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Fairfax County – Opening Doors To British Exporters By Julian Nettlefold

With President-elect Donald Trump promising better US-UK relations, BATTLESPACE foresees a sea change in the view of the Department of International Trade (DIT) that the US market and defence in particular is of marginal interest to companies. current (see: AUSA 2016 UK Presence – Not a Good Start For The Dr Fox DIT Bandwagon! By Julian Nettlefold – Features)

One organisation which is well placed to benefit from increased US-UK trade is Fairfax County.


After AUSA 2016 the Editor was hosted by Jan Mul and Cathy Riley of the Fairfax County team in a Maryland restaurant to discuss how Fairfax County helps companies establish a US presence and develop sales. This meeting followed the excellent Hoses of Parliament reception arranged by Ian Metcalf the representative for Fairfax County in the UK. At that meeting it became clear that Fairfax County, one of the richest or richest Counties in the USA, had been hiding its light under a bushel!

“How are you able to help UK Companies wishing to establish a presence in the USA?” The Editor asked. “We have numerous ways we can help UK Companies from hot desking thru finding partners for business to helping companies to establish offices in the USA.” Jan Mul said

Eight out of 16 aerospace and defence firms on the Fortune Global 500 have a presence in Fairfax County, as 33 of the 100 largest global defence companies, pointed out Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

“Much as the Farnborough area is the heart of the UK aerospace and defence industry, Fairfax County is the center of the US defense and aerospace business in the Washington area,” Gordon said. “That is why we are working with groups in the Farnborough area to spotlight the opportunities that exist in Fairfax County and the Washington area for British businesses.”


The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) recently hired UK defence expert Ian Metcalf to beef up their presence in the UK. The FCEDA already partners on events aimed at aerospace and defence firms in the UK and USA.

The FCEDA partnered on two major events in the United Kingdom in October this year.

On October 25, the FCEDA united with the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership to host a business networking reception at the Bombay Sapphire distillery in Hampshire.

The event highlighted transatlantic business opportunities for UK companies seeking to expand to the United States, especially for firms with products and services in the aerospace and defence-technology sectors.

Enterprise M3 drives economic growth in the corridor southwest of London. This event emphasized similarities between the Hampshire/Surrey area and Fairfax County and built on relationships established in June 2016 at a House of Commons event.

On October 26, the FCEDA partnered with the Farnborough Aerospace Consortium (FAC) for its 2016 conference. The FAC, based in Farnborough, Hampshire, is a trade association that facilitates growth of the aerospace and defense sectors and provides support to some 300 companies in southern England – the heart of the U.K.’s aerospace industry.

The FCEDA is committed to fostering transatlantic business growth and opened an office in London in 1998 to work with British companies in interested in starting or expanding U.S. operations. More than 60 British businesses have operations in Fairfax County.

Kicking off an initiative to explore business relationships between Fairfax County in the US and the County of Hampshire in the UK, representatives of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) met with senior business, academic and political figures from Hampshire in the House of Commons in June.

Strongly encouraging the cooperation was session host Ranil Jayawardena, MP. Mr. Jayawardena represents North East Hampshire and is chairman of the Hampshire All Party Parliamentary Group.

Catherine Riley, vice president of the FCEDA, led the delegation from the US, which also included Jan Mul, the FCEDA’s director of international marketing. The US and UK groups met at the House of Commons Strangers’ Dining Room for a working reception and strategy session.

Those present included Kathy Slack of Enterprise M3, the economic development agency for Hampshire and parts of Surrey. Enterprise 3M closely mirrors the FCEDA in function. Executives from large and mid-size companies with US and UK footprints also attended.

About a dozen small but rapidly growing UK companies interested in making forays into the US market attended the event along with representatives from both North East Hampshire and the Southampton University technology clusters. The meeting was well-supported by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and a number of venture capitalists.

FCEDA outlines opportunities for Oxford cyber companies

Jan Mul, director of the FCEDA’s international program, briefed executives from cyber and allied security companies in Oxford in June regarding opportunities for expansion into the US market.Delegates came from Oxford as well as the Oxfordshire region, members of the relatively new but dynamic Oxford Cyber Security Cluster.

The cluster operates under the umbrella of the UK Cyber Security Forum, bringing together about 50 cybersecurity-focused organizations across the county and beyond, representing businesses, business support and academia.

Fairfax County History

Fairfax County dominates DC-area Fortune 500 list. Eight Fairfax County-based companies, in industries ranging from financial services and hospitality to defense and technology consulting, hold spots on Fortune magazine’s list of the 500 largest publicly traded companies in the United States.

