Last week, dozens of Capitol Hill business owners gathered at National Capital Bank to celebrate the start of a new fiscal year for CHAMPS Capitol Hill’s Chamber of Commerce and to celebrate CHAMPS as the voice of Capitol Hill businesses. Together with Councilmember Allen and MPD First District Commander Morgan Kane, the organization marked its many accomplishments in the last year.
Under a new Executive Director, Betsy Poos, CHAMPS increased its membership by 150% in the last nine months, launched an advocacy breakfast series with DC Government leaders, an entrepreneur group, and initiated a monthly storefront working group to address issues related to sustaining and growing our retail and service businesses on the hill. CHAMPS also hosted its first annual Holiday Sip & Shop, which you will definitely not want to miss this year!
If you are not familiar with CHAMPS – or even if you are – you may be wondering what CHAMPS does and if or how it is different from our many Main Streets and BIDs (Business Improvement Districts).
Business Improvement Districts (such as Capitol Hill and Capitol Riverfront BIDs) serve defined business areas and are financed by a self-imposed tax on the businesses within the set area. The tax is a surcharge to the real property tax liability and collected by the District of Columbia. All revenues are returned entirely to the organization managing the BID.
Main Street Programs (such as Barracks Row, Eastern Market, and H Street Main Streets) promote the revitalization of traditional business districts in DC. Main Street’s mission is to support the traditional retail corridors in the District, of which there are currently twelve. Improvements that are the result of Main Street efforts and funding include facade improvements and building rehabilitation projects, as well as marketing and branding efforts that aim to provide additional exposure and increased market share. Main Street programs are funded through city funding and fundraising.
CHAMPS is a Chamber of Commerce that advocates for, connects, and promotes Capitol Hill Businesses. Its boundaries are not defined by a business district or corridor so CHAMPS is able to serve those that may not benefit from the BID or Main Street programs. Another significant difference is that CHAMPS is funded by membership dues and fundraising. Because none of the funding comes from tax dollars, CHAMPS is able to lobby and advocate on behalf of its members in front of the Council of the District of Columbia and others. You also don’t have to be a business to be a member of CHAMPS. Anyone who wants to support Capitol Hill businesses can join at an associate level.
*Disclosure: I am on the board of CHAMPS Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce