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Biz Talk: A Look Back on Economic Development in FY21

This article was written by Marian Marquez, Director of Business Investment for Arlington Economic Development.

It’s the end of Arlington County’s fiscal year, a time when we look back over the past twelve months to reflect on our successes, challenges and opportunities.

Clearly, the “normal” work of our Business Investment Group here at AED, which includes working with companies who are interested in locating or growing in Arlington, was anything but normal as the global health pandemic prevented companies from returning to the office. Nevertheless, we marked some exciting milestones during this past year spent mostly on lockdown and are excited to be moving forward from challenge to opportunity.

Our business investment team continued efforts to build the pipeline and get in front of high-growth prospects through digital touch points. Through 500+ virtual engagements over the past year, our team doubled down on retention efforts with the amazing companies that call Arlington home and had some exciting developments with several companies announcing expansions, even during a pandemic.

These include Two Six Labs, Vertical Apps, Orbital Effects, Fresh Impact Farms and Interos, which just announced Series C financing and is now Arlington’s first unicorn (female-led at that!). Other exciting news included the announcement of Microsoft’s regional Global Sales and Marketing hub at Commonwealth Towers in Rosslyn and, down the road in National Landing, the arrival of ZEBOX, a French incubator that will open its first U.S. location early next year. We anticipate increased interest from high-tech companies given recent investments on the part of JBG Smith in the digital infrastructure surrounding National Landing, which accelerates the innovation ecosystem we are fostering in Arlington.

In other positive news, Amazon’s HQ2 ramp up has progressed according to plan in terms of both hiring and construction, including the unveiling of its landmark structure, the Helix. As vaccination rates have picked up in recent months, we’ve seen increased activity in the market and our team has been busy responding to requests for information and conducting site tours for companies that are ready to make good on their expansion plans.

Through close dialogue over the past year with our businesses and real estate partners, we know that what companies are looking for in an office location has changed and will continue to evolve as employees return to the workplace. As trends in remote work and changing employee preferences challenge the demand for traditional office space, localities are entering a more competitive environment than ever.

To maintain attractiveness as a business location, communities must remain nimble and ensure that their offerings are in line with industry demand from a policy and real estate standpoint. During this pause in “business as usual” over the past year, AED has taken the opportunity to revisit its offerings and win themes; we are in the process of reworking elements of our value proposition as a business destination along with our marketing collateral (stay tuned this fall for AED’s new look!).

Looking ahead, we are excited about the future and confident that Arlington’s most compelling assets — its talent, connectivity and culture of innovation — are more relevant than ever in the post-pandemic world. In fact, these assets have only grown stronger with continued investments on the part of our businesses, real estate community, the County and its partners at the State level. Knowing that the “normal” we come back to won’t resemble that of the past, we are certain that Arlington is still an incredible place to live, work and play.

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