Arlington, VA

The Arlington County Board is poised to approve $1.7 million in state and local funds to incentivize Gerber to move its headquarters to the county.

The Board is scheduled to vote tonight (Tuesday) on whether or not to give $862,500 in state funds to baby food maker Gerber Products Company. Another $862,500 will be allocated for infrastructure improvements around the Rosslyn area, where the company’s headquarters will be moving.

The money is part of a bid enticing Gerber to make good on its promise to relocate its headquarters and 150 jobs to Rosslyn. Gerber parent company Nestle has already moved in to its new Rosslyn headquarters.

A staff report to the Board says $862,500 will come from the state’s Commonwealth Opportunity Fund (COF). It will be sent to Gerber via Arlington’s Industrial Development Authority “upon Gerber’s submission of a Certificate of Occupancy and with evidence that Gerber’s Chief Executive Officer has moved his or her office and operations to the facility.”

The incentives are intended to help Gerber build out its headquarters. More from the staff report:

The agreements require signatures by the County Manager on behalf of the Arlington County Board, by the Chair of the IDA, by the President and CEO of VEDP and by a representative of Gerber. The agreements contain the following requirements, among others:

  • Gerber must make, or have made on its behalf, a capital investment of $5 million in the building at 1812 North Moore Street;
  • Gerber must create and maintain 150 New Jobs in the Commonwealth of Virginia at an average annual compensation of $127,719; and
  • Gerber must make its best efforts to ensure that at least 30% of the New Jobs are offered to residents of Virginia.

If the Board approves the plan, it will allocate $862,500 in funding to a handful of infrastructure projects already in motion:

  • Move three bus stops blocking the front of Gerber and Nestle’s headquarters at 1812 N. Moore Street (a project staff said is already complete).
  • Finish the on-street bike lanes and wide sidewalks planned for the Lynn Street Esplanade.
  • Wrap up the project to widen Custis Trail and fix bike lanes, add ADA-compliant curb ramps and crosswalks with more visibility, among other changes.
  • Complete the long-awaited, million-dollar Corridor of Light art installation near the Key Bridge

The funding vote is currently listed on the Board’s consent agenda, which is typically reserved for topics members intend to pass without debate.

Gerber was acquired by Nestlé in 2007 and has pledged to invest $5 million in relocating to Arlington. Nestlé has set up shop in its 250,000 square-foot office space in Rosslyn and promised to bring 750 jobs to the county.

Image courtesy of Arlington county

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Morning Notes

Protest in Front of Nestle Office in Rosslyn — “On Tuesday, Greenpeace activists hauled a 15-foot-tall heap of garbage, artfully crafted to resemble one of those deep sea fish that’s about 90 percent jowl, out in front of the Nestlé’s U.S. headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.” [Gizmodo, Twitter]

‘No Stopping’ Arlington’s Growth — “Historically a commuter bedroom city for Washington, D.C., Arlington, VA continues its development renaissance with a variety of mixed-use projects that will shuttle in new residents, create open spaces and make new room for more restaurants and companies.” [GlobeSt]

Arlington Ponies Up Incentives for DEA — “The Arlington County Board is set to vote later this month to grant up to $11.5 million in financial incentives to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Pentagon City landlord to keep the agency from relocating to neighboring Alexandria, just shy of half of what it has promised Amazon.com Inc. for its second headquarters.” [Washington Business Journal]

Possible Meteor Lights Up the Sky — There were numerous reports of a meteor seen over Arlington, the D.C. region and much of the East Coast around 11 p.m. last night. [Twitter, BNO News, NBC Washington]

County Touts Green Initiatives Ahead of Earth Day — “Few communities can boast Arlington’s ceaseless commitment to sustainability — which is why one day in April can barely hint at the work that happens in the months before and after.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Healthcare technology company Cerner is coming to Rosslyn, renting out space in the massive office building that recently became home to Nestle’s U.S. corporate headquarters.

The Missouri-based company plans to lease out just over 38,075 square feet at 1812 N. Moore Street, according to a release today (Tuesday) from building owner Monday Properties.

Cerner will occupy the entire 14th floor of the building, and part of its 12th floor, in order to house staffers working on the company’s contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. The company employs about 27,500 people across 35 countries, according to its website.

The move marks another success for Monday Properties in luring tenants to the 537,000-square-foot building, after a rocky few years following its opening in 2013. The developer built the tower “on spec,” without any tenants secured ahead of time, and it sat largely empty for months.

