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Hiteshue Heading Chamber’s Advocacy Office in Woodbridge

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — The Prince William Chamber of Commerce has placed its Government Advocacy office in Woodbridge.

Chamber officials said the office will be located in an I-95 Business Park at 14000 Crown Court near an old one at the now closed Mason Enterprise Center. It’s one of three centers owned an operated by the Chamber to include their headquarters in Manassas and a satellite office in Gainesville.

“The new office, with its larger footprint, will afford us the ability to host committee meetings and activities in this office space as well as our Manassas headquarters and Gainesville office, said Prince William Chamber Vice President of Communications and Government Relations Nancy Hiteshue, who will be assigned to work in the Woodbridge office. “As for programs and projects, we will be continuing the Chamber’s already robust advocacy program and look to engage more of our members in public policy discussions.”

Hiteshue will spit her time between the Woodbridge office and a workspace in Richmond that is used when the General Assembly is in session.

The Prince William Chamber is the largest chamber of commerce in the state and the Washington, D.C. area. It represents 2,000 members with 70,000 employees.

 

News
Prince William’s SySTEMic Solutions Expanding to Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun

MANASSAS, Va. — What started out as a robotics program in Prince William County has now spread to Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties.

SySTEMic Solutions, a public-private partnership that aims to interest elementary, middle, and high school students in fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, celebrated its expansion in Manassas on Wednesday. Officials gathered at Micron Technology Inc. to announce the regional expansion of the program.

“Business and industry are telling us that the jobs of today and tomorrow are in the STEM-H fields,” Virginia Secreatary of Education Laura Fornash stated in a press release. “We must ensure that K-12, higher education and business and industry are all working together to prepare our young people for the top jobs of the 21st century. SySTEMic Solutions is a prime example of the successful public-private partnerships we are looking to replicate throughout the Commonwealth.”

Students in the SySTEMic program participate in robotics competitions, take field trips to businesses, show STEM professionals, and complete internships to develop industry-specific skills. Its vision is to prepare students for jobs in these fields, which is expected to grow in the Northern Virginia area through 2020.

Virginia’s General Assembly awared a $1 million, two-year grant for the program. Officials say that more than $5 million is required to to maintain the program as it expands.

In Prince William County, the program has reached 4,000 students. As it expands into neighboring counties, SySTEMic Solutions aims to reach 40,000 children by 2016.

The company that hosted Wednesday’s event to announce the expansion also announced a financial contribution to help keep it going.

“Micron and the Micron Foundation are proud to have been there with SySTEMic Solutions since its inception. This is a win-win for business and education,” stated Raj Narasimhan, the site director for Micron Technology in a press release. “Public-private partnerships are essential and building programs like this will enable our goal. In addition to our seed funding and annual support since the inception, for this year we have committed a support of $120,000 for SySTEMic Solutions programs.”

News
Lake Ridge Shopping Center Under Renovation Getting New Name

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — Trees are coming down and a renovation of a Lake Ridge shopping center is getting underway.

Owners of the Festival at Old Bridge Shopping Center on Old Bridge Road cut down trees to make way for new ones. It’s part of an overall renovation of the property that includes tennants Gold’s Gym, Village Skis and Bikes, Brittany’s Sports Bar, and Food Lion grocery store.

“We’re in the process of cleaning up the site, which involves taking down trees, removing brush, overgrown shrubbery, etc. The site will be cleaned up and the stumps will be removed,” said spokeswoman Sheryl Simeck in an email.

Once renovations are complete, a total of 1,400 new trees will be planted in the shopping center – 720 more than officials at the Prince William County Government Center required. The trees will include crepe myrtles, red maples, Ginko trees, Ink Berry, Hypericum, Smokebush, Itea, Liriope groundcover, Old Gold Juniper and salvia.

After the renovation and planting is completed, the center will also undergo a name change to Dillingham Square. That name will match the name of street on which the shopping center already sits.

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Bobby Flay’s Burgers & Fries Shake Up Woodbridge

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Chef Bobby Flay hands out one of his signature burgers from his kitchen. [Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

By STEPHANIE TIPPLE

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — A long line circled the Potomac Mills parking lot Tuesday, waiting in anticipation for the opening of Bobby Flay’s 15th Bobby’s Burger Palace in Woodbridge.

The casual dining restaurant, which seats 70, is an expression of Flay’s childhood love for burgers, and his take on American classics.

“It’s been a long journey and I’ve spent a lot of time at my high-end restaurants, but I’ve always been a burger guy. Cheeseburgers are just my go-to food craving, so I always thought it would be cool to open my own burger place. I can still taste what it tastes like and I feel in some ways it shaped my technique for the burger after that,” Flay said.

Before opening the first of the chain in 2008, Flay thought long and hard about how his burgers and cuisine at Bobby’s Burger Palace would stand out from the crowd.

“There’s a lot of places that serve good burgers in this country and so I was trying to figure out how I was going to separate myself from the rest of the pack. And I think the thing that I decided was that I was going to be true to who I am,” Flay said.

The inspiration to create a menu of burgers inspired by all American ingredients came from his experiences on his Food Network show, Food Nation, where he had the opportunity to travel the country and experience the regionally unique flavors and ingredients.

“When I look at a map of America, I look at it differently. When most people look at a map they see states, towns and cities. But when I look, I see ingredients from all the different places,” said Flay.

According to Flay, there are three crucial components in the burger game; the burger, the fries and the milkshakes.

“I think of the burger as the quintessential sandwich,” said Flay.

The burgers served at BBP are certified Angus beef, and all are made on a flat iron griddle versus a grill in order to preserve the flavor, according to Flay.

And while he refuses to skimp on quality for his burgers, Flay stressed his restaurant’s affordability.

“When I started opening these restaurants, and still today, I hear people say, ‘Oh Bobby Flay has a burger place – the burgers must be $20 dollars,’ but that’s not what I’m trying to do here. I’m trying to cook a burger that everyone wants to eat,” Flay said.

