Inova Announcement a Huge Win for Fairfax Economy

Inova Announcement a Huge Win for Fairfax Economy


Gerald Gordon.

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the need to diversify the Fairfax County and Washington-area economies. Sequestration served as a wake-up call that the county and region must not be overly dependent on federal spending any more than Pittsburgh in the ‘70s was overly reliant on steel and Seattle on Boeing.

The Feb. 9 announcement by Inova Health System that it will acquire the 117-acre Exxon Mobil headquarters in Merrifield and create the Inova Center for Personalized Health has the potential to redefine the Fairfax County and regional economy just as much as the life sciences altered the Pittsburgh economy and Microsoft and Amazon changed Seattle’s business landscape.

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority has worked tirelessly for more than 50 years to build economic security for the county by attracting and retaining thousands of companies here. These companies have created hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs and built the commercial tax base that the Board of Supervisors uses to fund the high-quality services, for which Fairfax County is known around the nation, and has done so without making residents pay the full cost of those services.

The FCEDA has made tremendous headway in diversifying the county’s economic base. Just since 2007 the FCEDA has helped build these non-governmental sectors: automotive (with Volkswagen of America’s North American headquarters), hospitality (Hilton Worldwide corporate headquarters), engineering and construction (Bechtel global services headquarters), satellite services (Intelsat’s administrative headquarters) and software (Cvent’s corporate headquarters).

However, the enormity of the Inova announcement is almost indescribable. The research, education and commercialization entities that will make up the Inova campus will make Fairfax County a primary hub for genomic research and the commercialization of ground-breaking discoveries in the burgeoning field of personalized or translational medicine. Inova intends to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to fit the Exxon Mobil building for lab, research and education space.

The 1.2 million square-foot building will attract funding that will in turn attract world-class researchers, who have the ability to do pioneering research that will lead to discoveries that could change the way we diagnose and treat individuals with illnesses such as cancer. Companies that can commercialize those discoveries – get them to medical professionals and patients – will grow close to the Inova campus in order to be near the source of the talent and work.

Inova wins by becoming a leader in another aspect of health care. Fairfax County wins with a larger and more diversified commercial tax base and an even better reputation as a business location. We all win with discoveries that improve the quality of life for millions.

When Mobil Corporation relocated its corporate headquarters to Fairfax County from New York in 1987, it in essence started the process of diversifying our economic base. In transferring its building to Inova, it furthers the process of strengthening the local economy for decades to come.

Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D., is president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.