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Arlington County says it will explore ways to make it easier for restaurants to establish or expand outdoor dining after the pandemic ends, according to a county report.

During the pandemic, the Arlington County Board approved a temporary way for restaurants to circumvent the normally lengthy county process for getting an outdoor dining permit. Many restaurants debuted outdoor seating over the last year to make up for the indoor space lost to social distancing requirements and give guests a safer dining experience.

Since then, the County Board has amended the outdoor dining ordinance to expand it and mold it to changing circumstances.

In December, the Board granted restaurant and bar owners the ability to set up temporary outdoor seating areas (TOSAs) in common areas, such as plazas. When capacity restrictions were lifted this spring, the County Board gave restaurants a way to request temporary certificates of occupancy (TCOs) for their TOSAs so they could operate the seating areas while operating at full capacity indoors.

The county report said staff will be looking to see if some aspects of the program could be worked into the regular outdoor seating approval process. It did not include a timeline for this inquiry.

“Specifically, staff will be working to commence a strategic exploration of whether certain flexibilities provided as part of the TOSA program initiated in response to the COVID-19 emergency should be incorporated into established regulatory provisions for outdoor dining,” it said. “This future process will have a robust engagement element and would also include public hearings prior to the County Board’s consideration of any recommended policy or regulatory changes that might result from the study,”

All this is being considered in the background of a technical change that will give restaurateurs a little leeway in phasing out the outdoor seating when the local pandemic emergency is declared over.

When the county passed a continuity of governance emergency ordinance last spring to keep government and business operations afloat, it said any flexibility allowed by the ordinance, such as TOSAs, would expire six months after the declared end of the emergency. But in reality, the document’s section on TOSAs said they expire with the declared end of the emergency.

On Saturday, the County Board is slated to consider advertising a public hearing to amend the ordinance so it’s clear that eateries also have six months to phase out the seating.

“In addition to providing consistency with the Ordinance and continued support of Arlington’s businesses, this proposed amendment will also ensure that food establishments are not required, immediately at the end of the emergency, to make significant changes to their operations and allows time for business planning,” the county report said.

Kate Bates, President and CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber supports this change but urged the county to get cracking on the study of permanent options.

“Given the time it will take for Arlington County to set the rules for permanent, expanded outdoor dining, and the further time it will take for restaurants to adapt to new rules, the Chamber encourages Arlington County to advance its work on making the TOSA program permanent,” she said. “While the 2022 outdoor dining season feels far off as the summer of 2021 winds down, restaurants will need to start making investments soon to be prepared in the spring.”

As part of the upcoming request to advertise, staff said they will do outreach to see how locals feel about TOSAs. Staff report fielding a range of comments, questions and opinions on them, from support from the business community to concern that outdoor dining makes it harder for pedestrians and cyclists to get around. The report said neighbors near TOSAs tolerate the noise associated with them provided that TOSAs would end along with the emergency.

Bates said making the provisions permanent will allow restaurants to invest in their spaces in ways that could mitigate these concerns.

“We expect that there will be some refinements to the outdoor dining rules as they are made permanent, but we encourage Arlington County not to risk the success of outdoor dining by over-regulating to ameliorate any possible complaint,” she said.

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Mercedes-Benz of Arlington in Ballston (via Google Maps)

Many Arlington car dealerships are struggling to stock cars amid a nationwide shortage of computer chips.

At Mercedes-Benz of Arlington in Ballston, formerly known as American Service Center, a lot once stocked with around 130 used cars available for sale has emptied out to 63 vehicles, according to Ron Moghisi, who manages pre-owned sales. He said many of the cars were purchased at nearly 30% over the normal list price.

“There’s a lot of demand, but there’s just nothing for us to buy and to resell, because the price is so high that it won’t make sense,” Moghisi said. “Let’s say you buy a bicycle for $10 that you can sell for $12. It doesn’t make sense to buy it for $16, because you’re going to get stuck with it. Some dealers are taking the risk and buying them, and God help them.”

