I struggled to write my column this time around. I tend to use my time to talk about new developments, or tools available to incentive those developments to the area. But this year has brought many changes to our world.

Locally, the year began in an insignificantly typical fashion at our office. While working on a number of Douglas County development projects, we also had several inquiries on how to start a business. We generally receive these requests in January, and I’ve attributed it to more entrepreneurially minded people making the resolve to finally start their own business.

Alexandria then experienced the downtown fire which left the community reeling. Mere weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic shut our economy down, and recent racial injustices have all of us re-examining how we interact with the world and go about our daily activities.

Throughout these challenges, many moments of strength shined brightly – neighbors are helping neighbors. We have all witnessed the overwhelming desire of people to help those hurting. Our commitment to our vision of the Greater Alexandria area being a premier place to call home, build a career and grow a business did not waver in the last months.

The AAEDC continues to work with our community, corporate and nonprofit partners, and entrepreneurs – looking for long-lasting, innovative solutions to these priority issues that have increased in urgency.

Our work in the past months has been focused on helping our hurting community and their needs. Most of that work has been assisting businesses, nonprofits, and developers to simply keep their doors open for the people they serve.

However, I did want to share that our board of directors approved our 2020 strategic plan at the end of 2019. Our work is focused on: 1.) retention and success of our businesses; 2.) recruiting complimentary businesses here; and 3.) enhancing our entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Our 2019 Impact Report can be viewed here: https://livingalexarea.org/publications/ We normally share this in March, but we were busy with immediate COVID-19 relief during that time. It reflects the areas of impact in which we have been working on, and for you as a reader, it may spark ideas about opportunities for potential new partnerships as we move forward together in our rebuild work.

It is clear the current economic conditions are vastly different than pre-COVID-19. Due to the uncertainty in the complexity of our recovery, we cannot know how long it will take to feel more normal, but it is a business process that will possibly take many years. While our past normal will most likely never be what it once was, our office has always been and will continue to be committed to promoting prosperity and optimizing opportunity in the Alexandria region.

Nicole Fernholz is the director of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.