Fairfax County has more companies on the list than 30 states and the District of Columbia. Fairfax County also is home to more than half of the 15 Fortune 500 companies based in the Washington, DC, region. The others are in Montgomery County, Md. (4), Washington, DC( 2), and Arlington County, Va. (1).

Fortune based its rankings on 2015 revenue. The 2016 Fortune 500 list includes these Fairfax County-based companies:

  1. Freddie Mac, Financial services
  2. General Dynamics, Aerospace and defense
  3. Capital One Financial, Financial services
  4. Northrop Grumman, Aerospace and defense
  5. CSC, Information technology
  6. Hilton Worldwide, Hotels, resorts
  7. Booz Allen Hamilton Holding, Information technology
  8. NVR, Home construction

“The Fortune 500 list continues to demonstrate that Fairfax County is one of the best business locations in the nation, and the top location in the Washington area for large headquarters operations,” said Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D., president and CEO of the FCEDA. “The fact that we have eight companies from a diversity of industry sectors on the list also demonstrates the long-established and ongoing evolution of the county’s economy beyond our government contracting base.”

Fairfax County also home to many fast-growing firms

On the other end of the corporate spectrum, Fairfax County continues to be the top place to start and build a business in the Washington, D.C., area. For evidence, look no further than the newest Inc. 5000 list that Inc. magazine produces and highlights America’s fastest-growing companies.


Fairfax County boasts 158 companies on the Inc. 5000. That’s 44 percent of the companies on the list from the Washington area.

The Fairfax County companies on the list include three in the top 100: No.49Interactive Government Holdings, a government services firm based in Springfield; No. 70TalTeam, an IT services company in Chantilly; and No. 100Inoventures, a government services company in Tysons Corner.

“As a service-disabled, veteran-owned business, we focus on winning contracts that help our veterans, active duty, reserve and National Guard,” said Michael V. Sanders, CEO of Interactive Government Holdings.

To put the size of Fairfax County in perspective it is worth looking at its history and formation.

The History of Fairfax County

In many ways the recorded history of Fairfax County, Virginia is a reflection of the history of the entire United States. Although the county was not formally created until 1742, the history of English settlement on the land that is now Fairfax County spans the early 1600s to the present. Such familiar Fairfax County names and places as George Washington, George Mason, Mount Vernon, Bull Run — even Washington Dulles International Airport — have played or are still playing important roles in the lives of Americans everywhere.

One of the first men to record life in what is now Fairfax County was English explorer Captain John Smith. In 1608 he journeyed up the Potomac River as far as present day Arlington County.


In 1649, King Charles II of England granted all of the land between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers to a group of seven Englishmen. Eventually, in 1719, this land came into the possession of Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax, after whom Fairfax County was named. By 1732 there were attempts to form the land into a county, but it was not until 1741 that the Virginia Assembly, meeting in Williamsburg, created Fairfax County.

From around 1750 to the end of the 18th century, changes abounded in Fairfax County’s lifestyle and character. Roads were built and mills and other forms of industry increased. Forests were cleared for additional farmland. Slaveholding increased, with 41 percent of the county’s population in 1800 maintaining slaves, compared to only 28 percent in 1748.

When the Fairfax County Courthouse was moved from a location near present-day Tysons Corner to Alexandria in 1752, the county was still largely a wilderness. It had few roads and virtually no industry. The only wealth and commerce came from cultivation of tobacco with slave labor. Tobacco remained an important crop during the 18th century; indeed, tobacco notes were the main form of monetary exchange for paying debts. Tobacco cultivation eventually ruined the Fairfax and Virginia soil and helped to hasten an economic decline.

The Revolutionary War

More than just economic, commercial and demographic changes occurred in the late 1700s, however. Historic relationships were also altered, when Virginia ceased being part of the British Empire and became part of the new American nation.


The land area of the county was dramatically reduced by 60 percent in 1757, as Loudoun County was formed out of western Fairfax. In 1798, land in the northeastern part of Fairfax County (parts of present-day Arlington County and Alexandria City) was ceded to the new federal government as part of the national capital, the District of Columbia.

During the last half of the 18th century, two of the county’s most prominent residents, George Washington and George Mason, became chief forces behind the formation of the new American nation. Both were wealthy businessmen and tobacco planters who believed strongly in commercial enterprise and the formation of capital.

Washington, who was arguably the single most important participant in the Revolutionary War, went on to become Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. He was able to keep his rag-tag force of soldiers going through the harsh, seven-year campaign. Later, in 1789, he assumed the office of the President of the United States.

As the 19th century dawned, it seemed that Fairfax County was on the verge of continuing economic prosperity and national recognition, especially with the new capital located next door. Instead, however, the years from 1800 to 1850 were harsh ones: the county’s soil had been depleted from over-planting of tobacco, and the most prosperous economic area of the county, Alexandria City, was ceded to the federal government. Moreover, both Mason and Washington, the county’s most prominent citizens, died during the 1790s, leaving a leadership void.