A definitely unique feature of Flay’s burgers is the option to “crunchify” a burger, which means to add a thin layer of potato chips to the burger, at no additional charge.

“Whenever I’d eat a burger there’d be French fries or potato chips on the plate, next to my burger, and the cheese would melt down onto the potato chips on the side I would eat those first,” Flay said.

While Flay had control in creating the menu, as a true foodie he has a hard time settling on his favorite burger.

“It depends on the day. The other day I had a Bobby Bleu Burger. That was my favorite two days ago – today, it might be something different. I always get my burgers crunchified,” he said.

 The restaurant does offer turkey burgers and chicken in place of a burger patty, and Flay defended the lack of a veggie burger on his menu.

“Vegetarians are very unhappy with me, because they want me to have a veggie burger but I’ve yet to find a veggie burger that I’ve thought was great. I’ve had some that were okay, but I just have not been able to find something that meets the standards of everything else on the menu,” said Flay, who suggested having one of their salads or grilled cheese instead.

The other two components are the fries and milkshakes. The fries, which are offered as original or sweet potato, are hand cut on the premises and made from scratch using a two-day labor-intensive process. And if you’re in the mood to dip your fries or douse your burger in sauce, then consider their three signature sauces; a chipotle ketchup, jalapeno hot sauce or burger sauce.

After a year of happy sampling, Flay perfected his milkshake recipes, which come with a whopping 11 oz in each glass.

“They’re the right thickness and have a tremendous amount of flavor. The calorie count’s about 20 – but I was the one that was counting,” chuckled Flay.

Flay’s “Palace” offers 10 different milkshake flavors, as well as malted milk powder as an add-on. One of the milkshakes that has garnered the most attention from customers has been the pistachio shake.

“I’ll let you in on a secret – the pistachio shake is a cult favorite. If you like pistachio at all, I urge you to taste it,” Flay said. If you’re trying to lay off the sweets, then consider their signature margarita, which is also served at Flay’s Mesa Grill.

No matter what you order, Flay wants to make sure that your experience is as great as the food.

“I want them to really have a good time. I think the thing that I love about this place is that we’re always having a good time. I want this to be the go-to place that they come for their burger craving and that’s a hard thing to do because people often have a place in their minds when they think of their favorite burger,” Flay said.

News
Flay to Open ‘Bobby’s Burger Palace’ on Tuesday

By STEPHANIE TIPPLE

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Food Network TV star Bobby Flay will be in Woodbridge on Tuesday to open his latest eatery, Bobby’s Burger Palace, at Potomac Mills mall.

Handlers said Flay will be on hand at noon to greet customers and “flip burgers.”

This will be the 15th Bobbys Burger Palace that has opened in the U.S. The restaurant offers 10 signature burgers, from the Philadelphia Burger, the Buffalo Burger, the Dallas Burger, and the Santa Fe Burger, with, yes, you guessed it, jalapeno peppers.

Inspired by the recipes and food that he’s tried all across the United States, Bobby brings a menu of burgers and other lunch and dinner staples that are meant to serve as an upgrade to a normal meal out, while maintaining the casual setting and vibe, according to a press release.

News
Owner Builds TelNet after Key Decision to Never Serve Another Boss

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Mike Howard, President of TelNet. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

Sponsor Profile: Mike Howard of TelNet

By STEPHANIE TIPPLE

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Growing up in a military family with his father in the Air Force, Howard, also known as “Mike the Phone Guy,” had decided on the career path of architecture, a far cry from his telecommunications role today.

“When I was in high school, I was studying to become an architect. My goal was to become an architect. And I went, because as every 17-year-old, we always know best, and after going I knew that’s not what I wanted to do,” Howard said.

Realizing that a life of blueprints and building design were not for him, Howard veered to a pursuit close to his family roots, joining the Air Force at 17, where he had his first exposure to telecommunications.

“The second day after joining, I realized I made a big mistake. I realized it was going to be a long four years,” Howard said.

After spending four years in the Air Force before being honorably discharged, Howard moved to Florida where his parents had entered retirement. Spending a little over a year working and going back to school, Howard was offered a position at the National Security Agency in Maryland, bringing him back up to the Washington area. Working for the NSA for eight years proved to be a positive experience for Howard, but he decided he wanted to give it a shot at working for a mom and pop telecommunications business.

Signing on to work at a small telecommunications firm in Maryland, where he established his technical background, Howard worked hard to transform the company and to help it grow.

“I helped the owner build his company from me being employee number 4 to 42 employees. We were the third largest dealer for telecommunications product at the time,” Howard commented.

“During the latter part of my five- years with that company, I had the urge to do sales. I liked the technical process, but there was something about the sales process; the meeting with customers, solving problems and all of that,” Howard said, which led to his first sales job at Lucent in 1996. “I had a pretty high quota to hit, but I was there for four years and did very well,” Howard said.

Gaining his sales experience, Howard felt it was time to take the reins, and approached his former employer, who agreed to open another office in Virginia that Howard could run, which was located in Fairfax.

“In the first year, we did close to a million dollars in business. I was able to bring in 10 employees,” Howard said of his initial success in the firm’s new office.

Running into some snags with the new branch, Howard moved to Falcon Communications in Manassas where he served as VP of Sales, until he was laid off in the Internet bust of the last decade – a moment that changed the course of his life forever.

“I went into work with my son, who was 3-years-old, and I was let go that Saturday. That weekend, I told my wife I was never going to work for another person – I was going to do this my way. I was going to serve customers, I was going to help them in the best way I can and provide what I believe is the best service I can offer,” Howard said. This was a scary time for their family, as his wife was also unemployed and they had just given birth to their second child.

“That weekend I came up with our logo, and the name – real simple – TelNet, an abbreviation for telephone and network, and come Monday morning I got a business license and I started officially moving forward,” Howard said.

