If you are a newcomer to Fairfax County, allow me to welcome you to one of the most dynamic communities anywhere in the world to live and work. It was the vision of many people to create this kind of community, so please allow me to offer a quick history lesson.
The Capital Beltway was completed in 1964. The same year the iconic highway opened, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law that created what is now called the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. In the last 50 years, creation and growth of a diversified business community and local economy transformed a sleepy bedroom community in the shadow of the nation’s capital into what Time magazine has called “one of the great economic success stories of our time.”
How much of a success story? Fairfax County was home to no Fortune 500 companies in 1964, and today 10 of those businesses are based here. That’s more than 30 states. Today more than 400 foreign-owned businesses have a presence here, as do four companies on Black Enterprise magazine’s list of the 100 largest African American-owned companies, three companies on HispanicBusiness.com’s list of the 100 largest Hispanic-owned companies, and top companies that are Asian-, woman- and veteran-owned.
Today Fairfax County is the second-largest suburban office market in the United States. Almost no matter where you live, yo
u can see how the county continues to evolve as a business location. The first phase of Metro’s Silver Line rail service further enhances the attractiveness of Tysons Corner and Reston, while the second phase will link Herndon and Washington Dulles International Airport to the rest of the Washington region in 2018.
Southeastern Fairfax County (Springfield, Lorton and the Richmond Highway corridor) are becoming important office centers thanks to growth at Fort Belvoir. The Mosaic District in Merrifield is a popular destination, and the Springfield Town Center opening this fall promises to be a magnet for that area.
As I suggested earlier, this evolution of Fairfax County has been no accident. It has been a strategy driven by a consistent vision: A strong and consistent economic development program that attracts companies and helps them stay and grow here creates job opportunities, builds a strong commercial tax base that holds down residential taxes, and allows the Board of Supervisors to provide high-quality public services that enhance the quality of life here.
Yes, Fairfax County has changed tremendously since 1964. But, even with all the progress that has happened, we believe even better times lay ahead.
Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D., is president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.