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The Boro in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County has big plans for Tysons, and to realize them, it may end up laying the groundwork for a new approach to economic development.

Now in its second decade of life, the nonprofit Tysons Partnership tasked with fulfilling the county’s vision for Tysons has been spent the past couple of years — and part of a $1 million grant — reinventing itself, with a revamped website here, a change in leadership there.

Ultimately, the group intends to transition into a new “anchor” organization that it says will be more sustainable and better equipped to support Tysons long term, potentially handling everything from business recruitment to streetlight outages.

Details of this organization, including what it will be called and how it will be funded, are still being worked out, but with Tysons aiming to evolve from an office hub into a full-fledged community, officials confirmed this week that, contrary to recent speculation, it won’t be a business improvement district (BID).

“In Tysons, since we were focusing on the need to facilitate the sense of a livable, walkable community or communities, community development seemed as important, if not more important than economic development,” acting Tysons Partnership Executive Director Rich Bradley told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (May 17).

In a presentation to the board’s economic development committee, members of a Tysons Vision Work Group that formed last year said they looked at existing BIDs in the D.C. area and elsewhere in the U.S. as models, citing examples from Rosslyn and Georgetown to Cherry Creek in Denver, Colorado.

However, as suggested by their name, BIDs are typically driven by businesses and other commercial properties, which pay a special tax to fund economic and community initiatives.

The work group of 30-plus stakeholders unanimously favored a more inclusive approach that also engages residents, nonprofits, and the public sector, according to Bradley, who said the Tysons anchor organization will follow more of a “community improvement or community investment district” framework. Read More

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Gov. Glenn Youngkin visited Google’s Reston Station office today (Tuesday) to help the company share its plans to continue building up Virginia’s technology industry.

Flanked by public officials at a media event, Google executive Vint Cerf announced it will invest over $300 million in Virginia this year.

“Virginia is a shining example of the work we’re doing across the United States with a growing office right here in Reston Station and continued investments that we’re making in our data centers in northern Virginia,” Cerf said.

According to a news release, the tech giant plans to invest approximately $9.5 billion in offices and data centers and create at least 12,000 new full-time Google jobs across the U.S. this year.

Google didn’t discuss details about specific local investments, but a public relations firm said the company “plans to continue investing in its data center portfolio in Northern Virginia.”

A law passed earlier this year and effective July 1 reconfigured how data centers are taxed.

“We have now a framework to incentivize data center investments across all industry, and we have a great working relationship with Google,” Youngkin said.

Cerf also said the company will provide a $250,000 grant to CodeVA, a Richmond-based nonprofit focused on teaching coding skills to kids. The money will support programming for students across the state.

Mark Isakowitz, Google’s government affairs lead in the U.S. and Canada, said the company worked with the governor’s team to make the investment announcement a reality. While the state didn’t provide any “specific” funding to the company, the partners have a shared vision, according to Youngkin.

The Republican governor said Google’s investment will have ripple effects for the Commonwealth’s economy. He also announced that Virginia is joining a National Governors Association initiative to prioritize computer science curricula in schools.

Google partners with Virginia on education

Google will also work with the Virginia Community College system and Department of Education to help people of all ages get professional certificates. The effort involves the state’s 23 community colleges and five higher education centers in the Commonwealth.

Per a news release:

This partnership will provide more entry-level opportunities for Virginians seeking careers in tech fields via the certificates, which are taught and developed by Google employees with decades of experience. Google Career Certificates are available in the fields of data analytics, IT support, project management, and user experience (UX) design, and do not require prior experience or a degree.

While Google has invested in Northern Virginia with two data center campuses in Loudoun County and the recent expansion of its Reston office, the region has over 90,000 open technology positions, according to the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

“This is an exciting day,” Youngkin said, thanking Google and saying he was excited to see workplaces come alive.

Daniel Golding, a Google infrastructure director who leads the capital region’s tech site, suggested that the company is probably about 20 or 30% more effective when employees work in the office instead of from home.

“It’s really important to collaborate and work together,” he said.

Youngkin chatted with workers and toured amenities in the four-level office. Looking down on Reston and the Dulles Toll Road from the building’s 15th floor, he joked that it must be “a terrible place to have to work.”

“Look at that view,” Youngkin said.