“We grew quickly. The first year we did about $100,000, we scraped by – it was terrible, but we made it through that – and then we went to $400,000 and $800,000 and $1.2 million,” Howard said, going on to say that the 2008 crash put the company in a place of hardship and loss, but Howard helped redirect the company to survive the crash and come out on top.

“Today we are in a growth mode – I’ve been blessed to have great employees and better than that even, I have great customers,” Howard said of his thousands of customer’s he’s served in the company’s 12 years.

Howard’s focus for his telecommunications company, TelNet, has always been to know their customer and differentiate themselves from the competition.

“We are a technology company for businesses. We provide telecommunications products – hardware and software for a business,” said Howard.

“What’s different about our company versus some of our competitors is that we don’t just represent a product or a specific manufacturer. Coming from the service end of the business, so often I’d witness how people would buy things because they were sold. We have multiple manufacturers that we represent so we can truly approach our customers and educate them on all of the options that there are,” Howard said.

And TelNet has done this, not only working to win the Northern Virginia state cabling contract for seven years, but also winning the Inc. 5000 Award.

While his path has been long and in many places, very difficult, Howard reflects positively on the choices he’s made and all that he’s accomplished in his career and with TelNet. “I am truly grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve been given,” Howard stated.

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Auto Repair Shop Stays in Business by Educating Employees on Cost of Doing Business 

Let’s face it – going to an auto repair shop is a lot like going to the dentist.  You know you have to go once in a while, but there is always somewhere else you would rather be spending your time, and your money.

For auto repair shop owners, starting one can be difficult – many close within the first three to five years in business.  And, auto repair shops are one of the more regulated businesses in the U.S. today.

Sudley Car Care Center in Manassas is an exception to this rule.  The company, owned by Craig Ginther, and his wife Sandy, has been in operation for 23 years.  Today, the company has a roster of about 4,000 customers and has received several community awards for customer service and technical expertise.

Ginther recently offered to share about the success of his business, and what advice he would give to those starting out today.

Have a clear vision of the type of business you want to start.  This includes the culture, values, and target market.

Prior to starting Sudley Car Care, Ginther was employed at a local gas station, working his way up from mechanic to state inspector.  He then moved on to work at several dealerships in the area.  When Ginther decided to start his own business, he was determined to take the best practices from his previous employers and apply them to Sudley Car Care.  He also had a very clear vision of the type of company he wanted to own.

“Customer satisfaction was key,” said Ginther .  “I didn’t just want to do car repairs, I wanted to develop long term relationships and friendships with my customers.”

Because Ginther knew what type of culture he wanted for the business, he also knew what types of people he wanted to hire.

“I’ve always focused on hiring people who are very customer service oriented and have strong family values,” said Ginther.  “I want someone who strives for excellence and takes great pride in their work.”

Ginther also knew what types of automobiles he wanted to service.

“We have always focused on cars and light trucks only,” he said.  “We service about 50% domestic and 50% foreign manufactures.  However, on the foreign side we stick primarily to Asian manufacturers.”

This is because many of the high performance European manufacturers require specialized computer diagnostics and highly specialized training.  Having this type of focus kept Ginther from investing in expensive software and tools without a guarantee that he could get enough business from this niche market to make it profitable.  It also helped with sales and marketing – he knew exactly who to target with his marketing efforts.  This enabled him to get maximum value from his marketing dollars.

Have experience in the industry before you go out on your own, be realistic about the financial requirements, and never stop focusing on expenses.

Those years spent working at the auto garage and dealerships gave Ginther a priceless education on how to run his own business.  Most importantly, he didn’t just focus on what he needed to do for his own job.  He broadened his education to learn as much as possible about financing, marketing, business operations, cash flow, inventory management, and customer satisfaction.  As a result, when he launched his own business, he had realistic expectations of what he could expect in terms of growth, operational demands, and cash flow.

“What you often see in this industry is someone who is an excellent mechanic deciding to start his own auto repair shop,” said Ginther.  “While he has great mechanical skills, he has very little experience in business finance, operations, and marketing.  He also underestimates the amount of cash he will need to start and keep the business operating for the time it takes to become self-sustaining.”

Ginther and his wife, Sandy, funded Sudley Car Care with their personal savings and a home-equity loan.  While they considered several auto franchises, they ultimately decided to be an independent shop.  In the beginning, Ginther made the decision to lease both the building and the equipment he needed to start the business.  He started small and ran the business very conservatively, a practice he continues today despite his success.

“You have to keep an eye on every expense,” says Ginther.  “It is so much easier to control $1 of expense than it is to get a whole new car into the shop to repair.”

Teach your employees about the realities of profitability. 

As an employee, it is easy to make assumptions about the profitability of a business based on the size of a company’s inventory, the number of customers going in and out every day, and the value of the invoices that are processed daily.  Any business owner will tell you, the reality of that profit is a heck of a lot less.  Craig takes a pro-active approach to educating his employees on the realities of running a business.

“I take the new mechanics and show them a repair bill,” says Ginther. “Let’s say the bill shows we charged $400 for parts and $200 for labor.  Of the $600 total, I ask them to guess how much will be net profit.  I explain this is profit that will be reinvested into the business to buy better tools, more equipment, pay for employee training, etc.”

“Most of the time, they guess the amount to be about $250 in net profit.  This is when I start the exercise.  I show them where we deduct the cost of the equipment and their labor.  Then I deduct the appropriate percentage for taxes and insurance expenses.  Then I explain about fixed costs, like rent, utilities and lease payments.  So we deduct a percentage for that.  By the time we are finished, they realize the net profit is a lot closer to $25.  This is a real eye-opener for them.”

Ginther does this so his employees will be more actively engaged in expense control.

“After the exercise, they understand that every time they waste materials, or use a wrong part that cannot be returned, they are eating into that very narrow profit margin.  It makes them a lot more responsible,” commented Ginther.

Don’t expect all your employees to share your passion for the business.