But Nestle’s decision to relocate its American corporate headquarters to the space, followed soon after by Nestle subsidiary Gerber, meant that roughly half of its space was spoken for in the space of of just over a year.

Cerner’s move comes just a day after plans came to light that WeWork plans to open a new coworking space at the CEB Tower (1201 Wilson Blvd), representing yet more good news for Arlington leaders looking to reverse Rosslyn’s rising office vacancy rate.

“We see this deal as further confirmation that Rosslyn has become the place to be for companies at the forefront of innovation, from technology and consumer goods to health care,” Mary-Claire Burick, president of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, wrote in a statement. “Our proximity to the federal government combined with a highly educated workforce and vibrant urban core provides unique opportunities for corporations like Cerner that are experiencing exciting global growth.”

Photo via Monday Properties

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Nestle is now in line to earn half of the $4 million in local grants Arlington promised the company in exchange for moving to Rosslyn, after meeting the county’s targets to qualify for the incentives.

In all, the packaged food giant will receive $12 million in cash and infrastructure improvements after agreeing to relocate its corporate headquarters to 1812 N. Moore Street last February. But the money did come with some strings attached, forcing the company to prove that it will create 748 new jobs with an average annual salary of $127,719 in the county and lease at least 205,000 square feet of office space by the time 2020 arrives.

Only $4 million will come from the county itself, through a “Economic Development Incentive” grant, while a $6 million state grant and $2 million in nearby infrastructure construction round out Arlington’s deal with Nestle. Even still, the grants have become a hot-button political issue around the county, with plenty of observers questioning whether the incentive money might’ve been better spent elsewhere.

So far, at least, the company seems to be holding up its end of the bargain. According to documents released through a Freedom of Information Act request, Nestle has created and maintained 358 new jobs at the Rosslyn office, and has leased 229,000 square feet of space in Rosslyn through June 30. Daniel Nugent, chief legal officer and general counsel for the company, signed a July 18 affidavit attesting to those statistics.

That means the company has well exceeded its office space requirement to earn the grant money, but fell just short of the 374 new jobs it needed to create by the time June 30 rolled around.

However, Cara O’Donnell, a spokeswoman for Arlington Economic Development, noted that the company only needed to hit 90 percent of the grant’s requirements to earn the money. Accordingly, the county will now release $2 million to Nestle.

“This year, Nestle achieved 95 percent of its new jobs target and 111 percent of its facility lease target, well above the 90 percent required in each category,” O’Donnell told ARLnow. “They are currently meeting targets as required.”

Josh Morton, a spokesman for Nestle, added that the discrepancy in the job figure is because “the number is always changing as more people are hired in Arlington.” In July and August alone, he says the company hired another 125 employees.

Though she generally remains “skeptical” of such relocation incentives, County Board Chair Katie Cristol thinks “it’s great, but not a surprise to know that Nestle is performing consistently with those expectations.” She attributes that to the work of county staff to “develop an incredibly conservative incentives program where we can see a very clear and really significant return on investment in any incentive we make.”

“We’re not going to do something speculative where we’re giving away the public’s money without a lot of confidence that we’ll see that money return to us well in orders of magnitude beyond what we invested,” Cristol said.

Cristol is well aware what kind of controversy the Nestle incentives kicked up after the Board approved them last year, and how the prospect of similar grants going to Amazon to bring HQ2 to Arlington has roiled the community.

So while she does remain “a little uneasy” about the prospect of “a community like Arlington, that has so much else to offer, seeking to offer cash incentives,” Cristol thinks the Nestle deal does show that these grants can work, if managed properly.

“We’re delighted to have Nestle here, they’ve been a great partner in the community already,” Cristol said. “And in the long term sense… we’re going to be really gimlet-eyed about continuing to look at all over those targets and looking at the return on investment over the life of any deal we put together.”

Nestle will next report back to the county on July 15, 2019 to affirm that it’s indeed created all 748 jobs it promised for the Rosslyn office.

File photo

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Tina Sherman says she was stunned to wake up one morning and discover that her country suddenly wasn’t interested in promoting breastfeeding around the world.

Sherman, a North Carolina organizer with the progressive activist group “MomsRising,” was disturbed and puzzled to see the New York Times reporting that American officials pushed back on a seemingly innocuous resolution supporting breastfeeding at a gathering of the World Health Organization’s governing body.

