Start DC’s lowdown on the Made in DC bill, a promising initiative to boost local businesses.
In late January 2016, local entrepreneurs testified before DC city government in support of the Made in DC Program Establishment Act, an initiative aimed at helping DC-based innovators. The program, modeled after successful ventures in cities like Chicago and Philadelphia, would highlight products made in Washington, DC. If approved, the Made in DC Program Establishment Act would allow the Department of Small and Local Business Development to create a “Made in DC” brand and marketing campaign. Products “created, manufactured, or assembled” in DC could become certified—free of charge—to display this logo.
DC entrepreneurs have already pioneered a foundation for the “Made in DC” movement. Compass Coffee, the Shaw-based coffee roaster, and Union Kitchen, the local food incubator, both use Made in DC branding for their products. The founders of Compass Coffee have already created a pretty attractive logo (below), IMHO.
DC Councilmember Charles Allen, who introduced the bill in December 2015, acknowledges the efforts of these entrepreneurs and “makers” and says it makes business sense to expand city support. “I believe the District government should work with our local maker community to promote what is specific and unique to the District of Columbia,” he said in a statement. “Supporting locally-made products keeps more of our dollars here at home. Buying from a local maker means a significant portion of that purchase supports other local businesses and creates local jobs.”
A key part of the DC economy is clearly tourism, with millions of visitors each year. The Made in DC brand could promote local products to residents and travelers alike, helping companies grow and broadening the appeal of the city beyond its monuments.
The bill would go beyond branding and marketing, and also create a “Made in DC” fund to help new businesses access critical capital. Start DC has heard directly from local entrepreneurs that access to capital can be a challenge to starting and growing a business. The proposed fund could be a crucial supplement to self-funding and catalyze the growth of local ventures. The bill would also explore possibilities for a DC “innovation studio space and marketplace” that would provide local entrepreneurs with access to studio and sales gallery spaces, equipment, and classrooms—all at a reduced cost.
The Made in DC Program Establishment Act is working its way through District government and, according to a representative at Councilmember Allen’s office, has wide support from local businesses and the city council. Stay tuned for updates, and tweet your support at the Department of Small and Local Business (@SmallBizDC).
Update: The program is officially a go! Learn more and apply here.
Genna Byrd is the founder of Start DC. Learn more about her here. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.