One of the biggest lessons Ginther said he learned during the first few years of the business is that not every employee was going to have the same dedication to the business that Craig and Sandy had.

“I’d get frustrated with employees who did not seem to be as emotionally invested as I was in seeing the business succeed,” said Ginther.  “They didn’t seem to care that it was my house on the line, and my family’s security at risk if we failed.”

What Craig came to realize was that for many employees, their job was just that – a job.  They wanted to come into the shop, work hard, do a good job, and then go home to their family.  They were not ever going to be emotionally vested in Ginther’s vision.  And that was okay. As long as they remained dedicated to excellence, serviced the customer and honored the values of the business, it was enough.

Be just as clear on what you don’t want in the business as you are about what you do want.

About 13 years ago, Ginther opened a larger shop on Central Park Drive, several miles away from the original location on Sudley Road in Manassas. For about three years, he kept both locations running.  However, Craig realized that he didn’t want the additional burden of running two shops and driving back and forth between the two locations every day.  He also felt that by dividing his time between the two locations, he wasn’t able to attend to his customers in the way he wanted.

Many business owners are seduced by the idea of expanding, driven more by ego than solid business reasoning.  They jump into opening a new office or branch long before the business can support the expansion.  Ginther waited a decade before deciding to enlarge his operation.  His conservative approach toward corporate finances ensured that the expansion did not jeopardize the company’s cash flows or its ability to service the customer.

When Craig realized he did not like running both operations, he made the choice to close down the smaller, original shop.  His clear understanding of what his business stood for – servicing the customer – made the decision an easy one.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” to your customers.

You can’t run a successful business if you have unhappy employees.  The old adage, “the customer is always right” really needs to be tempered with, “but remember that some customers are just not worth keeping.”

When Sudley Car Care first opened its doors, they were open for half a day on Saturday.  However, most of Ginther ’s mechanics had families and on any given Saturday, kids needed to be taken to sporting events or practices of some sort.  The half-day of work made it difficult for the mechanics to meet these family demands.  Ginther decided to close the shop on weekends to allow his employees to enjoy the time with their friends and family.

“It upset quite a few customers at first,” said Ginther.  “But the type of work we did on weekends was mostly oil changes, and it didn’t seem fair to demand that our mechanics lose time with their families for work that could easily be done during the week.  We offer shuttle service for our customers that work locally, and I just had to hope that our customers would understand why I made this decision.”

The chance of tempers flying and customers yelling is higher in an auto repair shop than in other industries just by the nature of the business.  Ginther will be the first to tell you that most of the time the problem is not over costs, but some other type of misunderstanding.  While he counsels his employees not to take an angry customer personally, he also won’t tolerate a habitually abusive customer.

“About 99% of the time we are able to resolve the issue just by talking through the misunderstanding,” says Ginther.  “I have customers that may have been angry with us at one point or another, but have since become loyal clients and good friends.”

But on a few occasions, Craig has made the decision to “fire” a customer that he knows will never be happy, no matter how hard he and his mechanics try.

“In those few cases I have simply taken the person aside and had an honest talk about how it doesn’t look like we’re a good fit for his or her auto repair needs,” says Ginther.

Make sure you love what you are doing.

The longest vacation Craig has taken in 23 years is one week.  Despite this, he still gets up every morning eager to get to work.  He enjoys the camaraderie he has with his employees and the relationships he’s built with his many customers.

“People ask me if I have an exit strategy,” says Craig.  “I will most likely sell the business one day, but I still love what I’m doing so I’m in no hurry to stop.”

News
Breaking the Food Rut at the Farmer’s Market

By ANNIE BLEWETT
Farmer’s Market Coordinator

Every couple of months, I’ll be eating my “old standby” meal when I realize mid-bite: I am in a food rut. It happened most recently over a bowl of oatmeal. Oats had become my staple in my morning. And I made them the exact same way every single time. The predictability of my morning meal was starting to grate on my nerves so greatly that I decided to take a break from the mundane oatsy mush I found myself forcing down.

I can’t possibly be the only person this happens to. There must be others that find something so enjoyable that it is overdone to the point of sickness. It’s sort of like when you hear that new Justin Timberlake song and you think, “I like this song! I should listen to it as many times as I want because I can’t imagine not enjoying it after the 34,554,546,890th time.”

This thinking is wrong because two months later you find yourself scoffing while changing the station when that song comes on the radio. Since I am on the cutting edge of “food rut” research (I did invent this terminology, after all), I have brainstormed a few suggested therapies for coping with the issue:

-Forage for a new recipe to try. Adding some flair to your meals will help you to re-appreciate a mundane meal. For example, I started eating oats again, I added blackberries and it made all the difference. Try and be realistic, though, find a recipe that is doable while still takes you a bit out of your comfort zone.

-Buy a new piece of produce as inspiration. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I became a lover of all things farm and vegetable that I discovered that there are delicious items sprouting from this earth that I have never tried—beets; kohlrabi (yea, I bet you’ve never heard of that one. Go Google it); patt pan squash. When you buy this new and astonishing vegetable, don’t be shy! Ask the farmer that you are buying it from for suggestions on how to prepare it. They are experts and more than happy to help.

Variety is the spice of life. Your body can certainly benefit from trying something new, your family may appreciate a different dish and your palette will enjoy a new host of flavors. There are so many foods that have yet to be explored, so I challenge you to connect with nature, and nutrition, by purchasing a novel item at the Farmer’s Market. Even if you don’t end up becoming a huge fan of beets, at least you’ll have given it a try and have an informed opinion of the root vegetable.

I recently stumbled upon this quote and I find that has a lot of truth in it:

“Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” –Harriet Van Horne

I challenge you to pull yourself out of your food rut, be brave and try something new– and Virginia Grown!

