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Biz Talk: Reshaping business investment in 2023

This article was written by Michael Stiefvater, Director of Business Investment for Arlington Economic Development.

The continued prevalence of remote work and the high office vacancy rate shifted how Arlington Economic Development (AED) approached business investment in 2023.

While our team still focused on business attraction and retention, the bread and butter of economic development, we also looked at other ways to boost economic growth and innovation in Arlington. While the tech ecosystem has always been a strength in Arlington, this year, we doubled down on investments and programming to support early-stage entrepreneurs on their path to becoming high-growth businesses in Arlington.

Additionally, we looked at ways to facilitate market-based solutions to our office vacancy issue by removing regulatory barriers. Despite the continuing challenges facing the office market and local economies, AED notched numerous substantial accomplishments in 2023.

This year, we saw D.C.-area companies relocating to Arlington to take advantage of our prime location and transit-friendly, amenity-rich environment. We also saw movement in the international market, with foreign companies basing their U.S. headquarters in Arlington to gain easy access to U.S. policymakers across the river in D.C., the region’s plentiful talent, and the abundant flights to Europe.

Here are some of the business investment highlights from 2023:

  • Amazon HQ2
    • In June 2023, Amazon hit a significant milestone in its headquarters development and opened two office towers at Metropolitan Park in National Landing.
    • November 2023 marked five years since Amazon announced a second headquarters location in Arlington, where its’ local presence has been growing.
  • [solidcore]
    • The fast-growing fitness company moved its headquarters from D.C. to Rosslyn.
  • Microsoft
    • The tech giant opened a significant regional marketing and sales hub in Rosslyn in January 2023.
  • Genetec
    • A Canadian biotechnology company opened its U.S. headquarters in Arlington in October with fireworks over the Potomac.
  • Arqit
    • A U.K.-based cybersecurity company opened its U.S. headquarters in Arlington in early 2023.
  • Air and Space Forces Association
    • Announced a move of its headquarters to expanded space in Pentagon City.

AED’s commitment and investment in our local tech ecosystem is perhaps no better demonstrated than with the new Arlington Innovation Fund (AIF). The Arlington County Board funded AIF with $1M in mid-2023 to support growth in the tech ecosystem in Arlington. AIF includes two components: Catalyst Grants and Ecosystem Support. The Catalyst Grant program awards up to $50,000 for early-stage tech startups to extend their funding runway and expand their customer base, employment and operations. AED will announce the recipients of the initial application round in early 2024.

Beyond the Catalyst Grants, AED is building a more robust tech ecosystem in several ways. In September, we partnered with Unstuck Labs, a Rosslyn-based studio that helps startups validate ideas, build products and launch ventures. AIF also funded the George Mason University Entrepreneur–in–Residence Program, which is bringing on-board successful local entrepreneurs to mentor new founders.

This year, Arlington made key changes to create regulatory flexibility and a nimble approach to combat office vacancy through the Commercial Market Resiliency Initiative (CMRI). By removing regulatory barriers and constraints, the County seeks to enable market-based solutions to address the commercial building supply, specifically repositioning and converting obsolete inventory by allowing more types of businesses to use office space. CMRI will continue to evolve in 2024 and focus on five strategic areas: office conversion, repositioning, redevelopment, tenant support and placemaking.

Other highlights of the year included our tech workforce program moving from a pilot program to a full-fledged program, Arlington Talent. The program, in partnership with Exelaration, had a 100% program completion rate, with most participants transitioning to full-time tech employment. Participants’ average pay and work rate increased by 26% and 38%, respectively and future pay and work rate will continue to rise.

As we look ahead to 2024, our 2023 accomplishments will serve as a base to continue to innovate and grow Arlington’s economy.

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