there’s no evidence to find.
El Charro – 2893 Dale Blvd, Woodbridge, VA
El Charro is offering any two of their bottled beers for $5.
El Paso – 3031 Golansky Blvd, Woodbridge, VA
El Paso will be offering drink specials all day.
Zandra’s Tauqueria – 9114 Center St, Manassas, VA
Zandra’s will be hosting a Happy Hour until 7 p.m. with a Tequila Tuesday theme. They will also be offering drink specials and beef tongue tacos all evening.
Don Lencho – 9116 Mathis Ave, Manassas, VA
Don Lencho’s will be having a drink special for mimosas, and a Taco Tuesday with taco’s al a carte for $1.50.
El Cactus – 9406 Battle St, Manassas, VA
El Cactus is offering half-priced appetizers from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., 50 cent chili con queso from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and a sombrero contest. There will also be drink specials.
El Gran Charro -2834 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Stafford, VA
El Gran Charro will be offering a taco special, with $1.25 for hard shell tacos and $1.50 for soft tacos. They are also offering nachos for $2.99. Their Cinco de Mayo drink specials include $2.99 lime margaritas and Corona’s for $2.50.
El Vaquero West – 14910 Washington St, Haymarket, VA
El Vaquero West is offering drink specials including a 32-ounce draft for $6.85 and all bottled beers for $2.85. They will also be offering their medium lime margaritas for $4.25.
Get home safely
To ensure that participants in the Cinco de Mayo festivities get home safely, special ride programs will be available for area residents.
The SoberRide program, run by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, is available to all Washington D.C. area residents from 4 p.m. today, until 4 a.m. tomorrow morning.
In order to use the free ride program, you must 21-years and older.
To use the service, you need to call 800-200-8294. SoberRide will pay for the first $30 of the fare, and anything over this amount all riders are responsible for.
The participating cab companies are Alexandria Yellow Cab, Barwood, Inc., Fairfax Yellow Cab, Loudon Yellow Cab, Northern Virginia Checker, Red Top Cab Company, Silver Cab of Prince George’s County, Yellow Cab of the District of Columbia, and Yellow Cab of Prince William County.
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Community Thrift, a locally owned and operated thrift store on Sudley Road in Manassas, is struggling to compete with larger discount retailers in the area.
According to Leslie Morris, manager of the store, the amount of donations has decreased in recent months, as discount chains like Goodwill and Salvation Army have come into the area.
The Community Thrift store is unique in that its staff is primarily made up of members of the disabled community in the county. The store opened its doors as a non-profit back in 1999, according to Teresa Guzik, Media Relations Specialist for ServiceSource.
Job opportunities for the disabled
ServiceSource – a non-profit disability organization – manages the operation of the store, said Guzik.
“[ServiceSource] serves more than 16,000 individuals with disabilities annually through a range of innovative and valued employment, training, habilitation, housing and other support services,” commented Guzik.
Individuals working in the store expressed their concern about the future of the store – and their jobs – due to the decline in donated goods.
“People treat other people [here] like family…I am still a little bit worried about the [donations] going down. This program and the store is here to help needy people,” said Ashley Hatton, who has been an employee for 8-years.
“I like working here. I like the people. I want to try something new [to get more donations],” said Jennifer Gifford, an employee that has been with the store for 9-years.
Family and friend’s thoughts on Community Thrift
Morris stated that community businesses that support causes like the disabled in the area were worth supporting.
“I took the position here as manager of the store because it had such a warm feeling. I’ve been in this industry for a long time, and I gravitated towards this specific store because of its charity work – working with people with disabilities. I originally thought it was going to be a very challenging experience, but it’s turned out to be a very rewarding experience,” Morris said.
For parents with disabled individuals, the store has also been a positive experience.
“The Community Thrift Store has been a godsend to our daughter. The store has provided our daughter with a sense of purpose and feeling of accomplishment…there are too few opportunities for those with special needs in our community where they can be contributing members to the community. It’s continued success relies on the support and contributions of all our neighbors. Without them, this establishment and those that it directly supports would become even more dependent on government assistance programs,” said Jane Hatton, a parent of one of the employees.
All donations made to the Community Thrift store are tax-deductible, and can be dropped off anytime during store hours.
Residents will be able to meet with local artists, view art demonstrations along the streets of Occoquan, and take part in a raffle to win a wildlife river tour by Rivershore Charters.
Many Occoquan businesses will be taking part, including Art a la Carte, the Artist’s Undertaking Gallery, Red Art & Design, Spiral Creations and The Loft Art Center.
Moody’s Investors Service, a company that assesses bond credit ratings, has upgraded Stafford County’s bond rating from an Aa2 to an Aa1.
The higher a counties bond rating, the lower the cost to borrow money. This means that Stafford County will be able to borrow funds at a lower cost, which will save residents money.
Bond rating agencies look at four criteria when assessing a locality’s financial standing, including finances, the area economy, debt and financial management and governance.
