Putting the pieces together

A combination of factors led two companies to locate in Fairfax and Arlington

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce

Gerald L. Gordon touts the pro-business environment in Fairfax County and the commonwealth whenever he talks to prospective companies. “You can’t underestimate that. It’s huge,” says the president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. “It’s an enormous asset for us.”

At a time when government contracting and some other industry segments have slowed, Gordon was delighted the FCEDA snagged Intelsat, a major provider of satellite services, in 2012. The deal was another step in diversifying Fairfax County’s economy.

Intelsat will relocate its U.S. headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Fairfax County in 2014, moving at least 430 employees to Virginia. It will lease approximately 188,000 square feet of space in Tysons Tower, a 20-story office building under construction in Tysons Corner Center. The new tower and the nearby Silver Line Metro stop fit Intelsat’s requirements, which included a modern, collaborative workspace and a first-class transportation system along with a highly skilled work force.

Incentives for the deal included a $1.3 million grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund plus funding and services through the Virginia Department of Business Assistance’s Virginia Jobs Investment Program to support the company’s recruitment, training and retraining activities.

“It was a smooth process,” says Gordon. “Our role was showing them the options that were available for buildings to satisfy their needs and working to put together an incentive package with the state and VEDP.”
FCEDA provided Intelsat with a wide range of information, including market data that would help the company make a decision. It was a relatively short process, only four months in the making. “We started in late summer last year,” Gordon says, noting that the official announcement was made in December.

The economic development authority learned from several sources that Intelsat was considering a move. “One was a contact that we have worked with,” Gordon says. “People in the real estate community made some connections for us.”

The decision to move to Fairfax did not depend on just one or two factors, Gordon says. A variety of concerns made the difference, including location, office space, proximity to contractors and sub-contractors, a qualified work force, ease of access, safety and the quality of the local education system. “We have one of the lowest crime rates in America of any jurisdiction over 100,000,” says Gordon. “We are safe, we have many jobs and we have a highly educated, diverse population. What’s not to like?”

In nearby Arlington County, the economic development office looks for technology-related business prospects in marketing the county, specifically targeting educational information technology companies.
The county had a recent big win when Hobsons, the education unit of the Daily Mail and General Trust plc in London, located its regional headquarters in Arlington. The company provides services to more than 7,500 schools and colleges around the world.

“We love the company and the technology,” says Jennifer Ives, the economic development department’s director of business investment. “The company has grown rapidly in the U.S.”
Hobsons was looking at Washington, D.C., as a possible location for its regional headquarters when the economic development department heard about the opportunity. The department began working with the company in September 2009. At the time, Arlington was competing with other Northern Virginia locations along with Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati, the company’s U.S. headquarters location. “They wanted access to D.C. but didn’t want to be in D.C.,” Ives says. “They wanted to be in Virginia.”

The company had acquired D.C.-based Naviance and Fairfax-based AY Recruiting Solutions in 2007, so it was familiar with the area. It was looking for a “vibrant location” as well as an area with a highly trained work force. “The company needs to be sure they had that and could attract a work force,” Ives says. “Arlington has that hand-over-fist. It became the logical choice.”

Another plus: Arlington’s public school system. “Our schools are some of the best in the country,” Ives says. “Other localities can’t claim that. Good schools make a difference.”

Based on its headcount, Hobsons qualified for several incentive programs, including the commonwealth’s Job Investment Program and Major Business Facility Tax Credit.

The company was attracted to the fast-growing Clarendon area of the county because of its mix of apartments, condominiums and single-family homes. It signed a lease in December 2010. “It fit the bill. The company’s wish list described Arlington County to the ‘T.’ They fell in love with it,” Ives says, adding that all the amenities combined that helped seal the deal. “It’s not just one slice. It’s the entire pie.” 

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