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Fairfax EDA’s Gordon Touts Area’s Economic Prospects

page5picContending that Northern Virginia is a beneficiary of national recessions, with an unemployment rate now of only 4.5 percent compared to over 10 percent countrywide, the head of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority stressed in a Falls Church talk last week that the continued growth of the region is dependent on maintaining the quality of its educational systems.

 

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JERRY GORDON (left), chief of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, chatted with Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth following Gordon’s talk to the Merrifield Business Association at the Italian Cafe in Falls Church last Thursday. (Photo: News-Press)

Contending that Northern Virginia is a beneficiary of national recessions, with an unemployment rate now of only 4.5 percent compared to over 10 percent countrywide, the head of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority stressed in a Falls Church talk last week that the continued growth of the region is dependent on maintaining the quality of its educational systems.

 

Jerry Gordon, president and CEO of the Fairfax EDA, told a luncheon meeting of the Merrifield Business Association at F.C.’s Italian Cafe Thursday that an astonishing 90 percent of business owners in the region said in a recent survey that the top reason to live and do business here is the quality of the schools.

“The schools provide a quality workforce,” he explained, and stressed in a recent meeting he had with Fairfax School Superintendent Jack Dale that the schools don’t “create a self-fulfilling prophesy” by being willing to cut too much in the current recession-driving budget crisis.

The area also offers the highest median family income in the U.S., and compared with other major business centers, one of the lowest costs of living and doing business.

Gordon noted that of five nationally-prominent corporate headquarters that have relocated recently, four have come to Northern Virginia, and he’s intently negotiating to bring a fifth, Northrup-Grumman, to Fairfax County. The company announced it is moving out of California to this region, but has not yet selected a specific location here.

Recently moved to the county have been the CSC, SAIC, Volkswagen and Hilton Worldwide.

By being a “government town,” he said, the Washington D.C. Region spins off a lot of private business opportunities. “In the current climate, if you can survive the next couple of years in this region, you will find you’ve been sitting on a gold mine,” he said.

“We will come back faster than the rest of the nation,” he offered, noting that the County will not cut its economic development budget despite the tough times because it recognizing it is key to generating new revenue.

While it is not his job to shake lending capital loose from banks, Gordon said, he noted that there was only one venture capital company in Fairfax County in 1997, and now there are 34.

And while the big corporate heavyweights are moving in, still 90 percent of companies in the county are small businesses with a growing amount of diversity. There are 360 foreign-owned businesses, he said, fromk38 different countries. There are increasing numbers of Hispanic, Asian and women-owned businesses, as well.

In addition to information technology, government contracting, telecom and banking services, bio-science and bio-technology companies are also on the rise in the region, and they will create a lot of spin-off business opportunities, Gordon said. While Fairfax County had 455,000 residents in 1978, it grew to 819,000 by 1990, now it’s over a million, and is expected to add another 250,000 by 2030.

The five years of congestion in Tysons Corner resulting from the construction of the Metro rail line through the area will not drive people or business away, Gordon said, as it didn’t during the construction of the Big Dig in Boston or in other big projects.

But further diversity is needed in the county, he said, because the new administration in the White House is tending to reduce the level of outsourcing of government services, which may diminish the business activity here.