Former First Lady of Virginia Anne Holton continued her small business tour Wednesday visiting shops along Center Street in Old Town, including P, and , among others.
At every stop, she asked for a message to take back to her husband, Tim Kaine on ways government can help small businesses.
Kaine is running against George Allen this November for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Webb.
Marketing and taxes were two major things that came up during the tour. Manager of Susan Reed said the brick and mortar businesses do a great job of displaying and introducing products that customers can now just scan with their smart phone and find for cheaper online. She says that not only hurts the local smaller businesses, but the city as well because of the lack of sales tax revenue.
Other local business owners told Holton their needs to be a push for more foot traffic in Old Town. Bryn Compton, owner of Allyssa Bryn Kids, said she started an organization about a year ago called Destination Manassas that works on programs and projects to help boost tourism. "We are trying to get the word out so we have foot taffic," Compton said. She said she is not going to the city for any funding, so access to government grants would be helpful.
Compton, who is about to open her fourth store in Old Town, said more foot traffic for her stores is necessary because of the tax burden placed on small businesses.
Joanne Wunderly, owner of and President of the Old Town Business Association (OTBA) agreed, saying more "feet on the street" would support the small businesses and the local economy. The City recently completed improvements on Battle Street, including widened sidewalks, and those same improvements are expected on Main Street.
"There's been good foot traffic," Wunderly said. "But we need more."
On Thursday, Wunderly had a writers tour group of about 20 people from all over the world stop by her store for an afternoon tea event. She said she would like to get Old Town involved with more tour group package companies that may be visiting other areas in Northern Virginia and D.C. to stop in Manassas.
"When they come, they love it," she said. "We just need help getting the people here through marketing and telling our story. Manassas is about so much more than the battlefied and Civil War."
Manassas' new City Manager John Budesky said in a recent interview Old Town is one of the things he likes most about Manassas and there's a plan to better market the area with increased parking signage and more consistent messaging.
Holton then addressed local business and community leaders at , where she shared Kaine's strategies to strengthen the economy and create jobs. During the event, Holton emphasized Kaine's Virginia-based approach to develop a talent economy, encourage small business growth, and balance the federal budget.
“Tim knows that to strengthen Virginia's economy, we need a balance of necessary budget cuts and strategic investments in infrastructure and education,” said Holton. “He did it in Virginia—cutting $5 billion from state spending while making investments in higher education and infrastructure projects. While he was Governor, Virginia was named Forbes' Best State for Business four years in a row, Governing Magazine's Best Managed State, and Education Week’s best state to raise a child.”
Holton also spoke about Kaine's record of working together that helped Virginia maintain its business-friendly environment and make major progress in important areas like public transit, health care and higher education.
"Looking at Tim’s record of service in Virginia, it is clear he has a remarkable ability to bring people together to focus on common results," said Holton. "He was able to do that on the City Council, as Mayor, and as Governor, and he will do it again as our next Senator. Right now, we need more people in the Senate who will break through the Washington gridlock and bring people together to focus on strengthening our economy and creating more jobs in Virginia."
In addition to Manassas, Holton’s Small Business Tour has made stops in Surry, Smithfield, Emporia, Vienna, Occoquan, Ashland, Fredericksburg, Staunton, Lexington, Roanoke, and Hopewell.