Northern Virginia isn’t just for government contractors
- March 1, 2013
The Northern Virginia region fared well in its economic development efforts in 2012 despite the uncertainty in the economy.
Its proximity to Washington, D.C., gives the region an edge in attracting high-tech, aerospace, aviation and military-based industries. Newer industries being targeted include telecommunications, cyber security, medicine and science, and women- and minority-owned businesses as well as education and health-care information technology.
The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority is setting its sights on “personalized medicine as a primary market in the next few years,” says Gerald L. Gordon, FCEDA’s president and CEO.
Other area economic development offices are diversifying as well. Loudoun County is putting an additional focus on bioinformatics, while Prince William will make a push for life sciences and forensics research. Arlington County is targeting clean/green technology and big data companies that manage and analyze the growth and use of information. “For more than a decade we have worked to support the diversification of industry sectors,” says Jennifer Ives, director of business investment for Arlington Economic Development. “We want to make sure we have as balanced an economy as possible.”
A hotbed for entrepreneurs and startups, Northern Virginia also targets and attracts many international companies looking for a location for a U.S. headquarters. Fairfax County alone boasts more than 200 European companies.
Fairfax is witnessing a transformation of Tysons Corner, which will add up to 20 million square feet of space in the next 10 years. As part of an expansion of Metrorail to Washington Dulles International Airport, four Metro stops are being built in Tysons as well as one in Reston. These new stops are expected to generate high-density development and residential growth. “That will change the face of Tysons Corner and generate more growth in Fairfax County,” says Gordon.
For the year, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership says the region had 99 announcements for a total investment of more than $1 billion that will create more than 5,200 jobs.
One of Fairfax’s biggest coups in 2012 involved Intelsat, a leading provider of satellite services. It plans to move its headquarters from Washington, D.C., to a new office tower under construction at Tysons Corner. The relocation, in mid-2014, will move more than 400 employees to Virginia. “That brought a U.S. corporate headquarters designation and 450 jobs,” Gordon says. The FCEDA’s marketing efforts include its seven global offices in Boston, Los Angeles, London, Munich, Tel Aviv, Bangalore, India and Seoul, Korea.
The Fort Belvoir corridor also is generating growth for the county, thanks to an additional 16,500 personnel assigned to the base as a result of the Defense Department’s Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) decisions. “Contractors want to be or have to be in proximity of the main gate,” Gordon says. “We anticipate growth of 8 to 10 million square feet of new office space in the vicinity of the base.”
The BRAC rollout, however, was not as kind to Arlington. “We lost 17,000 federal employees in Arlington [primarily in Rosslyn and Crystal City], and that was much larger than some bases that closed,” says Ives. On a brighter note, Arlington has up to 4,000 startup companies and small businesses specializing in areas ranging from cyber security to big data. “We are very good at what we do when it comes to assisting entrepreneurs and startups,” Ives says.
Last year’s accomplishments also included capturing the regional headquarters of Accenture, a management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company with 4,000 area employees as well as the international headquarters of DRS Technologies, which supplies products and support to the military, intelligence agencies and prime contractors. Other noteworthy wins include CNA’s Center for Naval Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, and the new UberOffices, which provide co-working space for more than 40 fast-growth technology companies. There also have been a number of expansions such as an additional 300,000-square-foot space for the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA).
Ives credits her department’s success to the use of lean methodologies that help business owners take ideas to the market quickly. “Being nimble and creative is something Arlington is good at,” she says.
Big wins in Loudoun
The Loudoun County Economic Development office also scored big last year bringing in 27 new companies and seeing 18 business expansions. In addition, the county will see 3 million square feet of data center space built during the next few years. “We had a number of data-center big wins,” says Tom Flynn, the county’s director of economic development.
New companies include Seattle-based Sabey Corp. (commercial real estate) with a $200 million investment and 50 jobs, iGate Corp. (information technology) with a $1 million investment and 250 jobs and Easterns Automotive Group with a $1 million investment and 100 jobs. Expansion deals include a $5 million investment from RagingWire (data center co-location), which adds 45 jobs, and a $2 million investment from Metron Aviation, adding 350 jobs.
Helping the county attract business is its ability to provide faster permitting. “That is a very useful tool,” Flynn says. “We can go to a company and say tell us what your deadlines are for construction or outfit, and we promise we will make those. We have made 100 percent.”
The economic development office also has hired a lead-generation firm to arrange meetings with companies at conferences and expos such as BIO-I.T. in Boston and the Farnborough International Air Show, an aerospace exhibition in London.
Even though economic development is on the upswing, Flynn says his office is often hampered in its efforts by a clogged, outdated road system that he tries to avoid when showing business prospects the area. He would like to see the commonwealth finally address the issue of improving highway infrastructure. “Highway 606 along Dulles, which is now a two-lane road, needs to be a four-lane road. It’s an issue of access to Dulles from both the cargo and passenger standpoint,” he says. “We have to time our visits around that to avoid showing congestion.”
Science accelerator opens
The Prince William County Department of Economic Development ended 2012 with 20 deals totaling $400 million in announced capital investment. “Prince William rose to the seventh wealthiest county in the nation by median household income,” says Brent Heavner, marketing and research manager for the county’s Department of Economic Development.
One of the county’s most significant developments was the opening of the new Prince William Science Accelerator. “This is a facility we launched through a public/private partnership to deliver much-needed wet lab space here in Northern Virginia,” Heavner says. “It’s an exciting project that we expect to spur a great deal of additional activity during 2013.”
The lack of availability of wet lab space for lease has been a challenge for the county. “Our new Science Accelerator is a great example of a public/private response to market demand that will make us more competitive,” Heavner says. “It is part of a new toolbox we are developing to enhance our ability to serve smaller entrepreneurial firms and startups.”
Other wins included Eco-Energy’s expansion of an existing ethanol distribution facility and the addition of the global firm LeaseWebb, which located both its U.S. headquarters and first U.S. data center facility in Prince William.
The competition for companies is fierce, Heavner says. “It is a dogfight for every deal out there, whether it is to retain an existing company or attract a new one.”
Major employers by number of jobs
Booz, Allen Hamilton, Fairfax County, 7,000 -10,000+ jobs
Inova Health System, Fairfax County, 7,000 -10,000+ jobs
Federal Loan Home Mortgage Corp., Fairfax County, 4,000-6,999 jobs
Lockheed Martin, Fairfax County, 4,000-6,999 jobs
Northrop Grumman, Fairfax County, 4,000-6,999 jobs
SAIC, Fairfax County, 4,000-6,999 jobs
Deloitte, Arlington County, 5,100 jobs
Accenture, Arlington County, 4,000 jobs
AOL Inc, Loudoun County, 1,001-5,000 jobs
M.C. Dean Inc., Loudoun County 1,001-5,000 jobs
Source: Economic development offices
Northern Virginia’s recent deals
TASC Inc., Fairfax County, 494 jobs
Intelsat, Fairfax County, 430 jobs
INTEGRITYOne Partners Inc., Fairfax County, 352 jobs
Metron Aviation, Loudoun County, 350 jobs
OMNIPLEX World Services Corp., Fairfax County, 325 jobs
iGate Corp., Loudoun County, 250 jobs
CACI International, Fairfax County, 221 jobs
Kaiser Permanente, Fairfax County, 146 jobs
Volkswagen of America Inc., Fairfax County, 130 jobs
DRS Technologies, Arlington County, 125 jobs
Source: Virginia Economic Development Partnership