Fairfax County is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, yet Virginia has been falling from grace on CNBC’s ‘Top States for Business’ ranking, dropping to number 12 on this year’s list. In 2011, the commonwealth was named the top state for business by CNBC. To compile the list, CNBC scores states in 10 categories, including infrastructure, economy and education. CNBC named Minnesota the No. 1 state for business this year. It is a possible reflection of the challenges for Federal agencies and federal contractors, one the main employers in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia.
While Virginia has friendly business regulations, job creation has slowed in recent years. The unemployment rate in Fairfax County increased to 3.9 percent in February this year, and the number of Fairfax County companies on the Fortune 500 list is down from 10 in 2014 to 8. In 2014, construction giant and Silver Line-contractor Bechtel announced it would relocate a majority of 1,100 employees from the Frederick office to its Reston headquarters. Yet in a region where the economy has been long dependent on Federal agencies and the contractors who work for them, the area has felt the financial squeeze of budget-cutting and sequestration.
Leidos Holdings and NII Holdings, both based in Reston, fell off the Fortune 500 rankings but remain part of the Fortune 1000 along with Fairfax County-based NVR, Exelis, SAIC, Beacon Roofing Supply and Delta Tucker Holdings (DynCorp International). “Fairfax County has all the important components of a dynamic business environment: excellent locational advantages, a highly skilled workforce, extraordinary educational systems at all levels, and an excellent quality of life,” said Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. “These factors collectively support the attraction, growth, and success of corporate headquarters.”
While many contractors are still reducing their real estate footprints and delaying expansions, business continues. Herndon based SkyBitz, which offers GPS tracking services, announced plans to acquire two out-of-state fleet management companies. Woburn, Mass.-based Reltima is a GPS fleet tracking provider. Langhorne, Pa.-based GPS North America is Reltima’s largest distribution partner.
“By bringing Reltima and GPS North America together, we will be able to rapidly expand our footprint in the growing commercial telematics market,” Doug Milner, CEO of SkyBitz’ parent company Telular Corp., said in a statement.
Reltima provides location-based services, driver/vehicle performance data, route management and cargo status tracking to allow fleet managers to optimize their fleet performance and reduce fleet operating costs. GPS North America offers fleet asset tracking, vehicle/driver dispatch and fleet reporting under the SignalTrack brand. The deal, expected to close July 8, is subject to customary closing conditions.
FAIRFAX-BASED IT contractor ManTech International Corp. has acquired Reston-based Knowledge Consulting Group for an undisclosed sum. KCG, a cybersecurity advisor for both government and commercial customers, was founded in 2000. It is one of the leaders in cloud security for government agencies. About 200 KCG employees are now part of ManTech’s Mission, Cyber and Intelligence Solutions Group. ManTech says the acquisition will help raise 2015 results.
“ManTech is a cyber leader and the acquisition of KCG fits with our strategy of expanding into the growing cyber services and homeland security markets,” said ManTech chief executive George Pedersen. It is the second acquisition this spring for ManTech. In April, it completed its acquisition of former Computer Sciences Corp. subsidiary Welkin Associates Ltd., in Chantilly, for $34 million.
Fairfax County has been making an effort to diversify and decrease its dependence on Federal and contracting employers, making moves towards cyber-security. Amazon Web Services has an office in Herndon, and Reston-based Appian, a company that creates tools for businesses to design custom software, has ambitions of going public and making an IPO.
Job creation and the economy was a platform issue for Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and his office has said it will continue to be a priority. While the commonwealth received high marks by CNBC for its business friendliness, education and workforce, it had poorer scores on infrastructure, economy, quality of life, and cost of living and doing business. Fairfax County adopted an economic development plan that begins with an acknowledgement that residential taxpayers are shouldering more of the budgetary burden as the commercial office market has gotten weaker.
Virginia’s overall rank on the list for the past five years was as follows: 2014 (No. 8); 2013 (No. 5); 2012 (No. 3); 2011 (No.1) and 2010 (No.2). States in the top five this year were: Texas (No.2); Utah (No.3); Colorado (No.4) and Georgia (No.5).