Employees at the Koons Arlington Toyota and Brown’s Arlington Honda dealerships in Cherrydale told ARLnow they also have fewer available new and used cars to sell. At Brown’s Honda, around 50 used cars are currently available for sale, whereas 150 to 200 cars would normally be in stock, according to a pre-owned salesman. Prices at the dealership are up between 20% and 45%, in line with used car price increases nationally.

The scarcity of computer chips can be traced back to the beginning stages of the coronavirus.

When lockdowns first went into effect, car sales crashed, leading automobile companies to reduce orders for chips and other parts. Chip manufacturers, in response, cut production in order to avoid financial losses.

The strategy helped chip companies survive the pandemic. As car sales bounced back, however, automobile companies found that there weren’t enough chips for them to maintain the levels of production they wanted, as ramping up chip production can take a long time. Ford Motor Company slashed production by 50%. Meanwhile, Jeep temporarily stopped manufacturing two of its models because it didn’t have the chips needed to make them.

As the supply of cars dwindled, dealerships around the country, including those in Arlington, suffered. At the Mercedes-Benz dealership, Moghisi said that the low supply of both new and used cars has forced the dealership to hike its prices for used cars in order to maintain profitability.

“There are not many new cars around, which really means people are not trading [in] their cars, and therefore, there’s a shortage in the market for premium cars,” Moghisi said.

According to Eddy Malikov, the manager at the used-car dealership Arlington Auto Group, consumer demand is starting to decrease as a result of the rise in prices.

“I think there’s less demand now in the U.S market at least from what our business has seen. We sold around 30 cars in the first two weeks last month. This month we’ve done around 18 vehicles,” Malikov said. “I would say demand might be going down and prices and supply are going back to where they should be.”

For Moghisi, as the shortage stretches on, the stress builds for him and his employees.

“We’ve been playing the waiting game — just have to wait and see what happens. We buy whatever we can get, which is not enough,” Moghisi said. “The way this has affected the industry is, dealerships are making less money, which has put a pressure on employees. If there are no cars to sell, we can’t make a living.”

It could be a while before the automobile industry and car dealerships have fully recovered from the ongoing chip shortage. Intel CEO Patrick Gelsinger told analysts last month that the chip companies may not catch up to demand for another one to two years.

“We hear different stories. We hear it’ll be fixed by November, December, then we hear by next July. We don’t know,” Moghisi said. “I don’t think we’ll have to shut down the department. Eventually, it’ll get fixed, it’s just a matter of time. The only issue is we have to dig into our savings.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Fewer COVID-19 cases. Lower unemployment. Higher hotel occupancy rates. These and other signs point to Arlington County’s continued recovery, according to Board Chair Matt de Ferranti.

During the annual State of the County address, the chair said Arlington County is well on the road to economic recovery but it has a ways to go before it enters into a period of renewal. The event was hosted virtually yesterday morning (Tuesday) by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, with a Q&A moderated by ARLnow founder Scott Brodbeck.

“We’re growing, but not as fast as at the start of 2020, before the pandemic, when our prospects seemed truly bright,” he said. “If we’re honest, recovery is not all we’re looking for at this moment. The state that we have not reached — that we must create — is renewal.”

Reaching renewal will mean supporting small businesses, working to eliminate inequities and increasing housing options, he said.

Recent data show the health of Arlington County residents has stabilized, with a 0.6% COVID-19 test positivity rate and about one case per day over the last two weeks. Unemployment is down, as well, from 7.2% this time last year to 3% today, he said. As vaccination rates rise, tourism is recovering, with hotel occupancy rates up to 40% from a low of 20%.

The county has also retained organizations with an Arlington footprint, including the State Department, while attracting new companies, from Microsoft to shipping company ZeBox‘s startup incubator. All along, Amazon continues to meet its occupancy and hiring goals while supporting businesses, he said, and will present its second phase of its HQ2 to the Board later this year.

Plus, new development is continuing.