As a mother herself, Sherman couldn’t understand why the U.S. would seek to abandon its longstanding support for breastfeeding, which research has often shown is healthier than baby formula and considerably less expensive. But as she read on, it didn’t surprise her that some advocates saw the influence of major baby formula producers at play in the dust-up.

“We know the benefits of breastfeeding, and it just seems to be in direct opposition to everything that we stood for,” Sherman told ARLnow. “We don’t know, but we can guess who was involved.”

Nestlé, in particular, has come under fire for decades now for allegedly using misleading marketing tactics in developing nations to promote baby formula, en route to becoming the market leader in infant milk products worldwide. So Sherman decided to express her outrage to the company directly, and worked with several other advocacy groups to collect more than 80,000 signatures urging Nestlé to change its ways.

The advocates, who even earned the backing of actress Alyssa Milano, delivered the petition to Nestlé’s new Rosslyn headquarters today (Tuesday) and met briefly with some company representatives to discuss the issue.

Nestlé spokesman Josh Morton says the company “welcome[s] the opportunity for meaningful engagement” on the issue, stressing that “we prioritize the health and wellbeing of babies.”

The company has long denied any wrongdoing when it comes its formula marketing, and Morton added that “Nestlé believes that breastfeeding is best for babies. Full stop.”

Though other formula companies have been more reticent to denounce the Trump administration’s actions on breastfeeding, Nestlé has worked to distance itself from the controversy, and Morton stressed that the company supports the WHO’s current stance on the practice.

Sherman says she’s certainly encouraged that the company at least says it’s willing to hear her group’s concerns. Yet Julia Skapik, a practicing physician in D.C. and a MomsRising volunteer, said she can’t help but be skeptical of company’s clear “profit motive.”

“Especially in places that are resource-poor, the idea that families are being convinced that they should take what little resources they have and put it towards formula is really frustrating and it’s sad,” Skapik said.

Morvika Jordan, another volunteer from Manassas, sees the company’s priorities misplaced, with “the idea of profit superseding the idea of health.”

But between the article in the Times and Tuesday’s demonstration, Sherman thinks executives at Nestlé, at least, “know that we’re watching.”

“If they can turn that marketing around, we’ll be right back out here cheering them, thanking them,” Sherman said. “But if they don’t, we’ll be back here to let them know what we think.”

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(Updated Aug. 1, 9:15 a.m.) For Rosslyn, and perhaps Arlington itself, Nestle’s arrival could represent a bit of a breakthrough.

As the federal government’s cut back on office space and more companies shift to telework, the neighborhood has seen its office vacancy rate skyrocket over the past few years, straining the county’s finances in the process. But the packaged food giant’s decision to relocate its corporate headquarters from California to Arlington, bringing 750 jobs to a high-rise at 1812 N. Moore Street, could very well signal the reversal of that trend.

Or, at least, that’s what local leaders are counting on.

“We were in a long kind of slump,” County Board member Libby Garvey told ARLnow, reflecting on Nestle’s impact as the company officially opened its Rosslyn offices today (Tuesday). “But this is really a turning point, and I think it’s really positive.”

Garvey points out that the building Nestle is moving into was built “on spec,” without any tenants locked in before its construction, and sat vacant for years after its completion in late 2013.

But since Nestle announced last year that it’d be moving to Arlington, she’s seen a domino effect in the neighborhood. The company’s not only brought one of its subsidiaries to Rosslyn, announcing Gerber’s relocation to the area this spring, but Nestle’s arrival also helped convince the Grocery Manufacturers Association to move to get closer to the company, Garvey says.

“It just put us on the map,” Garvey said. “You just start to attract birds of a feather.”

While those businesses may very well help fill the county’s coffers, they didn’t come without a cost. The Board handed out about $4 million in performance grants and committed to $2 million in infrastructure improvements to woo Nestle to Rosslyn in the first place, earning criticism from people all along the political spectrum in the process.

Yet Garvey points out that the county’s denied relocation incentives for some smaller companies looking to come to the area in the wake of Nestle’s move, only to win their business anyway. She has full confidence in county staff to make sure that Nestle is living up to the economic benchmarks laid out in the grant requirements, noting “if there’s a problem, I assume they’ll tell us.”

“But I don’t think there’s going to be a problem,” she said.

Incentives for corporations are a touchy subject around the county these days, with much of the debate around Arlington’s bid to win Amazon’s second headquarters centered on what exactly the county’s offered the tech company to move here.