Quantico Office Buildings LEED Certified

Submitted News

Buildings at 925 Corporate Drive and 1000 Corporate Drive are each approximately 140,000 square foot office buildings located in Quantico , and are the first two office buildings in Stafford County to achieve LEED for Existing Building Operations and Maintenance Silver certification. Both buildings achieved EPA’s ENERGY STAR Certification in 2012 and are the only office buildings in the county to hold this achievement.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings, established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). 925 Corporate Drive and 1000 Corporate Drive are WRIT’s third and fourth LEED EB Certifications. WRIT currently has five LEED EB certified buildings bringing their total square footage of LEED certified space over one million square feet.

Source: http://www.azobuild.com/news.aspx?newsID=16773

News
Prince William Tourism Leaders Schooled on Social Media

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Those charged with bringing more visitors to Prince William County got a lesson in social media on Wednesday.

In the Fashion District at Potomac Mills mall, representatives from local government, parks, hotels, and others in the tourism business gathered to kickoff National Travel and Tourism Week. This was the third year Discover Prince William / Manassas held the kickoff event, which this year focused on marketing the region online and via social media.

Social media tourism expert Shelia Scarborough urged destinations in Prince William to increase their appeal by using search engine optimization, so local businesses and attractions are easier to find by those using the web to search for information about the area.

“If I don’t live in this area but am planning a visit, chances are I’m not searching for ‘things to do in Prince William County,’ but rather looking for ‘things to do in Washington, D.C.,” said Scarborough.

When it comes to social media marketing, Facebook, by far, is the most popular with audiences, followed by Twitter, and the YouTube video sharing service owned by Google, according to inforamation from W20 Digital distributed at Wednesday’s event.

More than 50 people gathered at Potomac Mills Wednesday to hear Scarborough’s presentation. During previous National Travel and Tourism Week events, Discover Prince William / Manassas highlighted events for the sesquicentennial celebration of the Civil War, and the roll out of a new website for the tourism agency.

National Travel and Tourism Week is recognized each year during the first week in May. This year’s week runs from May 4 to May 12.

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Support for $800 Million Transportation Deal a Sticking Point as Chamber Ranks Legislators

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — It was report card day for legislators at a breakfast hosted by the Prince William Chamber of Commerce.

The business organization on Wednesday doled out scorecards, giving elected officials who represent the county in Richmond both high and low marks on bills they supported or opposed, with the outcomes of the of bills impacting business owners and some 2,000 Chamber members.

Democrats like Toddy Puller, Charles Colgan, and Luke Torian, and Republican Mark Dudenhefer got high marks for voting for a transportation funding package that will provide $800 million in new road funds, and increase sales taxes in Northern Virginia to as much as 6%.

“I voted for the transportation bill because it had real funding behind it. I don’t like the funding source – I would prefer funding it through the gas tax – but we needed it,” said Puller.

The state’s 17.5 cent gas tax not adjusted since 1986 was eliminated in favor of 3.5% wholesale tax on fuel. Sales tax statewide will increase from 5 to 5.3%, with another 0.7% increase possible in the commonwealth’s most congested areas – Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

The passage of the bill also signaled a comprise where Medicaid will be expanded in Virginia, with the feds funding 100% of the expansion for the first three years and up to 90% each year afterward, said Puller.

Jackson Miller, R-Manassas, voted against the transportation package, and wasted no time voicing his disappointment for his score of 79 out of 100 points. Touting himself as a supporter of small business in Prince William, Miller said fixes are needed within state transportation funding formulas that send Prince William’s tax dollars to Richmond, and then mandate they be given to larger entities like Fairfax County.

“My voting record reflects what I thought would be best for Prince William County, not the commonwealth,” said Miller. “We need to stop Fairfax from getting more of our tax money to build new roads and highways in that county.”

Miller also took at stab at local politicians in Prince William by saying their neighbor to the south, Stafford County, is better off because they’re attracting more business to that county.

“Stafford is already ahead of us because they don’t have [a Business or Professional Licensing Tax], and we do,” said Miller.

The tax, which is common in Virginia, is collected on businesses’ gross receipts.

Calling for unity among legislators, Delegate Richard Anderson, R – Prince William — who also opposed the transportation because of tax increases – said leaders need to move on and work together.

“I liken this to a disagreement with people in the same family, but then those family members come together, move on, and continue working on making this a better place to live,” Anderson said.

The Chamber gave high marks to legislators on their support for bills concerning transportation improvements, allowing local school boards to set the start of the school year and doing away with the “Kings Dominion law”, a mandate that states schools must begin after Labor Day, abolishing a four-year term limit for the governor, and lowering taxes on computer data centers.

News
Dale Service Corporation Being Sold

DALE CITY, Va. — The Dale Service Corporation will be sold to the American Water Works Company.

If the $27.7 million sale of the Virginia American Water subsidy is approved by the Virginia State Corporation Commission, it will mark the first time Virginia American Water will be in the wastewater business.

“The acquisition of Dale Service Corporation is an excellent fit with our Virginia operations, as it allows us to create greater efficiency and economies of scale in providing wastewater service to an area where we already provide water service to customers,” said Jeff Sterba, president and CEO of American Water in a press release.

The purchase agreement between the two companies was signed this week.

More in a press release:

Dale Service Corporation currently provides wastewater collection and treatment services to approximately 20,000 customers (a population of about 65,000) in the Dale City portion of Prince William County. The company operates two wastewater treatment plants with a combined capacity of 9.2 million gallons per day. Since 1966, Virginia American Water has been providing water services to most of the Dale Service Corporation wastewater customers.

Dale Service Corporation’s 22 employees are expected to be retained as part of the deal, which is expected to be complete later this year.

In addition to Prince William County, Virginia American Water also services Alexandria, Hopewell, and Warsaw.

The wastewater business is nothing new for Virginia American Water’s parent company, American Waterworks, a company representative said. American waterworks “has extensive experience in providing wastewater services as well as high-quality drinking water services. American Water Works is the largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility in the United States.”