“The County Board has approved numerous office and residential projects that will drive economic growth… and strengthen our economy in Arlington,” de Ferranti said. “We’re hearing from commercial real estate brokers that there is significant pent-up demand from [office] tenants who delayed real estate decisions in the pandemic. We expect to see these deals come forward in the fall of this year.”

Still, the office vacancy rate is a lingering concern for de Ferranti, who noted that it was 18.7% in the first quarter, up 2.1% from the same time last year.

“Part of the reason I sought this office was to bring down the vacancy rate so that we could invest in schools, housing, transit, transportation and the things that make Arlington a great place to live,” he said. “Our economic development projects show promise, our pipeline is strong, so I’m confident we can bring down the rate over the coming years.”

The county will need to engage with companies already here and those eyeing Arlington while adapting to 21st-century office needs through measures such as office-to-apartment conversions, he said.

“We saw before Amazon that there was a time when we got a touch complacent working on our office vacancy rate,” he said. “That’s no one’s fault but we do need to stay focused on it.”

While it’s mostly larger companies that help to fill Arlington’s office towers, small businesses in Arlington need help, de Ferranti said, so Arlington Economic Development is preparing a grant program using American Rescue Plan funds. It follows up on a similar program last year that helped 393 businesses.

The county still has work to do to fix bugs with the online permit system and improve the customer service experience for businesses — lessons learned from the roll-out of temporary outdoor seating areas, or TOSAs, the chair admitted.

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With COVID-19 cases trending down, vaccines being distributed and restrictions loosening, County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti says his focus is starting to shift toward Arlington’s economic and social recovery.

“There is more work to do on the pandemic but recovery has already begun,” he said.

And Arlington County, by his assessment, is in a fairly strong place financially — in some ways, he said it is in a better place than when numerous federal agencies and military offices decamped from Pentagon City and Crystal City starting around 2005.

Arlington will receive $23 million this year and next year through the federal American Rescue Plan, some of which will be used to return funding for affordable housing and hunger prevention programs that had been on the chopping block from the 2022 budget. The new budget, as passed, boosts spending by 3.5% despite the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic.

In addition, Amazon’s presence is contributing to Arlington’s stability. De Ferranti said the e-commerce giant’s arrival is and will continue attracting talent and businesses of all sizes, strengthening the county’s commercial office base. And, for now, the county has been spared from making incentive payments to Amazon.

The county’s incentive package for Amazon stipulated that Arlington would share a cut of the revenue generated from an increase in hotel stays if Amazon met its hiring goals. Since the economic impact of the coronavirus also included dramatically fewer hotel stays, Arlington has not been on the hook for these payments.

If any of these things weren’t true, de Ferranti said he “would be more worried about the fiscal outlook in 2023, 2024 and 2025.”

This moment — when the county’s financial outlook is strong but there’s still significant need in parts of the community — is exactly when the government needs to step in, he said. Keeping people who are at risk of eviction in their homes, fighting hunger and providing grants and loans to small businesses will have big economic returns later on, the chair said.

The county has learned a number of financial lessons from the coronavirus, de Ferranti noted. Arlington will need to invest more in public health staffing and is considering a rainy-day fund for future public health emergencies. When the American Rescue Plan funding dries up, the county may need to increase its support, through grants and loans, for small businesses as well as its investments in hunger and eviction prevention.

While the county has been focused on the pandemic response, it has held back on certain equity-focused work. Some community engagement in land-use changes to address Missing Middle housing was pushed back due to the pandemic, as have investments in multimodal transit and workforce development.

“Arlington is committed to equity, but it has been hard,” de Ferranti said.

And while Amazon is economically propping up the county in some ways, Arlington Public Schools’ budget will not be feeling the returns as directly. The county will need to do more work with the School Board and administration to address APS’s systemic budget deficits, he said.

