Fairfax County has won its share of corporate recruiting battles over the years.
Back in the summer of 2010, Fairfax beat out a host of regional and national competitors for defense giant Northrop Grumman’s corporate headquarters. The move brought hundreds of well-paid Northrop executives from Los Angeles to Northern Virginia and likely resulted in more than a few sales of high-priced homes, luxury cars and other big-ticket items across the county.
Prior to that, Fairfax reeled in corporate heavyweights such as CSC, SAIC, Volkswagen North America and Hilton North America. All have contributed mightily to the county’s bottom line and, perhaps most important, its growing international brand.
All of that said, Fairfax County’s most important recruiting battle is the one being waged right now over the new FBI headquarters. Virginia’s biggest competitor is clearly Maryland, where officials are touting several different sites to potentially house the 11,000-plus employees who will work at the consolidated headquarters.
Based on a recent press conference attended by just about every elected official from Fredericksburg to Fairfax, Virginia is certainly taking the challenge seriously. Both of Virginia’s senators, as well as four U.S. representatives whose districts cover Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford counties, gathered in Arlington on Jan. 9 to tell the world they are laser-focused on bringing the FBI across the river.
Landing the billion-dollar project won’t be easy. Most view Maryland as the odds-on favorite and there’s one very strong reason for that. Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) happens to sit atop the all-powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and is on record as backing Prince George’s potential bid. Another Maryland-based power broker, No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer, is also backing the P.G. site.
Last week’s gathering in Arlington was primarily called to ensure that the FBI’s future site is decided on its merits and not by plum committee assignments or years served in the U.S. Senate.
“We feel very confident that as long as this decision is made on the merits, Virginia will be successful,”said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).
Warner’s case is certainly strong. Virginia is already home to a large number of FBI employees and many FBI facilities are located in the state. It’s also worth noting that the CIA is located in Langley. In fact, no area in the country has a more established mix of homeland security, defense-related and law enforcement-related facilities than Northern Virginia.
At the moment, Virginia officials have identified six potential sites — Herndon, Dulles Airport, Fort Belvoir, Dumfries, Quantico and Fairfax County’s preferred site, a GSA-owned warehouse property near the Franconia-Springfield Metro Station.
The unified front Virginia officials presented last week was well-timed and well-executed. The House of Representatives has not yet voted on criteria for the headquarters, so establishing a set of ground rules on the front end — as last week’s meeting achieved — should go a long way when a decision is made in the coming months.