 

News
Leadership Prince William Names Kathy Bentz New Program Director

MANASSAS, Va. — From a rooftop overlooking Manassas last night, Kathy Bentz got a new job. With it she’ll help shape the future leaders of Prince William County.

The longtime community servant who’s worked as the liaison to Prince William’s arts community, at a public health center in Woodbridge, and most recently on the project to bring the American’s in Wartime Museum to Dale City, will now head Leadership Prince William. A brainchild of the county’s then two chambers of commerce in 2007 which have since merged into one, the Leadership Prince William program is a nine-month series of courses geared to civic-minded individuals for those with interests in business, government, and community.

Bentz is a 2010 graduate of the course and was serving on the organization’s board when she applied for the open position vacated by Kathy Ellington, who took a position with Leadership Arlington.

Bentz will take over immediately, will work solely on Leadership Prince William, and she said she already has her work cut out for her.

“There’s room for growth, the signature program that we have now is built on success, it’s going well, but there’s a strategic plan for the organization, we have some new programs, and we want to take it to another level and build on success we already had,” said Bentz.

The announcement was made last night on the rooftop of the building that houses the Prince William Chamber in Manassas during a party for program alumni and perspective program participants. The current Leadership Prince William class is set to graduate June 7.

 

News
Occoquan Mayor Starts Shuttle Service for Train Passengers to Spur Tourism

Porta

Porta

OCCOQUAN, Va. — Mayor Earnie Porta of the tiny town of Occoquan is said to be the town’s biggest cheerleader when it comes to letting residents in the region know about special events during holidays, town gatherings, and sales at many of the town’s independently owned small businesses.

Now, instead of just telling people about what’s happening in the town, he’s actually going to bring people there.

Porta started Occoquan Transportation Company, LLC in partnership with Amtrak with the mission of bringing passengers waiting at Lorton’s Auto Train to Occoquan. The shuttle service runs on Saturdays and Sundays between 11:30 a.m. And 2:30 p.m. with stops at the Workhouse Arts Center and Occoquan.

Porta said the idea is to give passengers who normally wait up to three hours for their train something to do while they wait.

Here’s more in a Q&A session with Porta and Potomac Local News:

1. What’s the reason why you started this service?

I’m basically starting the service in the hopes of bringing to Occoquan to eat and shop people who would otherwise probably just be sitting around for hours at a train station with little to do.

2. What’s it’s main function? How does it work?

The shuttle service is basically designed to cater to Lorton Auto Train passengers. They line up to load their cars at 11:30 a.m., and then, in most cases, are marooned at the station until the Auto Train leaves at 3:00.

I’ll be making four pick-ups at the station at 11:30 a.m., noon, 12:30 p.m., and 1 p.m. to shuttle people to the Town of Occoquan (with a stop at the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center if passengers desire), where I hope they will eat, shop, generally enjoy themselves, and be motivated come visit us again in the future. The round-trip fare is $5, but children age 12 and under ride for free.

3. What was the level of dedication / financial commitment required to start this?

The margins on this, frankly, are quite tight, which is part of what led me to take this on. With such tight margins no established company was likely to initiate a service like this, and if the Fairfax County Government decided to run a subsidized shuttle, my guess is that their taxpayers would not really favor subsidizing trips to a town in Prince William County.

Consequently, I concluded that the only way to brings these folks into Occoquan and Prince William was for someone locally to set up a targeted service. Given the tight margins sustainability (and hope-for expansion) will depend not only on demand, but on promotional sales, etc.

The LLC I set up currently contracts for the buses and pays individuals to serve as ride docents, so the upfront costs are born by the [limited liability company], but hopefully will be adequately covered by fares and promotional sales.

5. Who will drive?

At the moment I have contracted with a well-established, reputable bus company, who, along with Amtrak, has been very cooperative in setting this up. Drivers, called toute docents, are people that I need basically to be on the buses to collect money, supervise the route, and make sure that everyone gets back to the train station in time.

News
Dan’s Pharmacy Grows Big While Providing Small Town Service

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Dan Singh opened the independent Dan’s Wellness Pharmacy in North Stafford six years ago and is now ready to expand his business. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

By URIAH KISER

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — The days of the corner drugstore and soda fountain may be long gone, but the independent pharmacy is alive and well in North Stafford.

Sitting along busy Garrisonville Road, surrounded by at least six other corporate chain pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walmart, is Dan’s Wellness Pharmacy. It’s not a large store by chain store standards, and the wooden fixtures on the floor and walls harken back to older time when neighbors came to the corner drugstore for advice on what was ailing them, a quick over the counter remedy, or just to say hello. It’s a form of customer service owner Dan Singh and his team of nine staff works hard to provide every day.

“My friends said I was crazy to start a pharmacy here with so much competition around us, but we were all very surprised at how it grew,” said Singh.

Today, Dan’s Wellness Pharmacy fills prescriptions the same way the chain stores do, offers many of the same products on its shelves, but it has cornered the market in herbal remedies and “compounding,” the art of creating specialized medications for individual people and pets. It’s a unique service his competitors don’t offer, and they refer their customers that ask for it to him.

Starting out

The independent pharmacy gene is Singh’s blood. When he started in the industry in 1993, he began working at an independent pharmacy in Connecticut. He learned all he could and worked for eight years at the shop before taking a job as a pharmacy manager for Rite Aid stores in the Fredericksburg, Va. area. He met his wife, who was living in Arlington at the time, and spent his days on the road managing stores from Manassas to Waynesboro.

Then children came along and he wanted to be closer to family, so he came off the road and took a job at CVS in North Stafford. He worked there for three years and got bored, he said. He then began working on a business plan to open his own pharmacy, and when CVS got word of that, he was out.

“I figured it was time to better myself now, or the only other option was to stay working for a chain the rest of my life,” said Singh.

