A group trying to help Wheaton’s small businesses adapt to changes in the area believe a key component of their success may be resident engagement.
Ana Lopez van Balen, director of the Mid-County Regional Services Center, said that the group, which includes members from county offices and community businesses and organizations, could learn from the past of nearby Silver Spring as it thinks about how to help Wheaton’s businesses.
Providing an example of resident engagement helping businesses, Reemberto Rodriguez, director of the Silver Spring Regional Center, described how residents have been a critical component in the promotion of businesses in the Fenton Village neighborhood.
The Taste the World in Fenton Village event is “driven by businesses and residents who are trying to do the right thing for themselves,” he said.
“Wheaton has a lot of assets and a lot of things to celebrate,” Rodriguez said, and the group members should find the “champions in the community” who will help promote it.
Van Balen also brought up self-assessments the county is considering requiring businesses to complete if they receive funds as a result of the Small Business Assistance bill.
The assessment could help businesses identify what their problems are so they can use the money effectively, said Pete McGinnity, manager of business development for the Wheaton Redevelopment Program in the Montgomery County Department of General Services.
Van Balen asked the participants what could be done to help businesses think of the assessment in a positive light.
Luis Bonilla, owner of Choice Electronics, said that business’ trust could be gained through individuals who show “an ability and willingness” to work with them consistently.
Bonilla added that the assessment would “teach us how to fish instead of giving us the fish.”
Rodriguez said that residents, business owners and others have recently gone directly to Silver Spring businesses to talk and establish trust with them.
“That led to some substantial trust being created,” he said.