According to data from the Census Bureau, Stafford is now considered ninth in the country for median household income with an average of $96,355.
Additionally, the number of jobs in the county have increased by 42% in the past 10 years, said a release.
According to the board of supervisors, their fiscal management and budgeting have allowed the community to prosper.
“This is very exciting news and we are thrilled that Moody’s recognizes our ongoing fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraint. We have faced challenges along the way and have had to make difficult decisions to continue providing high quality services to our community, but we have never wavered from our goal of improving our bond rating. All of our efforts have been deliberate to move us closer to that goal,” said board of supervisors Chairman Gary Snellings.
The first company to open a space at the Prince William Science Accelerator – ISOThrive, LLC – has announced they will be moving into a larger space on the site.
The Prince William Science Accelerator is a facility located in Innovation Park – a collaborative effort between the Prince William County Economic Development department and George Mason University, to bring jobs and industry to Prince William.
ISOThrive is currently working on a probiotic nutritional supplement, and plans to enter the commercial market this year. They have received $1.4 million in private investments.
“The Prince William Science Accelerator is focused on growing a pipeline of world-class researchers, businesses and investors into the community. Being home to the only university-anchored science and technology park in the Greater Washington, DC metropolitan area, Prince William County provides new life sciences entrepreneurs and startups an ideal environment that promotes synergy and collaboration,” Prince William County Board of Supervisor’s Chairman At-Large Corey Stewart said in a release.
According to Jack Oswald, the CEO of ISOThrive, the Prince William Science Accelerator has allowed the company to grow quickly.
“ISOThrive’s participation in the Prince William Science Accelerator has enabled us to quickly advance our research and fast-track our time to market. The support of Prince William County and the close proximity to the world class resources of the MicroBiome Analysis Center at George Mason University have been instrumental to our efforts,” said Oswald in a release.
Additionally, ISOThrive is conducting a research study, and are looking for participants to test their supplement. In order to participate, individuals must be between 18 and 45, have a BMI of 25 or higher, and be in good health. Participants will be compensated $235 for their time and involvement, said a release.
There’s a new car dealership coming to Manassas.
Construction on the site of the new Brown’s Manassas Kia on Liberia Avenue has begun.
The owner of the incoming dealership is Charles Stringfellow.
Plans were submitted and approved for the project by the City of Manassas in 2014.
In collaboration with the Prince William County Economic Development Department and George Mason University, the up and coming Virginia Serious Games Institute (VSGI) is now growing to incubate and accelerate several more game design companies in Prince William.
VSGI, located at George Mason University’s campus in Prince William, started with just an idea from the institute’s founding director Dr. Scott Martin.
“It was an idea I came up with, after a visit to the University of Coventry over in the United Kingdom…I loved the [serious game] model [there]…[to act] as an incubator and an accelerator for companies within the simulation games base,” said Martin.
The game design major has been a huge growth area for George Mason University.
“It’s the fastest growing academic program in the history of George Mason University,” Martin commented.
With support from the economic development department, and an ongoing $250,000 investment from the Commonwealth of Virginia – legislation budget amendment that started two years ago, VSGI was able to take on 7 startup game design companies.
Another community partner that has helped VSGI is the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), which is based out of Alexandria. AACP has invested $500,000 thus far into VSGI.
“We had been studying education innovation as an association of educators for about a year seriously…we knew we needed a partner, and we thought about a couple, but none locally until we heard the announcement about the partnership between SGI and the county,” said Dr. Lucinda Maine, Executive Vice President and CEO of AACP.
Over 70 jobs have been created since the opening of VSGI last year.
Martin stated that the companies that work as part of the VSGI create ‘serious’ games, versus entertainment games.
“The difference between entertainment games and serious games is that [entertainment games] are developed purely to entertain. Whereas serious games have another purpose – persuasive games, educational games – however, they still have an entertaining component…Serious games can do things – like save lives,” said Martin.
One of the companies working with VSGI has created a firefighter simulator that is being used in Fairfax County to train emergency responders, said Martin.
Atlanta is considered to be a growing entertainment game hub, and Martin stated that he hopes in the coming years that Prince William County will become a serious game industry hub, bringing jobs and development to the area.
Professions Quest, one of the original game design companies that partnered with VSGI has announced their first commercial game coming to market – a health industry learning game called Mimycx.
The game allows students and healthcare workers to work collaboratively to solve problems and learn about important information they will use in their careers.
This summer VSGI is planning for rapid growth, said Martin.
“We received another investment from the Commonwealth of Virginia this summer, and we’re expanding to 14 companies,” Martin stated.
The institute is currently taking applications for the 7 additional slots. The application deadline is May 1.
On May 23, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. there will be the first annual Woodbridge Food Truck Festival at Gar-Field Senior High School on Smoketown Road.
The festival will feature local vendors, and some of the area’s best food trucks, said a release.
The event is free for all residents, and there will be food and drinks available to purchase on site.
This festival signals a growing trend in food trucks in Prince William County, and the greater Northern Virginia area.