F.C. Mayor Invites Obamas to Enroll in F.C. Schools

City Acts to Attract New Fed Staffers

City of Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner notified the News-Press yesterday that she’s preparing a letter to President-elect Barack Obama and his family, inviting them to enroll their children in the Falls Church City Public Schools.

The Obamas have been touring selected private schools in the District of Columbia, with the intent to make a decision imminently on where to enroll their two girls in their family.

Gardner told the News-Press her invitation will cite the nationally-renowned excellence of the small Falls Church school system, with its relative intimacy and small class sizes emulating private institutions in many ways.

“We offer an ideal environment in a public school system,” Gardner said, affirming the merits of public education. She also noted that the system’s new middle school facility is named for an early civil rights pioneer woman, Mary Ellen Henderson, an educator who was the wife of the founder of the first rural chapter of the NAACP.

In another high-profile welcoming gesture by City of Falls Church officials to the newly-elected federal administration and the many new U.S. congressmen and their staffs, the City’s Economic Development office placed a full-page advertisement, slated for publication today in The Hill, a prominent newspaper circulated among government officials in the District.

With Congress in town for a “lame duck” session, and many of the newly-elected senators and representatives and their staffs also here for preliminary orientation, the ad invites new arrivals to consider bringing their families to Falls Church.

The ad, headlined “Looking for a Great Place to Move to? Come to the City of Falls Church!” cites the City’s “great schools, great community, great commute on the Orange Metro line directly to the Hill and White House, great new rental apartments and condos, great neighborhoods, great Farmer’s Market, the second highest percentage of college graduates in the U.S. and the greatest voter turnout in Virginia.”

The ad involved swift action, and was a collaborative public-private effort, with Falls Church resident Matt Smith, principal of the City-based marketing firm, Smith Gifford, designing the ad pro bono. City Manager Wyatt Shields and the City’s economic development office of Rick Goff and Becky Witsman were all involved. The cost of the ad was reportedly about $2,000.

FallsChurchAd-1.jpgThe Falls Church News-Press took a similar approach this week, placing ads in three specialty newspapers in the District, congratulating President-elect Obama as the only Northern Virginia-based newspaper to endorse him before the election. It states, “Uniquely serving the Northern Virginia region of the national capital area, the News-Press promises to be a preferred read in the new Washington. It will be a powerful tool for those seeking to influence the new administration and Congress with news, commentaries and affordable, effective advertising.”

Real estate experts contend that the influx of new people into the Washington, D.C. Metro area as a result of the Nov. 4 election will not have a significant impact on the region, as a whole, but Falls Church leaders felt that by taking a pro-active approach to attract them, given the City’s amenities and location, it could make a difference for the small jurisdiction.

There are over 7,000 jobs offered in the revered so-called “Plum Book” printed by the U.S. government after every change of White House administrations. People apply for jobs from all over the country, some hoping that references from people associated with newly-elected officials can help them land a job here.

There is also a large turnover of appointed staff persons associated with newly-elected officials, and in the make-up and personnel of the many public and private advocacy groups, the so-called lobbyists, who are a big part of the regional economy, as well.

City officials told the News-Press there are other cost-effective measures also being taken to attract potential newly-arriving individuals and families to Falls Church, in addition to the on-going effort to attract new businesses, including advocacy groups, to the City’s newly-constructed large scale mixed use projects.

Witsman noted the easy access of the City to the White House, K Street Corridor and Capitol Hill from the Orange Metro line, without requiring any transfers, is a particularly strong selling point for Falls Church as a preferred place to live and work.

The fact that it is also on I-66, an interstate highway going directly to the District, adjacent the I-495 Beltway that makes it proximate to points throughout the D.C. Metro area, and equidistant between two major airports, Dulles and Reagan National, add to the City’s attractiveness as an ideal location.

The ad slated for publication in today’s The Hill newspaper marks the first professional marketing foray of its type in the City of Falls Church’s history, something that many in the community have been advocating for a long time.

However, it was done at a minimal cost, including the good will of Matt Smith, and there remains to date no line item in the City’s budget for such marketing efforts, per se.

Mayor Gardner told the News-Press that even if her invitation to the Obamas to attend school in Falls Church is not accepted, her initiative may help highlight the excellence of the City’s school system to those moving in to populate the “new Washington.”