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A lab worker is seen at Bode Technology’s facility (via Fairfax County Economic Development Authority)

Bode Technology, which assists Fairfax County and Virginia with forensic services, will spend $2 million to hire more staff to meet its growing needs.

Announced today (Monday) by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, the investment will help the company hire “additional senior and entry-level laboratory technicians, information technology and engineering professionals and other business support roles,” the news releases said.

“For more than 25 years, Bode Technology has called Virginia our home, and today’s announcement is a testament to that bond,” Bode Technology CEO Mike Cariola said. “To help fight crime, we need to hire the most talented scientists in the world, and the universities in Virginia and surrounding areas have been essential to our success.”

Located at 10430 Furnace Road, the company will get support from the Commonwealth through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program, where state funding helps businesses recoup costs of adding jobs.

“Bode Technology is eligible to receive up to $850 per job, for a total of up to $60,350 for 71 net new jobs, from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP),” Virginia Economic Development Partnership spokesperson Suzanne Clark told FFXnow in an email. “VJIP is a performance-based incentive. Once a designated funding amount is approved, companies do not receive reimbursement until they have created the minimum net new, full-time jobs to qualify for funding and the new hires have been on the company’s payroll for at least 90 days.”

The company currently has 250 employees.

The governor’s news release noted that the state’s economic development authority worked with the Fairfax County EDA through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program, which provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs to support employee recruitment and training activities.

Bode Technology uses DNA to help law enforcement agencies track criminals, and it also reduces backlogs by processing sexual assault kits, among other services. According to the company, it helped identify victims of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks and the remains of U.S. soldiers dating back to World War II.

“Demand for our services has increased, and today we are recruiting talented scientists from across the country to join us here in Fairfax County so that we can continue our mission,” Cariola’s statement said.

Photo via FCEDA

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The bingo card to participate in Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation’s Richmond Highway restaurant bingo (courtesy SFDC)

Frequenting local restaurants in the Richmond Highway corridor could pay off in gift cards.

The Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation, a nonprofit that promotes revitalization of the corridor, is running a bingo campaign through April 11 to encourage residents to eat at the area’s establishments.

This is the first time the SFDC is running the contest. The idea came from a community volunteer on its committee that focuses on public outreach, the nonprofit’s marketing and communications specialist Alexis DeFrancisco told FFXnow.

“Part of SFDC’s mission is to design projects designed to stimulate economic growth in the Richmond Highway corridor by working closely with business owners,” she said. “Bingo is a fantastic way to get people to visit local businesses and generate economic growth with the added incentive of winning prizes.”

Among the 24 restaurants that are listed on the bingo card are Mamma’s Kitchen, Woodlawn Press Winery, Cedar Knoll, Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana, Grounded Coffee Shop, and more.

Anyone who makes a qualifying purchase — $10 or more at participating restaurants — at five places that line up horizontally, diagonally or vertically, is entered into a raffle for the chance to win a $50 or $100 gift card. Three winners will be chosen. The first person to cross out the whole card will win a $100 gift card.

The SFDC promotes businesses from the Capital Beltway to Fort Belvoir, including in the communities of Penn Daw, Huntington, Beacon/Groveton, Hybla Valley, South County, and Woodlawn. Since 1981, it has helped direct nearly $2 billion of private investment to the area, according to its annual report.

Over the next five to 10 years, the corporation expects residents will see a transformation of the Richmond Highway corridor as multiple multifamily housing projects have started construction and there are plans for a revitalized mixed-use Metro station.

“New businesses are looking for space and most legacy businesses have survived the hardships of the last couple years,” DeFrancisco said. “With everything that’s in motion, the future of the Corridor looks bright.”

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Exterior of the Original Mount Vernon High School along Route 1 (via Fairfax County)

Fairfax County is looking for proposals to create a food-centric business accelerator and entrepreneurship center at a historic school.

The Original Mount Vernon High School, once part of President George Washington’s estate, has a former locker room that the county wants to develop.

The county’s Department of Economic Initiatives started gauging interest on Feb. 24 in applicants who could lease the 12,000-square-foot, lower-level space.

“This effort will serve as an anchor tenant in the building and contribute to the enhancement and activation of the larger campus,” a request for proposals page says.

The request is part of an effort to redevelop the school building. A gym has already been renovated and opened, and other parts of the site are being used as a satellite Fire Marshal’s Office for the South County area, a Fairfax County Public Schools registration site, and a teen/senior center.

