S1 | 13: The role of small business in the local economy with Tara Palacios, Arlington Economic Development

When talking about business innovation, a lot of focus is placed on large enterprises, yet according to numbers from the Small Business Administration in January of 2023 99.9% – yes, 99.9% of companies, or roughly 33.2 million businesses are considered small businesses.

Today we’re going to talk about the valuable role that small businesses play, as well as how the places that small businesses are located in can help them back.

To help me discuss this topic, I’d like to welcome Tara Palacios, Director of BizLaunch at Arlington Economic Development, based in Arlington County, Virginia.

About Tara Palacios

Tara Palacios is the Director of BizLaunch, an award-winning division within AED that assists small businesses and entrepreneurs in Arlington County.

Tara joined Arlington County in 2001 and founded the BizLaunch program in 2002 to help diverse entrepreneurs successfully launch, grow and expand their businesses in the County. Since its inception, BizLaunch has reached over 75,000 entrepreneurs through sponsored workshops, seminars and one-on-one counseling sessions. 

Tara has over 30 years of experience in Marketing and Business Development at various for-profit firms, including a health maintenance organization, an IT software developer, a financial institution and a uranium enricher.

She has received numerous awards for her work and dedication to small businesses from organizations such as the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity.

Tara received her undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and her graduate degree from Johns Hopkins University. She also is a certified Public Manager from George Washington University.


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The focus of economic development, as discussed in the episode, is to make a meaningful difference in someone’s life and assist them in building a sustainable business. The host emphasizes that the goal is not merely to fulfill a requirement, but to genuinely impact individuals and their families. The philosophy is centered around uplifting everyone and creating opportunities for individuals to establish businesses that can support themselves and others.

To achieve this, the episode suggests thinking creatively and looking beyond the challenges posed by the pandemic. The host mentions that they are actively exploring new tools and approaches to support economic development. They highlight the importance of forging partnerships with the right organizations, including unconventional ones, to foster meaningful collaborations. An example of such a partnership mentioned in the episode is with Amazon and AWS.

Additionally, the episode addresses the challenges faced by small businesses within the context of economic development. The host acknowledges that small businesses often become consumed by day-to-day operations and the constant pursuit of growth. However, they emphasize the significance of staying aware of the changes happening around them, such as redevelopment and new business opportunities. Property owners may choose to redevelop their properties, which can pose challenges for existing businesses. Therefore, economic development efforts should also focus on honoring legacy businesses and finding ways to support them during property development processes.

Throughout the episode, the host and guest stress the importance of thinking outside the box and collaborating with diverse organizations for economic development. They emphasize that economic development is not limited to traditional methods, but also involves exploring new tools and approaches. They underscore the need to look beyond the pandemic and identify the lessons learned that can have a lasting impact on economic development.

The guest shares their philosophy of making a positive difference in people’s lives and helping them build sustainable businesses. They express their motivation to uplift everyone and create opportunities for success. The host agrees and emphasizes the importance of partnering with the right organizations, including new types of organizations, to achieve these goals.

One specific example of a partnership mentioned in the episode is with Amazon and AWS. The guest highlights the benefits of this partnership and how it contributes to economic growth and stability.

Overall, the episode emphasizes the necessity for economic development initiatives to think innovatively, collaborate with diverse organizations, and explore innovative approaches to create lasting impact and support sustainable businesses.

Arlington Economic Development offers a range of resources and tools to support the growth and success of small businesses. One of the programs they have implemented is BizLaunch, which is led by Tara Palacios. BizLaunch aims to provide assistance to small businesses and help them navigate the challenges they face. This includes offering guidance on marketing, economic development, and community engagement.

In addition to providing resources, Arlington Economic Development recognizes the importance of digital communication in reaching and supporting small businesses. They have observed a digital divide between older, established businesses and new startups when it comes to adapting to online platforms. While startups were able to pivot and adapt to the digital landscape, older businesses struggled to make the transition. To address this issue, Arlington Economic Development has implemented a program called relaunch. This program aims to bridge the digital divide by providing support and resources to help legacy businesses adapt to the online world.

Overall, Arlington Economic Development is committed to fostering a thriving business community in Arlington, Virginia. They acknowledge the vital role that small businesses play in the local economy and understand that supporting these businesses is crucial for the overall economic development of the community. Through programs like BizLaunch and relaunch, they provide the necessary tools and resources to help small businesses thrive and succeed in an increasingly digital world.

Tara Palacios, Director of BizLaunch, Arlington Economic Development