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Morning Notes

Arts Group Pushing for New Venue — “As part of its recently adopted strategic plan, [Embracing Arlington Arts] plans to use the coming three years to build community support for a performing-arts venue that would include a black-box theater and ancillary classroom and office space. Efforts would also be made to identify a site and start raising funds.” [InsideNova]

APS Changing Student Camera Policy — “In response to challenges teachers are experiencing engaging students with cameras off, we have adapted our policy regarding the use of cameras during instruction time, based on input we have received from teachers, staff, parents, the Distance Learning Task Force, and advisory committee members. We are asking teachers to encourage students to turn on their cameras during synchronous instruction and while directly engaging with peers and staff.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Spotlight on Arlington Man’s Heroism — “A must read about Arlington’s Paris Davis, the former publisher of VA’s Metro Herald. His heroism in 1965, while commanding a Special Forces team in Vietnam, seems worthy of the Medal of Honor. But those who served with him say the Pentagon kept losing the paperwork.” [New York Times, Twitter]

Local Nonprofit’s Work Highlighted — “Mohammad Ahmed, 30, gave up working as an Uber driver in March for fear of infecting his wife, 3-year-old son and two elderly parents who live with him. When he couldn’t pay the rent or electric bill for their two-bedroom apartment in Arlington, a local charity funded mainly by taxpayer dollars stepped in.” [Washington Post]

Metro Reducing Rail Service — “Metro this week began reducing Metrorail service during peak commuting hours because of low usage while saying it will boost Metrobus service as new commuting trends emerge during the coronavirus pandemic. The transit agency referred to the changes as a way to ‘normalize’ rail service.” [Washington Post]

Local Economy Expected to Grow — “Greater Washington’s economy will rebound in 2021 as Covid-19 vaccinations become more common and the weather warms up, according to a new regional economic forecast released Friday. That means 3.5% growth in the gross regional product in 2021, a sharp rebound from the 2.9% drop in 2020. But the region will only see a full recovery in 2022, with 4.1% projected growth in the local economy.” [Washington Business Journal]

Many Office Workers Will Stay Remote — “Working in D.C. will continue to look different for the greater part of this year due to the coronavirus, a new study shows. Employers expect less than a third of their employees to physically be in the office in the first quarter of this year, but by the fall, they expect 75% of their staff to be back, according to a study.” [NBC 4, Washingtonian]

Flickr pool photo by GM and MB

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The pandemic has dealt a blow to Arlington’s economy, but the county may be well-positioned for a rebound rather quickly.

In a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100 — the second of a two part series — local experts said that unlike past downturns that resulted in a lengthy recovery, this one is driven not by structural economic factors but by a virus.

As people are vaccinated and the pandemic recedes — whenever that may happen — expect a strong recovery.

“The economy right now is reacting to the health crisis and [that] is driving the recession,” said Jeanette Chapman, economist and director of the Stephen Fuller Institute at George Mason University. “This is not a normal recession.”

Due to the pandemic, consumer spending dropped significantly. Compared to this time last year, credit and debit card spending is down nearly a quarter in Arlington (less than D.C. comparably, which is down nearly 30%).

However, that is an improvement from early spring when spending overall was down about 50%.

As expected, the drop in spending was mostly concentrated in the transportation, apparel, hotel, and food service sectors. Grocery and food spending rose in 2020.

While job losses continues to be a concern, the Northern Virginia region is above the national average. Chapman says this is due to “mostly being a knowledge services economy and can send a bulk of workers home [to telework].” A big chunk of the job losses, as expected, are in the leisure and hospitality sector, accounting for nearly a third from November 2019 to November 2020.

“Leisure and hospitality jobs tend to have lower wage scales,” says Chapman. “Those jobs are hardest hit.”

In general, says Chapman, the losses regionally are skewed toward lower wage jobs. However, because this recession is due to a health crisis, Chapman says we can expect a near full recovery by 2022 due to the widespread availability of a vaccine.

Arlington’s small businesses, particularly those dependent on in-person interaction, are also being significantly impacted.

Telly Tucker, director of Arlington Economic Development, said that any business with fewer than 50 employees is defined as a “small business.” This encompasses about 90%, or 6,000, of the county’s businesses.

