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Air Monitoring Brings New Jobs to Tysons

When John Hayhurst, president of the 16 month-old Air Traffic Management branch at the Boeing company, was looking for a place to settle 100 ATM employees on the east coast last year, Fairfax County caught his eye.

"Virginia offers many advantages to Boeing ATM, particularly the Northern Virginia high-tech corridor which is one of the nation's most dynamic and innovative," he told a group of Boeing employees and Virginia politicians, including Gov. Mark Warner (D), state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32) and Board of Supervisor Chairman Kate Hanley (D-at large) and Supervisor Gerald Connolly (D-Providence) on Thursday, March 21.

"Boeing ATM is directly reaping the benefits of such an impressive talent pool with engineers and computer modeling and simulation expertise," Hayhurst said.

He also mentioned the "quality of the local infrastructure" and the "strong governmental commitment to upgrading and improving that infrastructure" as factors in his decision to settle in Fairfax.

THE ATM PROJECT, which opened its Tysons Corner office in October, will attempt to reduce delays and make flying safer by using satellites that provide communication, navigation and surveillance to keep track of all airplanes in the air at any given moment. That information will allow flight planners and air traffic controllers to avoid congestion and ground delays.

Local officials welcomed Boeing to the county as part of a push to attract high-tech companies working in the field of homeland security, which has gained prominence since Sept. 11.

In the wake of the dot-com crash, defense contractors could reinvigorate the county's economy, said Hanley. "The diversity of the high-tech community in Fairfax County indicates that while we have may be in a downturn in dot-coms, we have other government contractors and defense-related technology that will pick up that slack … I do foresee a lot more expansion in that area."

Hanley cited the attractions that Fairfax can offer relocating companies: "our educated workforce, ... our public education system, ... the largest concentration of retail outside Manhattan," plenty of office space and the proximity of National and Dulles airports. "We are very pleased in Fairfax County and this region to have the kind of air access that is important to our business community of the 21st century," she said.

"IT OPENS ANOTHER FRONT,” Warner said. "I think there's a chance for Northern Virginia to carve out a leadership role in homeland security the same way it has with the Internet and telecom and other high tech industries."

"You will see some of the existing companies who are defense contractors convert more to homeland security: screening technology, positioning technology, making sure we find ways to real-time monitoring," Warned added. "These are all areas of expertise that we need to develop and that I think could find a home here in Northern Virginia."

So far, Boeing ATM has yet to secure new government contracts. Likewise, homeland defense-oriented high-tech companies have yet to hire many Fairfax County residents. However, Hanley expressed the hope that relocating companies will eventually hire employees from the local workforce. "In the long run, these are jobs that will be filled by local people," she said.

According to Warner spokesperson Ellen Qualls "any new job announcement is a good message" that deserves the governor's support. "100 jobs is a threshold that's good enough to work it in his schedule."