Around F.C., Commentary, Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Wow! It seems this has been the shortest summer ever! The free summer concerts at Mason District Park end on Sunday, August 21 (a few concerts continue at other park properties through August 27); Fairfax County schools resume classes on Monday, August 22; and pumpkin spice-flavored items already are being advertised. I expect to see Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday displays in stores soon! In Roman times, August was identified as part of the hot and humid “dog days,” a reference to the alignment of Sirius, the dog star, with the sun. Most of us probably couldn’t pick out Sirius in the night sky, but we certainly can identify with the heat and humidity of August, especially here in Virginia.

Fortunately, heat and humidity didn’t affect the ribbon-cutting on Tuesday to celebrate the opening of Apple Federal Credit Union’s 21st branch office at 5701-D Columbia Pike, between Dunkin’ Donuts and KFC in Bailey’s Crossroads. Apple’s president and CEO, Andrew Grimm, presided, assisted by Dr. Calanthia Tucker, chairman of Apple’s Board of Directors, on a bright and sunny, but very comfortable, morning. Jennifer Tillett, the enthusiastic young branch manager, was excited to wield the giant scissors and cut the red ribbon stretched across the entry doors. Apple originally was founded to serve teachers, but now is open to membership from the community.

In fact, during the ribbon-cutting, a new account was opened by one of the attendees. I was delighted to meet, for the first time, Falls Church City Council member Caroline Lian. We serve together on a couple of regional committees that meet virtually, but we hadn’t met in person. Jurisdictional boundaries in Northern Virginia are very porous; in our busy area, you can travel through two or three, maybe four, separate jurisdictions during one day’s work or errands. More people live in Fairfax County’s Falls Church and Alexandria postal addresses than live in those independent cities.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, I reminded Apple’s leaders that, although their address is Falls Church, and is just two blocks west of the Arlington County line, their real estate taxes are paid to Fairfax County! Fairfax County and the “Little City” are two of the 13 members of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC), which includes three other counties as well as towns and cities. NVRC members vary in size and economy, but are united in improving opportunities in the region for all.

This week, NVRC released its “Northern Virginia by the Numbers” report, which reaffirms our region as the economic engine of the Commonwealth. The report uses 2020 figures, the most recent available. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the region was $228 Billion, 41.5 percent of the Commonwealth’s GDP and larger than 25 states. Measured against other countries, our GDP is the 49th largest in the world. The regional unemployment rate for June 2020 was 2.5 percent, which is lower than the statewide unemployment rate of 2.8 percent.

Four of the top 10 median income communities in the entire nation are in Northern Virginia and the percentage of NOVA’s population age 25 or older holding a bachelor’s or higher degree is 59.5 percent, nearly double the national average. And the region is home to the number one high school in the U.S., Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, located in Mason District in Fairfax County (but with an Alexandria postal address, which often confuses news reporters). The NVRC dashboard can be found at

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at