Over the last ten months, the county and the Commonwealth have implemented a variety of programs and grants. And it does seem to be helping, said Tucker.

Arlington’s small business emergency grant provided nearly 400 businesses with a combined $2.7 million. More than half of those businesses were woman and/or minority-owned.

As for bigger businesses, Tucker also spoke about how office building vacancy rates actually were decreasing going into 2020 from a high of over 20% in 2015.

While the vacancy rate has since risen and now sits at 16.3%, that remains below the office vacancy rates of the mid-2010s. Commercial real estate like office buildings are a major source of tax revenue for the county, Tucker noted.

What’s more, a number of large, multinational companies have made a home in Arlington over the last five years. This includes Microsoft, which made the announcement just last week that it would have a significant presence in Rosslyn.

The presence of Amazon and other major companies is likely to spur more job growth in Arlington, as is an expected rise in federal spending under the Biden administration.

The Arlington housing market, meanwhile, is doing well. Homes are typically selling for between 3% to 5% over listing price, noted Tucker, which is a positive sign.

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) Many businesses have been forced to shift their expectations and approaches this year, and Kinder Haus Toys in Clarendon is no exception.

The toy store, located at 1220 N. Fillmore Street, already faced the test of keeping up with online competition before the pandemic. Its business challenges were exacerbated by the pandemic and state mandates that required the store to temporarily close earlier in the year.

But Kinder Haus has begun to return back to normal, albeit with stringent COVID-19 safety precautions. The store implements social distancing, has hand sanitizers ready, requires customers and employees to wear masks, and has installed a sneeze guard at the register.

Owner Sue Pyatt and the store’s employees have made the adjustments in stride, and it’s starting to pay off.

“It’s getting better. Little by little, week by week, we’re seeing an improvement in sales,” Pyatt said. “And that’s very encouraging.”

Once the store reopened, sales initially shifted to curbside service, online advertisements were heavily utilized, and Pyatt leaned on the business drummed up by an email newsletter.

Though some things have changed, others have stayed the same. The store’s focus has remained on some essentials Pyatt feels are synonymous with small independent business, such as offering free gift wrapping and the “knowledgeable suggestions” from the staff.

“We have a number of loyal customers, and they were so pleased we were open,” Pyatt said. “And they had such nice things to say, such as, ‘It gives us hope that you’re continuing,’ and ‘We appreciate being able to have a store like this that we can turn to when we need gifts for children,’ and things along that line.”

Kinder Haus has managed to maintain its normal hours since it reopened, and according to Pyatt has been able to meet its expenses and ensure payroll was consistently met for employees.

Though the store is open and business is slowly getting better, there have been some additional cuts due to safety measures. The store’s regular events like Tunes 4 Tots music class, arts and crafts activities, Lego Play Day, and others have been suspended until further notice, for instance.

Pyatt hopes to be able to offer the activities again “as soon as we feel it’s safe.”

The store has been able to maintain its charitable efforts with the help of the “very generous community that we’re blessed to be in,” Pyatt said.

The store maintains a donation box to support the Arlington Food Assistance Center and continues to provide support to the Educate the Girls organization that provides financial assistance to girls in rural Uganda to attend primary or secondary school.

“I’d just like to say how much we appreciate our customers and more than anything, it’s the customers and the support we’ve received from them that has made it possible for us to continue and give us the encouragement that we needed,” Pyatt said. “That words that occur to me are kind of cliché, but we’re all in this together. Our staff, our wonderful customers, we’re all in this doing the best we can. And I think that’s why it works.”

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Arlington businessman Xavier Warren is basing his campaign for lieutenant governor of Virginia on a pledge to lead a statewide economic recovery while focusing on the job market.

Warren is a partner with Congressional Partners, a bipartisan organization that helps nonprofits and corporations secure federal grants. He also works as a sports agent and serves as a NFL Players Association contract advisor.

Warren announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor in September.

He is among a sizable group of candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor that includes Del. Elizabeth R. Guzmán (Prince William), Del. Hala Ayala (Prince William), former Democratic Party chairman Paul Goldman, and Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman.