The county says future development at the site could include “a theatre, space for education and workforce development, childcare, and a separate technology-based business center.”

The 22-acre property along Route 1 is part of state and national registers of historic places. The school was built in 1939 under the federally funded Public Works Administration with additions throughout the decades.

The school originally only allowed white students and didn’t desegregate until 1965.

As part of the development, respondents must show how the changes would advance racial and social equity.

Responses must be sent by the end of the month. The project page lists contact information and other details.

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The technology company Easy Dynamics is expanding its headquarters at 2000 Corporate Ridge in Tysons (via Google Maps)

For the second time in as many weeks, a Tysons-based company has shared plans to expand its local operations.

The technology services provider Easy Dynamics Corporation will invest $100,000 in its Tysons office at 2000 Corporate Ridge, a move that will create 61 new jobs, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority announced today (Monday).

According to the news release, the new jobs will range from software engineers and business analysts to project managers and other business support roles.

“We are proud to be the home of Easy Dynamics and gratified to see it continue to expand in Fairfax County,” FCEDA President and CEO Victor Hoskins said in a statement. “The company also has been an innovator in workforce development, and we look forward to using our Fairfax County-funded talent initiative to help it grow in the county.”

Founded in 2006, Easy Dynamics offers cybersecurity, cloud, information sharing, automation, and other technology-focused services.

CEO Poupak Afshar says the company chose Fairfax County as its headquarters for the area’s proximity to the federal government, the strength of its workforce, and its growing reputation as a hub for the tech sector.

“Northern Virginia is home to the second largest cybersecurity workforce in the U.S. and the state’s attractive business climate make the area a fantastic location for technology companies of all sizes,” Afshar said.

The Easy Dynamics news comes on the heels of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s announcement last week that the security provider Alarm.com will expand its technology research and development work in Tysons with a $2.6 million investment.

Echoing his sentiments from that announcement event, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement that Easy Dynamics’ expansion validates the county’s efforts to create a pro-business environment that supports diversity.

“The Board of Supervisors has worked hard to create an environment where businesses of all kinds, and entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, can grow and thrive,” McKay said. “I thank Poupak Afshar and her team at Easy Dynamics for the vote of confidence that they have shown in taking advantage of the assets we have built here for companies and their employees.”

Here is more from the FCEDA news release:

The FCEDA worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to secure the project for Virginia and will support Easy Dynamics’ job creation through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP), which provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs in order to support employee recruitment and training activities. As a business incentive supporting economic development, VJIP reduces the human resource costs of new and expanding companies. VJIP is state-funded, demonstrating Virginia’s commitment to enhancing job opportunities for residents.

“Northern Virginia is a top-ranked tech talent market in the U.S. and Easy Dynamics will benefit from our industry workforce pipeline at its Fairfax County location,” Youngkin said. “Supporting the growth of existing businesses of all sizes is a priority, and the Virginia Jobs Investment Program will provide valuable assistance to the company in the recruitment and training of 61 new employees.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Gov. Glenn Youngkin made his first official appearance in Fairfax County as Virginia’s chief executive today (Monday).

The property security provider Alarm.com will expand its technology research and development division in Tysons with a $2.6 million investment, creating 180 new jobs, Youngkin announced at the company’s headquarters (8218 Greensboro Drive).

“This is exactly what all Virginians want to see happen, which is more opportunity,” the governor said. “…Governments don’t create jobs. Businesses create jobs.”

He later described the tech-focused positions that will be created as “the jobs that underpin the economy of our future.”

With mask rules loosening in Fairfax County and attendance mostly limited to business and government officials as well as press, the event presented minimal risk of a tense public encounter akin to what Youngkin experienced in Alexandria.

However, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay — one of the few people in the room wearing a mask, though he removed it when delivering remarks — pointedly emphasized the role that local government plays in creating an attractive environment for businesses like Alarm.com.

“Our pro-business environment in Fairfax is working,” he said. “…We want everyone to be here and be successful.”

McKay credited the county’s investments in a “world-class” public education system, transportation infrastructure and public safety with making it a critical economic driver for the Commonwealth.

Alarm.com President and CEO Steve Trundle echoed at least some of that sentiment, stating that the quality of the county’s schools “really makes a difference” when the company is recruiting new employees.