The population decline during this period reflected the harsh economic conditions in the area. At the turn of the century there were 13,317 people in the county; by 1830, this number had dropped to slightly more than 9,200. The county was not again inhabited by more than 10,000 residents until 1850, and it was not until 1870 that it even approached the population level of 1800.

In the early 1840s, however, the county’s economic fortunes improved as people from the northeastern part of the country began to move into the area. They brought with them improved farming techniques, which allowed them to use land thought impoverished by long-time county residents.

The American Civil War

The American Civil War greatly disrupted commercial activities in the county. Both sides seized railroads and businesses, raided and burned farms. Troops shut down business establishments depending upon the proprietors’ sympathies and the troops involved. Even the Alexandria Gazette, a daily newspaper serving part of the county, ceased publication until the war ended in 1865. Railroad and telegraph services were disrupted and, at times, halted. Destitute whites and blacks wandered county roads. Discarded military hardware was a common sight.

Amid the fighting and the hardships of the war, however, bloomed one of the more interesting romances in Fairfax County history. Antonia Ford, the 19-year-old daughter of a prosperous merchant, was arrested by Union troops and accused of spying for Mosby (he later denied it). While imprisoned in Washington, she developed a relationship with a young Union officer named Joseph Willard. He sought her release and the two married. She died soon after the war but he lived on to run the elegant family-owned Willard Hotel in downtown Washington.

Late 19th Century

Once the war came to an end in April 1865, the economic rebuilding of the county began quickly; but the traditional lifestyle of pre-Civil War Fairfax County never returned. In its place was a society where black citizens were given the right to vote and own property. Many owned small farms. The large plantations that existed before the war lay in ruin. Northerners who had moved to the county in the 1840s and 1850s had fled.

In 1870, Virginia was readmitted to the Union. By that time the economy of the county had substantially recovered from the war. Schools and churches were functioning again, as were the railroads and canals. Telegraph lines had been rebuilt and old businesses began anew. The Town of Clifton also had been founded in 1869.


Despite such growth, Fairfax County in 1870 was still mainly a rural, farm-oriented society. Although its population would almost double by 1930, the county would remain largely removed from the rest of the world until that time.

The 20th Century

The county’s history from 1930 to the present can be summarized with one word: growth. During this time period, the county literally exploded, as first people, and later businesses, began calling Fairfax County home.

Demographic numbers tell the story. It took 140 years (1790-1930) for the county’s population to double, from 12,300 to 25,000 residents. From 1930-1950, only 20 years, the population had nearly quadrupled from 25,000 to almost 99,000 people. The county’s population has since increased to more than 10 times that of 1950, a growth rate rivaling that of any community in the nation.

The start of this fundamental shift in the county’s population began in the early 1930s, when Franklin D. Roosevelt swept into the Presidency of the United States. In the 1930s, the county’s population leapt forward by 16,000 from 25,000 at the start of the decade to almost 41,000 residents by 1940.

The pace of growth picked up in the 1940s during World War II, as the federal government expanded employment to meet the war emergency. When the war was over, the federal government expanded again to meet the job needs of veterans.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, federal government expansion increased at a more rapid rate than ever before, as more programs and bureaus were created. The Virginia General Assembly created the Fairfax County Industrial Development Authority in 1964 (the name changed in 1973 to the Economic Development Authority) to help the county manage and encourage growth. By 1970, Fairfax County’s total population stood at over 454,000. This growth was directly attributable to federal employment expansion and the service industries needed to assist such expansion. Indeed, the business of the county was the business of government.

Fairfax County Today

Although federal employment growth continued in the 1970s and 1980s, providing some population and economic growth, much of the county’s growth during this period can be attributed to private economic interests.

Due to private industry’s increasing need to understand and monitor federal actions aimed at the marketplace, many corporations and industry groups began to feel a need for a presence in the Washington, D.C., area during the 1970s. Encouraged by Fairfax County’s growth, many businesses and organizations located offices here. In the 1990s and the early years of the 21st century, Fairfax County became a hub especially for businesses in the fields of information technology, Internet, telecommunications, aviation and aerospace, software development, telecommunications and professional services. The strategy to broaden the Fairfax County continues to bear fruit as leaders in the financial services, hospitality, engineering and automotive sectors build a presence and create jobs here.

All of this meant continuing economic and demographic growth for the county. Today, Fairfax County is home to more than 300 trade associations, more than 400 foreign-owned companies from 45 countries, many corporate and regional headquarters operations, and companies that make annual lists of the largest or fastest-growing small, African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, woman-owned or veteran-owned companies.



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