SolarTown moved last year to Columbia Heights, a community within Washington, DC, and home to many of the District’s up and coming small businesses. Columbia Heights is often overlooked, but it is on the rise. It is also in a historically underutilized business zone also known by its acronym HUBZone. The government set up HUBZones to stimulate hiring and economic activity in some of the economically depressed areas of the country. Now I know what you are thinking, poor SolarTown is living in a bad part of town. No, no, no. Don’t be afraid to visit us. Columbia Heights may be underutilized but it’s not a bad part of town.
Columbia Heights is bustling with activity, and we are pleased that we are part of this vibrant community. Our office in Columbia Heights is actually closer to where I live than where we had our original office near Dupont Circle. The challenge for me personally has been that it is not as easily accessible to me by public transportation—and I don’t have a car. Columbia Heights is just off the Green Line on the Metro, but I live closer to the Red Line, and I would have to make a huge U to get to work by Metro, almost an hour, rather than 10 minutes by car or by bike in 20 minutes.
That has meant many more trips on my bicycle to work and I must confess that I am a fair weather bicycle rider: when it gets cold I am not enthusiastic about braving the elements to get to work. Fortunately, my wife has a generous streak and during the winter lent me her car on occasion or dropped me off at a spot where I could walk to work. When the weather was cold, we made it work, and now that the weather is getting better and the cherry blossoms are out, bicycling is a great way to get to work and the streets are full of bicycles especially with the new Ride Share program.
Columbia Heights is not the only up and coming community around here. We are just up the road from U Street, and if you know anything about jazz in the United States, you have to know about U Street. Columbia Heights boasts a number of new restaurants and cafes. We have a plaza lit by solar panels. SolarTown would like to say that we sold the solar lights to the city, but unfortunately we didn’t—we know that we need to do some more work on helping the city achieve its renewable energy goals with solar panels and other solar energy products.
The fact that SolarTown is in a HUBZone is important to us and as soon as we met the requirements for the program, we applied for HUBZone status. We are pleased to report that SolarTown has just received its HUBZone certification from the Small Business Administration. SolarTown can now boast that it is, to use the government’s jargon, a qualified HUBZone small business concern, and one of only a very few companies that sells solar energy products like solar panels in a HUBZone. With our contract with the General Services Administration (GSA), we think that SolarTown can offer the government an easy and efficient vehicle to purchase solar panels, solar water heaters, solar ovens, solar refrigerators and other solar energy products.
The government has certain priorities and gives advantages in government procurement to certain categories of business such as a veteran owned business, a woman owned business or a business in a HUBZone. That doesn’t mean that these business don’t have to compete with everyone else to provide quality products and services at competitive prices, but the government has certain goals that it tries to meet to stimulate business and economic activity within these groups. We hope that as part of our new HUBZone certification that SolarTown will continue to grow and to contribute to the economic activity in Columbia Heights.