Officials have largely been silent on the subject, citing the fierce national competition to win HQ2 and its promised 50,000 jobs. But with other states publicly offering billions in incentives and transportation improvements, Virginia leaders have noted that the county’s surest path to luring the tech giant may be highlighting its highly educated workforce and top-ranked schools.

Steve Presley, Nestle USA’s chairman and CEO, repeatedly highlighted the quality of the school system in laying out why his company picked Arlington, and that’s the sort of feature the county’s boosters believe could prove similarly persuasive to Amazon.

“They’ll be thinking not only, ‘Can we find the qualified workers we need?’ but, ‘How do our workers feel about coming to Virginia?'” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) “Workforce and the education system go hand in hand. That’s what we always need to focus on to attract businesses and we need to sell the fact that we have a really good education system compared to other states. That’s a real strength.”

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has certainly been involved in making that pitch to Amazon, reasoning “the more talent we bring in here, the more folks that follow.”

But he says there’s no telling when Arlington might know if Nestle is the biggest fish the county will land, or if there are more ribbon cuttings in its future.

“I think they’re keeping their cards pretty close,” Northam said. “I don’t know anything you don’t.”

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Morning Notes

Amazon Hiring Local ‘Economic Development Manager’ — Amazon is hiring for a new position of economic development manager in the D.C. area, though the company says the position is not connected to its HQ2 search. Per the Business Journal: “Responsibilities would include working on site selection, ‘new corporate initiatives, site expansion plans and requirements,’ and working with ‘state and community economic development, workforce and labor, taxation, and other key government agency officials, as well as chambers of commerce, utilities, and other key public/private stakeholder groups.'” [Washington Business Journal, Amazon]

New Food Hall Coming to Rosslyn — The team behind Chasin’ Tails seafood restaurant in East Falls Church is planning a new 5,000-square-foot Asian food hall, dubbed “Happy Endings Eatery,” at Rosslyn’s Central Place complex. Among the expected offerings will be Vietnamese food like summer rolls, noodle bowls and banh mi sandwiches; bubble teas; and Vietnamese coffee. [Washington Business Journal]

GW Parkway Traffic Woes — The kickoff of a new construction project caused bumper-to-bumper traffic on the GW Parkway yesterday. The project to repair the bridge over Windy Run is taking away one lane in each direction. Work is expected to last through early fall. [WJLA]

Free Food in Rosslyn Today — To celebrate the opening of its new U.S. headquarters in Rosslyn, Nestlé is planning to give away free food, drinks and ice cream at Central Place Plaza from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. today. [Twitter]

Dying Dog Becomes Internet Star — “The saying goes: ‘Every dog has his day.’ That day has come for Smoke the hound, now featured in a viral video as he scratches off items on his bucket list. Smoke recently arrived at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington with terminal cancer. Now, the animal shelter is making every moment count.” [WJLA]

Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani

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Morning Notes

Former Clarendon Walgreens Building Purchased — JPMorgan Chase has bought the building that housed the former Walgreens in Clarendon for $25 million, perhaps for a new bank branch. [Washington Business Journal]

Local Man Shot and Killed in Philly — An Arlington man who “appeared to be intentionally trying to run down people” with his car was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer in South Philadelphia. The shooting is under investigation. [WPVI]

More Details on Arlington Vehicle Decals — “The 2017-18 Arlington car-tax decal may come with a new feature: personalization. The county treasurer’s office is working on a plan that would add each vehicle’s year, make and model onto the new decals, which will start being distributed over the summer.” [InsideNova]

ACPD Launches Super Bowl Sobriety Campaign — “The Arlington County Police Department and law enforcement agencies across the country are huddling up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a special Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk reminder to urge football fans across the nation not to drop the ball on this issue.” [Arlington County]

VHC Named Top Hospital for Nurses — Virginia Hospital Center is the top hospital for nurses in Virginia, according to new rankings from a nursing website. [Nurse.org]

Signs Up for Nestle in Rosslyn — A Nestle sign is now up on the company’s new headquarters at 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn. [Twitter]

State Senate OKs Arlington Hotel Tax Bill — The Virginia state Senate has passed a bill to authorize Arlington to impose a 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge, to fund tourism promotion. The county’s current authority to collect the surcharge expires July 1. [InsideNova]

Robert Parry Obituary — “Robert Parry, an investigative journalist who was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1985 for his Associated Press exclusives about the CIA’s production of an assassination manual for Nicaraguan rebels, died Jan. 27 in Arlington, Va. He was 68.” [Washington Post, Consortiumnews]

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A top Nestle official will join Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe at Oakridge Elementary School on Friday to announce the company’s support for an anti-child hunger initiative.