Additionally, Del. Sam Rasoul (Roanoke) filed paperwork Tuesday to allow him to start raising money for a potential lieutenant governor campaign, according to the Washington Post.

Republican candidates include former Del. Timothy D. Hugo (Fairfax), Del. Glenn R. Davis Jr. (Virginia Beach), Fairfax County business consultant Puneet Ahluwalia and Lance Allen, a national security company executive from Fauquier County.

Each candidate is vying for the role that will be vacated by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who is running for governor.

Warren points to the state’s current economic condition as his primary reason for running. He specifically seeks to address the unemployment rate that has risen as a result of COVID-19.

“The reason why I am running is to focus on jobs, support small businesses and workers, and helping every Virginian have a job with a livable wage,” Warren said.

“COVID is literally hurting, and has killed, small businesses,” he told ARLnow. “Small businesses are closing on a weekly basis. And hundreds of thousands of people are out of work. Even truthfully speaking, people were hurting pre-COVID, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and now those people are extremely hurt.”

His understanding of the lieutenant governor job is as a “business position” that sets the basis for a platform focused on reviving the job market. If elected, Warren looks to advocate for job growth while working with boards such as the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Virginia Tourism and Virginia Resiliency.

“What I plan to do is to be our spokesperson and really market Virginia for jobs to come in, to bring in high-wage jobs, new jobs, and that will also support small businesses,” Warren said. “When you put money into workers’ pockets, they then go spend it in retail, go spend it in restaurants, spend it at shopping centers.”

Warren lives in Arlington, but he grew up in Danville and attended Hampton University before earning a master’s degree from Georgetown University. With his experience living and working across the state, he acknowledges that each region of Virginia comes with its own unique challenges.

His plans for the position include tailoring the economic efforts for each region based on its specific needs, whether that’s improved health care, education, supporting public schools, or whatever each community may face.

“Obviously, at the state level, economic development is different across the board,” Warren said. “Every person in every region is unique. So it’s not a one-size-fits-all for everyone. You take in a personalized approach to helping get each region together to really uplift all Virginians.”

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, StartupMonday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Shirlington Gateway. Say hello to the new 2800 Shirlington, which recently delivered a brand-new lobby and upgraded fitness center. Experience a prime location and enjoy being steps from Shirlington Village, a large retail hub with a variety of unique restaurants and shopping options. Spec suites with bright open plans and modern finishes are under construction and will deliver soon!

There were 31 Arlington-based companies included in Inc. Magazine’s annual list of America’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies.

In all, 204 Northern Virginia companies made the list. According to Inc., these companies saw a median 3-year growth of 162%, generated $12 billion in total revenue and added 16,118 jobs.

The highest ranked Arlington company was Royce Geospatial Consultants, a geospatial intelligence government contractor based out of Clarendon.

“Our experts leverage the harvesting and combination of a variety of datasets,” the company says on its website, “to include emerging open and dark web data with foundational geospatial data to provide true value added Intelligence and GIS data resources used for deeper analysis.”

Other Arlington companies on the list include transportation and defense contractor Objective Area Solutions, biometric identification company Secure Planet Inc., medical data and records contractor Capitol Bridge.

“We are a growing, Arlington-based company that exclusively focuses on public sector aviation programs and we have developed a reputation for being able to quickly respond to our client’s dynamic environment,” said J.J. Stakem, CEO of Objective Area Solutions. “The complexity of these aviation programs in areas such as drones, cybersecurity, environmental programs, surveillance, and many other areas requires consulting companies to have a highly specialized understanding of the technical, organizational, operational, and policy considerations.  OAS uniquely fills that need for our clients.”

Stakem said the company has worked to support the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and NASA.

“Moving forward we will be continuing our work to provide holistic support to public sector aviation programs,” Stakem said. “Over the next 12 months we are focused on growing our engineering support capabilities as a component of our overall solution and we are also expanding our client base to include a wider range of aviation clients within the US Government as well as state, local, and international public sector aviation domain.”