A Stafford resident, he knew that’s where he wanted his pharmacy to be. But he also knew he didn’t have a lot of cash on hand to get it started. He found a used furniture store in North Carolina that had old store fixtures – which can cost up to $50,000 brand new to outfit a store, said Singh. He paid $5,000 and took everything that the store had.

Growth 

What he thought would take a year or more to do happened relatively quickly in just eight months – growth. When he opened six years ago, Singh went to area doctors and told them about his new pharmacy, touting its benefits as being the only independent pharmacy in Stafford.

He called it a “wellness pharmacy” when he opened, and he said that proved to be a minor mistake.

“People saw the sign and they tended to think it was more of a health food store than a pharmacy,” he said.

But he’s overcome that perception, and now many of his customers know the pharmacy to be a place they can rely on for good advice.

“Customers come to me because they know they are getting advice from an owner,” said Singh. “As I’ve grown, I’m still here, though I have a full-time staff, I like to sit in my office with the lights on and my windows open so the customers can still see me.”

There are plans to expand the Dan’s Wellness Pharmacy brand, known online as Dan’s Care. Singh said it’s too early to say where he’ll open a new independent pharmacy, but one will open soon in Virginia.

News
May Urges Trader Joe’s to Consider New Store in Prince William County

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — There’s a Facebook group dedicated to the cause, and residents have been asking for one for years.

Now Prince William Occoquan Supervisor Mike May has lent his voice to the chorus of people asking that a Trader Joe’s supermarket be built in Lake Ridge. May penned a letter to the specialty supermarket chain this week asking them to consider the area.

“To be candid, it’s not every day that I write to companies asking that they consider investing in our community. However, I’m compelled to do so because barely a day goes by that I am not approached by a constituent asking, ‘Mike, why can’t we get a Trader Joe’s?’” stated May.

There are several Trader Joe’s in Fairfax County, in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, and new stores are planned for states like New York, North Carolina, and Texas, to name a few. But there’s no indication that Lake Ridge, Woodbridge, or anywhere else in Prince William County, is has made it onto the company’s radar, according to their website.

On the “Bring Trader Joe’s to Woodbridge, VA” Facebook group, posters to page use it to remind fans to periodically go to Trader Joe’s website and again fill out the online form to ask the company to consider putting a store in the area. They also post news articles about Prince William County being one of the wealthiest places to live in the U.S. – a fact May drew attention to in his letter.

“As you may be aware, Prince William County is a community of over 400,000 residents located about 25 miles south of Washington, D.C. We are home to a diverse and thriving community, with a strong economic base,” penned May. “Our county has grown over 40% in the past 10 years, and much of that growth has brought new consumers who are looking for new and upscale retail opportunities for the community.”

In Lake Ridge, residents have said Tackett’s Mill shopping center would be an ideal candidate for Trader Joe’s to locate.

Prudential PenFed Realty Acquires New Office

Submitted News

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Prudential PenFed Realty announced today that the firm is relocating its Lake Ridge real estate office in Woodbridge, Va., to a new location across town on April 16, 2013. The new office will be unveiled at a public grand opening event on May 4.

The full-service office will be located in the Prince William Town Center directly across from Prince William County Government Center and County Stadium at 12751 Marblestone Drive, Suite #210, Woodbridge, Va. The new location will feature New Homes, Relocation, Commercial and Property Management Real Estate divisions.

Jim Evans, Branch Manager, Prudential PenFed Realty’s Lake Ridge office

“We are excited to be revolutionizing real estate while serving the brokerage needs of our existing real estate clients and the members of our parent company who choose to enlist our assistance when buying or selling real estate throughout Northern Virginia,” Jim Evans, Branch Manager, Prudential PenFed Realty. “After many years at the Lake Ridge office location, it was time to update and upgrade our office space. This move positions us to better serve a client base that has come to expect service that is second to none.”

“Prudential PenFed Realty’s focus on the customer is the driving force behind our company’s rapid growth,” said Kevin Wiles, President, Prudential PenFed Realty. “We go to great lengths to stay focused on what our buyers and sellers need and want so we can deliver world-class service that exceed expectations.”

Prudential PenFed Realty has earned a host of honors, including the 2011 Spirit of Partnership Award for their outstanding relocation services, and they have remained in the top 1% of all Prudential affiliates in the world. The scope of the Prudential/Brookfield network coupled with the company’s accomplishments nationally, and reputation locally, afford agents the opportunity to provide an exemplary bundle of services to Prudential PenFed Realty clients; as evidenced by these quotes from a few agents:

Kevin Boyer stated, “The Boyer team chose to join Prudential PenFed Realty because of the company’s national and local presence, advanced tools, and visionary leadership. In today’s marketplace, it’s important to align yourself with a strong, growing company that offers proven business and leadership programs that fit your values. Our team thrives on the high quality of service we provide to our home buyers and sellers. With the affiliation our team has with Prudential PenFed Realty, we can provide full-service representation to all of our clients, and deliver local knowledge and expertise throughout all of our markets.”

Evelyn Golden, another Prudential PenFed Realty agent said, “I like the friendly atmosphere and the willingness of the agents to help one another; as well as being under the umbrella of the Prudential Rock. It is a family atmosphere. I believe great customer service is the key to any successful business. Prudential PenFed Realty puts its clients first, and continually achieves great service.”

News
Hampton Inn Growing as Stafford’s U.S. 1 Corridor Thrives

By URIAH KISER

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – Located in a row of new hotels springing up along Stafford’s U.S. 1 corridor, the 16-year-old Hampton Inn can be sometimes get lost in all of the new construction.

It sits in a sort of crevasse at the entrance to three major roads: Interstate 95, U.S. 1, and Va. 610. Nearby, three new hotels have opened, and another is under construction at Quantico Corporate Center. All of them cater to business travelers and federal employees who stay for extended periods of time.

