In many respects, Winchester, Virginia, is just another of the growing number of small cities nationwide competing for the hearts and dollars of the exploding technology sector. But what distinguishes this picturesque town of about 23,000 is its recently designated 100-acre downtown technology zone--Cyberstreet--and the larger, complex technology infrastructure being built around it.
Last December, in a move that contributed to a growing trend nationwide, the Winchester City Council created a technology zone that offers exemption from land development fees as well as reduced business, professional and occupation license taxes to lure businesses.
In addition to Cyberstreet's lower taxes and other monetary benefits, Winchester's proximity to a nearby mushrooming technology area drew TeleGrafix Communications Inc. from Huntington Beach, California, to the historic Shenandoah Valley. "Northern Virginia is becoming the center of the Internet industry. It's got the second-highest concentration of tech companies in the world after the Silicon Valley,' says Pat Clawson, CEO of 4-year-old TeleGrafix Communications Inc., an Internet multimedia company.
Beyond being a city any techno-whiz could love, Winchester also offers amenities entrepreneurs need, says Barry Barovick, national director of corporate real estate consulting at Kenneth Leventhal Real Estate Group, Ernst & Young LLP, who advises clients on business relocation. "You're looking for a large labor force at a reasonable cost, plus a good quality of life to attract people. In addition, you need a good transportation network.'
Barovick says when considering relocating to one of the many high-tech zones emerging nationwide, you should investigate the business climate. Is there a public-private partnership between business and local, regional, and state governments? Is the state attitude toward business proactive?
Clawson also recommends investigating the financial climate of a city you're considering. "The biggest problem facing Cyberstreet is lack of commitment from the local financial community," stresses Clawson. "Tax breaks provide a good field to take root in, but you need capital for fertilizer."
By Charlotte Mulhern
Name and age: Michael Anthony Carnacchi, 34
Company name and description: Custom Boots by Michael Anthony designs and manufactures custom Western-style boots by hand. "If you've never had a pair of Western boots made for your feet, then you really haven't worn a pair of boots."
Based: Sebastopol, California, about 90 miles north of San Francisco
Business began: 1994
Boot basics: Seven measurements are taken per foot; each pair involves 372 manufacturing steps and an average of 50 hours to complete; prices begin at $750.
Boot buyers: Carnacchi's customers include local, affluent business owners and other business professionals.
Details, details: Clients select everything from the leather type and color to heel type and toe style; all boots are unique creations.
Hides to seek: French calfskin, ostrich, lizard, alligator, mule, snake, shark, bullfrog, stingray; anything that's not endangered.
Inspiration: "I had been fixing boots for so long, I was starting to notice the quality of factory boots had begun to deteriorate. I decided it was time to learn to make them by hand."
Words of wisdom: "My mentor told me, `When you make your first pair of perfect boots, call me because I haven't made one yet.' "
Enduring sentiments: "It's a dying art, and I want to preserve it. If I could make boots the rest of my life, [I'd be] happy."
Who's going to the Super Bowl? You are!
For years, top-notch commercials have been part of the Super Bowl tradition, keeping nearly 44 million Americans watching long after the gridiron excitement has fizzled. It's the day that the big players bring out the big guns, all hoping to be crowned advertising's most valuable player. Will the next champion be Pepsi, McDonald's, Coca-Cola . . . or your business?
Beginning September 1, Mail Boxes Etc. (MBE) launches its "See Your Small Business on the Super Bowl" talent search, in which one small business will win the chance to appear on a nationally televised commercial during Super Bowl XXXII. Sure to qualify as the Cinderella team of the day, the small business that best describes in 100 words or less how it best represents the entrepreneurial spirit in America will score a 10- to 20-second spot in the ad. The talent search is an "opportunity for small businesses to participarte in Super Bowl advertising, to have the type of exposure that mega-companies spend millions of dollars for," says MBE's president and COO James Amos.
Considering nearly half of all U.S. households tune into the game, "this is exposure [entrepreneurs] could only have dreamed of in the past," says Richard Hallabrin of MBE.
To get your shot at fame, fill out an entry form, found at participating MBE centers or at http://www.mbe.com , by October 31.
Telegrafix Communications Inc., 128 S. Loudoun St., Winchester, VA 22601, (540) 678-4050
Kenneth Leventhal Real Estate Group, Ernst & Young LLP, 1121 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, (212) 773-5660
Custom Boots by Michael Anthony, 227 N. Main St., Sebastopol, CA 95472, (707) 823-7204
Mail Boxes Etc., 6060 Cornerstone Ct. W., San Diego, CA 92121