Ahead of its move to Rosslyn, the company will announce its support for the No Kid Hungry campaign on Friday, December 15, a spokeswoman said.

Nestle’s USA CFO Steve Presley will announce the company’s support for the initiative alongside McAuliffe, who is described by the spokeswoman as a “longtime advocate of fighting childhood hunger.” The event is scheduled to take place from 8:20-9:40 a.m. at the school in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood near Crystal City.

McAuliffe is part of the No Kid Hungry initiative, alongside the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Department of Education and several corporate partners.

The public-private initiative aims to end child hunger in America by ensuring children have access to healthy food where they live and where they learn.

“Oakridge Elementary has implemented a breakfast program in partnership with No Kid Hungry that aims to provide children with a healthy, nutritious start to their day,” the spokeswoman said.

An Arlington Public Schools spokesman confirmed the visit, and said McAuliffe will show the officials from Nestle “how the school serves breakfast.”

File photo

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Morning Notes

Arlington Nonprofit Gets State Grant — “Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced a $175,000 grant to La Cocina VA, a nonprofit workforce development organization in Arlington County, to enhance its culinary skills training facility, create a business plan training course, and develop a small business competition.” [Gov. Terry McAuliffe]

Actual Driverless Car in Arlington — Moving beyond vans with people dressed as car seats, an actual driverless car has now taken to the streets within Arlington County. An autonomous vehicle developed by Carnegie Mellon University drove itself around Ft. Myer yesterday as part of the military base’s Industry Day event. [Facebook]

Nestle Buys Blue Bottle — Nestle, which is still moving into its new U.S. headquarters in Rosslyn, has bought Oakland, Ca.-based hipster coffee brand Blue Bottle. Could that mean that a Blue Bottle location in Arlington is around the corner? Possibly, but the company already has a location across the river in Georgetown. [Washington Business Journal, Nestle]

Arlington Gets Gigabit Internet — Comcast announced earlier this week that “it has launched a new Internet service in Arlington that will deliver speeds up to 1 Gigabit-per-second (Gbps) to residential and business customers.” According to a press release, “these speeds will be among the fastest and most widely available,” utilizing DOCSIS 3.1 technology. The cost of the service is $79.99 a month with a one-year contract or $104.95 a month without.

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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The four Democratic candidates for County Board may hold differing positions on a number of issues, but they agree on one thing: Arlington’s subsidy to lure Nestle might have been better spent elsewhere.

At a forum last night hosted by the Arlington Young Democrats, less than three weeks before the local party’s caucus, the four Democrats running for the Arlington County Board said the package of $12 million in state and local performance-based funds could have better served the local community.

“This is good for Arlington, good for filling our office space, but I would rather have seen some of that money go towards child care in Crystal City and Rosslyn, for example,” said Erik Gutshall.

“At the end of the day, we have to consider who is getting a subsidy and if they deserve it,” said Peter Fallon, who added that given the competition between jurisdictions for such moves, incentives can play a role in the right situations.

Both Kim Klingler and Vivek Patil drew a comparison to the small businesses throughout the county, and asked if they could have been assisted like multinational Nestle was, in particular through the building of a website showing all that Arlington has to offer.

“If we can stand up a website for Nestle [employees that showcases the county] in three weeks, imagine what we can do for our small businesses in three weeks,” Klingler said.

“That red carpet should be rolled out for small businesses and entrepreneurs,” Patil agreed.

In addition to general questions about the county’s tax rate, business community and the environment, each candidate faced questions specific to their campaigns and backgrounds from moderator Michael Lee Pope, a reporter with Virginia Public Radio.

Gutshall was asked if he is a so-called “party insider” due to the endorsements he has received from a slew of former County Board members and current chair Jay Fisette, who will retire at year’s end.

“I think it speaks to the fact that I have worked alongside these people for a number of years,” Gutshall said.

Fallon spoke about what he learned from his time on the planning commission and said that the county’s comprehensive planning at times has failed to keep up with the demand of county services.

Patil reiterated his call for a “green and clean tech economy” to encourage innovation and new industries in the county. “There is no city or state that owns that right now,” he said.

Following her run in 2012, Klingler said she was inspired to run again by the results of last year’s presidential election.

The candidates will be joined by independent Audrey Clement at a forum next Wednesday hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce at Synetic Theater, then they will debate again the following Wednesday at ACDC’s monthly general meeting.

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