The byte goes on
Boosted by Amazon, NoVa’s tech hub keeps growing
The tech sector is growing in Northern Virginia, prompted by Amazon.com Inc.’s $2.5 billion HQ2 East Coast headquarters in Arlington County and Google’s expansion in Fairfax and Loudoun counties as part of its $13 billion national growth plan.
Also, a new regional coalition, the Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance, formed in September 2019, is bringing 10 localities’ economic development officials together just as some prominent faces change.
During the past year, Victor Hoskins, who as director of Arlington County Economic Development helped lead the successful effort to land Amazon, became president and CEO of Fairfax County’s Economic Development Authority. In January, Telly Tucker, former economic development director of Danville, replaced Hoskins in Arlington.
Christina Winn, who had been Arlington’s business investment director, became executive director of Prince William County Department of Economic Development. Alex Iams headed the Arlington department on an interim basis but joined the Fairfax County authority in December as senior vice president.
In addition to Google’s decision to relocate and expand offices within Reston to a new building on the Dulles Toll Road (read the story here), Fairfax County chalked up several gains in 2019, Hoskins says.
TEKSystems Inc., which specializes in IT staffing and operates locally in Falls Church, announced last year an addition of 840 jobs. Randstad North America, which has been in Tysons more than 30 years, announced plans to add 300 IT jobs in fiscal year 2020. Zantech IT Services Inc. is investing $317,853 to expand its corporate offices in Tysons.
And in January, education technology company Blackboard Inc. said it would move its global headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Reston, where the company already has offices. Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI), Israel’s largest aerospace and defense company, announced it would expand its North American headquarters in a new location in the Dulles Technology Corridor.
Last April, Inova Health System dedicated its 438,000-square-foot, $150 million Inova Schar Cancer Institute, which anchors the 117-acre Merrifield campus.
Loudoun County continued to rack up data center acreage in 2019, building on its already-established 10 million square feet, through which roughly 70% of the world’s internet traffic flows. Google’s expansion plan calls for spending $600 million to develop two data center sites it purchased in 2017, a 91-acre parcel in Arcola Center and 57 acres in Stonewall Business Park.
Sure Power Inc., a provider of battery backup solutions for business, announced it was opening a new office in the county because “the proximity to Loudoun County’s expansive data center hub allows us to more efficiently provide critical power protection services,” Paul Merrick, the company’s founder and CEO, said in a statement.
The county had a good year attracting other sectors, too, according to Loudoun County Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer. Satair, a wholly owned subsidiary of Airbus SE, announced in June that it would expand its customer service logistics center. The company plans to invest more than $10 million to move into a 250,000-square-foot facility. And biotech company Aperiomics Inc. selected Loudoun for its new 4,700-square-foot corporate headquarters.
Prince William County already had about 4 million square feet of data center space in 2019. Then, in August, county officials announced plans to push that number to more than 5 million.
And the data center market isn’t the only bright spot in Virginia’s second-largest county by population.
Winn says Prince William attracts a variety of industries such as life sciences and advanced manufacturing because it has created a supportive ecosystem. “There’s a transportation network. You can have your headquarters, manufacturing and distribution all in the same area.”
Much of the development is in and around Manassas, including the county’s partnership with Holladay Properties, which will build a 30,000-square-foot commercial wet lab facility in Innovation Park, a hub for new technologies coming out of the George Mason University Science and Technology campus. American Type Culture Collection, which collects, stores and distributes tissue samples, launched its second headquarters expansion, a $22 million project, in November.
High Purity Systems Inc. announced in September that it expects to invest approximately $8.5 million to expand into a new 30,000-square-foot piping fabrication facility, and last spring Mu-Del Electronics LLC, a manufacturer of high-performance radio frequency and microwave-based systems, relocated to a 19,358-square-foot operations center in the Merritt I-66 Business Park.
Even without Amazon HQ2, Arlington County had plenty to boast about in 2019.
Incentive Technology Group LLC, a cloud services provider, announced plans last April to invest $5.1 million in a 50,000-square-foot headquarters in Crystal City, says Marian Marquez, director of the Business Investment Group at Arlington Economic Development. The company, which was purchased by Fairfax-based consulting and technology services provider ICF International Inc. for $255 million in the first quarter of 2020, committed to adding more than 1,000 jobs.
Yext Inc., a New York-based online brand management company, said it would hire 500 people during the next five years at its new, 42,500-square-foot Rosslyn location.
And, Marquez says, the county is pleased to retain Public Broadcasting Service, which “was in a real estate search toward the end of last year but chose to stay in Crystal City.”
Also, the Drug Enforcement Administration will keep its headquarters in the county. The federal agency occupies more than 511,000 square feet of space and employs about 3,000 people.
But any discussion of deals in Arlington County often comes back to The Big Deal, Amazon HQ2. Amify, which “helps brands selling on Amazon maximize sales and profitability,” signed a three-year lease in August for a location just blocks away from the HQ2 site.
“They moved to be closer to Amazon,” Marquez says. “We expect to see more of that sort of thing.”
Alexandria laid plenty of groundwork for new projects in recent years, says Stephanie Landrum, president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership. “We celebrated when the deals were signed, but time passes while waiting for permits. This was the year we celebrated the actual groundbreakings.”
One big event was the December groundbreaking for the $320 million Potomac Yard Metro station. “This has been in the pipeline for two decades. … This is the piece of infrastructure that supports other projects” on the Alexandria/Arlington line near Amazon’s HQ2 campus, she says.
One of those projects is Virginia Tech’s forthcoming Innovation Campus. The $1 billion, 1 million-square-foot graduate campus will be part of a 65-acre mixed-use district planned and developed by Lionstone and real estate investment trust JBG Smith. This year, the university will offer classes at two temporary spaces in the Potomac Yard shopping center.
Ground was broken in July for a mixed-use project that will include an 80,000-square-foot Wegmans grocery store, 130,000 square feet of other retail space and 750 residential units at a 5-acre site near the city’s Eisenhower Avenue Metro.
On the Old Town waterfront, the CIM Group announced in December the redevelopment of the 12-story former Crowne Plaza Hotel into a residential condominium with a 13th-floor penthouse and rooftop deck. An adjacent parking lot will be developed into 41 town houses, and a performing arts theater will occupy the base of the tower.
Landrum, who, along with Victor Hoskins, was a co-winner of the Metropolitan Council of Government’s Collaborative Leadership Award in December, sees plenty of opportunities ahead. With the new NOVA alliance, “we’re operating as one regional group. Now we can chase the big projects together.”