But Hampton Inn North Stafford owner-operator Amal Lambaraa refuses to be outdone, so she lobbied the parent company of her hotel, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, for funds to renovate inn and she won. Now, a nearly 10,000 square foot renovation of the Hampton Inn is underway, and planned are new meetings spaces, a game room, a larger swimming pool area, and probably most innovative of all, a new banquet hall and ballroom that will stand in an adjacent so that parties and events held there do not disturb hotel guests.

Of the three hotels Lambaraa owns a share of, including two Wingate Inns in Stafford County, she favors her stock in the Hampton the most. The Moroccan native said many of the departments, including housekeeping, the front desk, and marketing, run themselves thanks to a trusted staff of 25 people whom she’s cultivated and promoted from within.

“People have to move up in life, so when you have a chance to give back to people who have helped you, it’s important that you give back to them,” said Lambaraa.

The $9 million hotel renovation will mean 19 new rooms – three of them complete with jacuzzi spas. Lambaraa said those spas, coupled with a larger 1,420 square foot pool deck, should bring in more local residents who would to get away from their houses for a weekend“staycation.”

The hotel once hidden by trees is also now more visible thanks to the 95 Express Lanes Project which has taken many trees around the hotel for the construction of toll lanes that will connect with HOV lanes in Dumfries. New highway lanes and new nearby hotels will should also mean more business for the Hampton Inn.

“It’s a competition… it’s a race… one of us is going have to win and one of us is going to have to lose, but through competition, it’s the thing that makes you stronger,” said Lambaraa.

The renovations are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Construction and renovations are underway at a Hampton Inn in North Stafford. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

Construction and renovations are underway at a Hampton Inn in North Stafford. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

News
Pole Fitness Gym Offers ‘Flirty’ Workouts

By MARY ROSENTHOL
For Potomac Local News 

[Photo: Mary Rosenthol / For Potomac Local News]

[Photo: Mary Rosenthol / For Potomac Local News]

MANASSAS, Va. — Tucked in a small corner of Manassas is a shop with a bright pink awning called the Doll House Poll Fitness Center.

Around 50 instructors, students, friends and curious onlookers enjoyed an open house held there on Saturday night.

“I truly love the sexy yet healthy feeling of pole fitness,” said owner, Von Martin. “For over a year, I traveled an hour away to attend classes and I felt like we needed a studio close by.”

Martin greeted a cheering crowd on Saturday night as she announced demonstration dancers and called out numbers for a raffle. The Doll House offers classes and rental space for private parties.

“I like pole dancing because it’s something that women of any age and fitness level can enjoy,” said Martin. Everything from introductory classes to pole tricks are offered on a weekly basis and the first introductory class is free.

“You can be at level one for weeks or months,” said Washington, D.C. instructor Andrea Angeles. “We have dancers, gymnasts, even grandmothers who take classes with us!”

Angeles traveled to Manassas from Washington to celebrate the opening of the new pole gym.

“You get out of pole dancing exactly what you put into it. If you’re in the studio practicing every day you’re going to drop weight and learn quickly. If you only go to the gym once a week, then it’s going to take longer.”

With the open house out of the way, Martin and her teachers plan to resume a normal schedule of classes next week.

According to the pole fitness center’s website, the gym offers classes while encouraging women to feel “flirty” or “sexy” while working out. More than just poles, the siren room offers a place for up to five students to work out using both floor moves and chairs.

The gym is located on Lute Court, near the intersection of Va. 234 and Interstate 66, and is open weekdays 6 to 9 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and by appointment only on Sundays.

 

News
A Runner Up, Winner Accepts Raffled Car

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Mike Nies has a new car.

Well, it’s not a new car but it’s new to him, and he won it after purchasing 10 tickets from Steve’s Auto Repair in Woodbridge in a raffle to support the Greater Manassas / Prince William Boys and Girls Clubs.

So, what kind of car did Nies win for his $100 donation? A 2001 Ford Crown Victoria – similar to what police officers drive.

Nies plans to use the car for his home improvement business that takes him to see customers between Haymarket and Arlington. He came with his wife, Christine, and 2-month old son “Lil’ Mikey” to Steve’s Auto to claim his prize. He was excited but his wife wanted to know one thing: “Does it get better gas mileage than our SUV?” she asked.

It doesn’t, but the car was well cared for throughout it’s life by technicians at Steve’s Auto Repair.

“The car belonged to one of our customers, and when they wanted to get a new car we took this one off of their hands and decided to raffle it off to the community to benefit he Boys and Girls Club,” said ST Billingsley, the repair facility’s general manager.

The raffle was held on March 29 at the repair shop, and Neis was actually the runner up. Billingsley said he called several times to notify the first winner but no one answered.

Neis picked up his prize on Friday and had some advice for the person whose name was drawn.

“Pay your cell phone bill,” said Neis.

News
Uno Chicago Grill in Woodbridge Closes

First on Potomac Local News

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – When the woman behind the bar at Uno Chicago Grill in Woodbridge was asked to pour a beer this morning, she replied “I only wish I could.”

She didn’t pour the beer not that it was too early to have a brew, but because no more beers, pizzas, or anything else for that matter will be served here. Uno in Woodbridge, as of Sunday night, is closed.

Just after 8 a.m. Monday, large moving trucks and a dumpster were sitting in the parking lot of the eatery, and employees were seen carrying out tables, chairs, and small light fixtures. Potomac Local News has learned it is the only Uno restaurant in the region, to include Manassas, Springfield, and Union Station in Washington, D.C., that will close it’s doors.

The restaurant’s general manager directed call questions to a corporate spokesman who has yet to return a call to Potomac Local News.

The restaurant was built in the early 1990s at the Potomac Mills mall area expanded and several new restaurants joined the Smoketown Stations development, including a TGI Friday’s that recently underwent interior renovations.

Uno in Woodbridge served as a gathering spot for entrepreneurs in eastern Prince William County as the Prince William Chamber held regular monthly networking sessions there. There’s no word yet from the Chamber as to where in eastern Prince William those meetings might be moved to.

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