Founded as part of MicroStrategy in 2000, Alarm.com became its own company in 2009 and now occupies more than 195,000 square feet of office space just for its headquarters. The business also has a testing lab in Tysons and a fully automated smart home in Falls Church used to demonstrate its security system technology.

The company currently employs about 700 workers in Virginia and ranked 48th on Fortune Magazine’s list of the U.S.’s fastest growing companies in 2021.

“Alarm.com…chose to make this investment in Virginia due to Northern Virginia’s strong workforce, including its high concentration of [science, technology, engineering, and math] workers, numerous higher education institutions, and desirable quality of life,” Alarm.com Vice President of Human Resources Victoria Schillinger said in press releases from the governor’s office and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

The FCEDA says it worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to secure Alarm.com’s expansion and will support the company’s job creation efforts through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program, which offers consulting services and funding to businesses for employee recruitment and training.

In addition to stressing the importance of local government in economic development, McKay argued that Fairfax County’s efforts to support and celebrate its diversity have been crucial to the area’s business and workforce successes.

His comments came amid a state budget debate in the Virginia General Assembly and the Youngkin administration’s elimination of education-related equity initiatives.

“We focus on equity and building an inclusive community, and that’s not always what happens in Virginia,” McKay told FFXnow. “If anyone thinks that is good for business, just look at what we’ve done here and what we’ve built here. What we’re doing here is good for business.”

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A major residential project is coming to the Penn Daw area (Image via handout/Fairfax County Government)

A major residential project by Lennar Corp. that has been years in the making has been approved for the Penn Daw area.

The owners of the 7.4-acre property — which has 16 parcels owned by Penn Daw Properties and Michael Strassburg — hope to redevelop five single-family homes and a commercial building with up to 46 stacked townhouses, 35 townhouses and a 385-unit apartment building that would stand up to seven stories tall.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the project, which required rezoning the property, at a Feb. 22 meeting. The project is located in the Penn Daw Community Business Center east of Richmond Highway and north of Shields Avenue.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Daniel Storck said the county and applicant worked with many stakeholders to move the project — which he said has been “a long time coming” — forward. He noted that the project is one that “tells you that things are changing at Richmond Highway.”

“We leave no one behind as we redevelop this area,” he said.

The developer’s agent, Lynn Strobel, called the project a “gateway site.” She said the applicant intentionally moved utilities underground to improve the aesthetics of the site and worked through a number of typographical challenges to activate the site with appropriate residential elements.

A parking garage for the apartment building and 22 street parking spaces are planned. The applicant successfully sought a 26% reduction in parking spaces as required by the county. The project is next to Penn Daw Trailer Park, a 90-unit mobile home park that could also be slated for redevelopment in the future.

The site, which is near the future Penn Daw BRT station, includes a two-way cycle track and road connections to neighboring areas. A network of public open spaces, including an urban plaza along the frontage of Richmond Highway in front of the multifamily building, is also planned.

In recent years, the county has stepped up efforts to encourage revitalization of the Richmond Highway Corridor.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the project’s eligibility for tax abatement through the county’s Economic Incentive Program (EIP), which is designed to encourage revitalization of high-demand areas like the Richmond Highway Corridor.

Storck said those economic incentives were instrumental in pushing the project forward.

“In this case, we will see our investment paying off with a project that would not have been possible otherwise.”

At a Feb. 22 meeting, the board unanimously approved tax abatement efforts to help the project proceed.

The developers will be able to take advantage of roughly $1.3 million in tax abatement per year over 10 years. Staff noted that the proposed development is near a future Bus Rapid Transit station on Richmond Highway.

“In the case of this site, the property owners have sought redevelopment for over ten years but we’re strongly challenged by consolidation issues, among others,” according to a staff memo.

In September 2020, the county instituted the EIP program for the county’s five Commercial Revitalization Districts and Commercial Revitalization Areas, which include Richmond Highway, McLean, Seven Corners and Annandale. The program gives developers regulatory and financial incentives to proceed with development and revitalization efforts.

In 2015, the county worked with Prince William County, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment on an 18-month study to revitalize the corridor. The plan — called Embark — sought to bring transit-oriented development to the area along with a surge in Bus Rapid Transit.

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Fairfax County businesses added nearly 9,000 jobs over the course of 2021, even with the uncertain environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the county’s economic development authority says.