Courthouse startup DivvyCloud also made the list at number 471 with 970% growth. The company said in a press release that its recent acquisition by cybersecurity company Rapid7 meant it was the last year the company would be eligible for the list.

“My co-founder, Chris DeRamus, and I are honored to be included on this prestigious list and ranked among the most innovative and forward thinking companies shaping our nation today,” said Brian Johnson, co-founder and senior vice president of DivvyCloud. “This announcement further validates that we are fulfilling our mission to help enterprises accelerate innovation without loss of control.”

The following list includes the Arlington companies, their ranking on the Inc. list, and their 3-year growth rate.

Photo courtesy DivvyCloud. Vernon Miles contributed to this story.

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A thousand down, 24,000 still to go.

Amazon announced today that it has hired its 1,000th HQ2 employee, though its physical offices in Arlington remain closed due to the pandemic. The tech and retail giant also announced that it still plans to ultimately fill 25,000 positions at its second headquarters, potentially putting to rest speculation that HQ2 could be downsized amid a work-from-home trend.

In a post on its Day One blog, Amazon said that it was working to hire a diverse workforce in Arlington:

Amazon remains committed to filling the 25,000 roles projected for HQ2 with diverse talent from across the region. Although offices have been quiet for the past several weeks due to COVID-19, our hiring has continued as planned. We have virtually onboarded scores of talented people and recently welcomed our 1,000th employee in Arlington. Among our new hires are lifelong Northern Virginia resident Lakshmi Kopparam, one of the first software development engineers to join the Amazon Fire TV team in Arlington, and McCoy Jamison, who formerly served in the U.S. Navy and just began his role as a solutions architect with Amazon Web Services. Kopparam and Jamison are working alongside a group of senior engineers who are building a best-in-class technology culture at Amazon and contributing to the region’s growing tech ecosystem. Within the first wave of hires is a program lead who has been tasked with ensuring our HQ2 workforce is inclusive and diverse. This person will implement recruiting and HR best practices and initiatives designed to ensure inclusiveness in our products and offerings.

The blog post also detailed the millions in donations Amazon has been funneling to education, food, and relief initiatives in Arlington, D.C. and other parts of Virginia.

Construction is currently underway on the first phase of Amazon’s permanent HQ2 along S. Eads Street in Pentagon City. The 2.1 million square foot complex is expected to open in 2023 and house about half of HQ2’s 25,000 employees. Until it opens, Amazon is working out of temporary, leased space in Crystal City.

A planned second phase will build another 2.1 million square feet of office space across 12th Street S., in the vacant PenPlace lot. In the meantime, the new Amazon-funded design for nearby Metropolitan Park is being finalized, ahead of expected County Board approval this fall.

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Arlington has the highest proportion of residents who can work from home in the U.S., according to a new study.

That’s according to financial website SmartAsset, which ranked the 200 largest U.S. cities by the estimated percentage of the workforce that can work remotely.

“A large percentage of the workforce in Arlington, Virginia is involved in two white-collar occupations: management, business & financial operations and professional & related job,” SmartAsset wrote. “According to [Bureau of Labor Statistics] data, 60% of management, business & financial operations workers and more than 42% of all professional & related workers can work from home, so many Arlington workers have that ability. We estimated that 39.23% of the total Arlington, Virginia workforce can work from home, the highest percentage for this metric across the 200 largest U.S. cities.”

That could be an underestimate. A recent ARLnow poll, though unscientific, found that 80% of respondents reported working at home (of given leave) with full pay.

Arlington was No. 1 in SmartAsset’s rankings, with Frisco, Texas; Bellevue, Washington; Irvine, California; and Washington, D.C. rounding out the top 5. Neighboring Alexandria ranked No. 14.

If much of the Arlington population is working from home and still getting paid during the current crisis, that’s good news for the local economy, suggesting a swifter return of consumer spending once stay-at-home orders are relaxed. Also good news: last month SmartAsset ranked Arlington among the most recession-resistant places in the U.S.

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