According to a press release, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority worked with 146 businesses that added a total of 8,973 jobs to the Fairfax County economy.

The businesses came from a variety of sectors, from manufacturing and real estate to information technology and cybersecurity. They were also spread out throughout the county, including Chantilly, Reston, Fairfax, Tysons, and Herndon.

Of the 146 businesses that reported job growth, 14 were newcomers that the FCEDA had courted to come to Fairfax County. Many were attracted not just from other areas of the U.S., but from other countries.

The seafood company Starkist, which is owned by Korean-based Dongwon Group, is relocating its headquarters from Pittsburgh to Reston Town Center. Other examples include the Canadian-based Brookfield Residential Properties and Israeli aerospace and defense company D-Fend Solutions.

According to data provided by the authority, the sector that saw the most growth was information technology services, which accounted for 2,648 new jobs, or 29.5% of the new positions in the county.

Much of that growth came courtesy of Herndon-based Peraton, which added 1,200 positions in 2021. The contractor announced plans in December to move its corporate headquarters to Reston Town Center.

“We would be proud to announce almost 9,000 jobs in any new year,” FCEDA President and CEO Victor Hoskins stated in the press release. “But very few communities can claim the kind of diversity that we have in our business community.”

FCEDA also touted that 25 of the American companies that came to the county are owned by women, minorities, or veterans.

Those businesses were found mainly in the information technology sector and include the Fairfax-based Kreative Technologies, which created 296 jobs, and Tysons-based Alpha Omega Integration, which created 154 jobs.

The nonprofit Community Foundation of Northern Virginia released a report in June 2021 showing that minority-owned businesses in Fairfax County have suffered more acutely than white-owned businesses during the pandemic.

The report stated that while the number of minority-owned businesses remained flat, revenue and staffing dramatically decreased, while unemployment insurance claims rose.

Fairfax County has worked to support local businesses during the pandemic by distributing federal relief funds through a series of grant programs, including the Fairfax RISE initiative that distributed more than $52 million in 2020 — 72% of which went to minority, women, or veteran-owned businesses.

The county awarded $16.8 million in grants last year with its PIVOT program, which focused on small businesses and the hospitality industry.

The FCEDA has been hosting virtual job fairs and other events to connect employers with workers as part of its Work in Northern Virginia initiative.

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(Updated Feb. 4) Fairfax County is exploring the possibility of using public money to help fund new startups, particularly those from underrepresented entrepreneurs.

The county government has proposed a two-year pilot program called the Fairfax Founders Fund, where young businesses would get up to $50,000 in grant money.

The program could reverse a competitive disadvantage for the county and fill a gap that traditional angel investors have avoided, providing fairer levels of capital to Black- and female-owned businesses, county staff suggested at an Economic Initiatives Committee meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 1).

“People of color don’t have the same access,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “We believe that is wrong. We believe that we can get a better cultural and social return on investment.”

First proposed in July 2021, the pilot program is still being tweaked but could go before the board for approval this spring.

While celebrities such as Pharrell and Serena Williams and companies like Wells Fargo have sought to change that funding landscape, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority Vice Chair James Quigley said, in general, that money is not going to early-stage businesses.

Officials also said that Black and women-owned businesses are underrepresented in investment opportunities, with the D.C. region far behind other states in drawing venture capital dollars.

According to the staff presentation, new Black-owned businesses start with just a third of the capital granted their white-owned counterparts. While 12% of the U.S. working population is Black, they only constitute 2% of startup executives.

Latino individuals constitute about 18% of the country’s working population and just 3% of startup executives.

In comparison, 79% of startup executives are white, even though data indicates that businesses with ethnically diverse leadership teams tend to be more profitable.

As currently proposed, the Fairfax Founders Fund would be open to for-profit technology companies based in Fairfax County that have earned up to $250,000 in gross revenue over the past 12 months. The business would match the county’s investment.

Staff have proposed devoting $500,000 to the program from the county’s Economic Opportunity Reserve, which was created in 2017 as part of its efforts to stimulate economic growth. The county would also not get any kind of ownership in the companies.

However, officials caution that the program will require some patience from the county. Quigley, who cofounded the Reston-headquartered tech company GoCanvas, said there won’t be a Google startup coming out of it in three months.

Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk expressed excitement about the program.

“We do need to make Fairfax County a bit more competitive, and this program is going to be able to help us do that,” he said.

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