A group of senior members of the British Parliament today heard that consistency and an aggressive approach to bringing in new business were behind the development of Fairfax County as one of the worldâ€™s fastest-growing business centers.
The British-American Parliamentary Group invited Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) President Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D., to discuss the countyâ€™s economic development strategy and whether he had advice he could offer for areas within Britain, especially those areas that have faced long-term economic decline. Four members of the House of Commons and one member of the House of Lords attended the session.
Gordon is the author of â€œReinventing Local and Regional Economiesâ€ (CRC Press, 2011), which examines how more than two dozen American communities s are remaking their local economies in the wake of long-term economic decline and more recent global economic trends. He is the author of 11 other books on economic development and strategic planning, and has consulted around the world on economic development issues.
Gordon told the MPs, meeting at Westminster, that Fairfax County had once been viewed as a â€œgovernment townâ€ but that the FCEDA has worked diligently to diversify the economic base by attracting and retaining companies with business lines unrelated to the federal government. He cited recent headquarters moves to Fairfax by companies not directly related to federal spending, including Volkswagen of America and Hilton Worldwide, and the November 7 announcement that Bechtel Corporation will relocate its Global Operations headquarters from Maryland to Fairfax County.
This diversity had brought big rewards in terms of job creation and economic stability. â€œEvery time there is a recession, we ride it out more evenly,â€ he said. Fairfax County unemployment topped out at 5.6 percent last year and is now at 4.6 percent.
Gordon said a consistent approach over the last 35 years had paid off, along with a aggressive campaign to market the county across the U.S. and in important international markets. He said companies that come to Fairfax County often speak of the pro-business policies of the county and state governments as an important feature.
Gordon told the members of Parliament that Fairfax County was strong in a number of business areas â€“ aerospace and aviation, software and telecommunications in addition to defense. He pointed to recent efforts to target personalized medicine and genetics as another industry sector for the county.
The group members questioned Gordon extensively on development approaches in some English and Scottish regions that had been dependent upon one or two large industries historically. Gordon said every region had something to offer, but sometimes regions do not promote their real strengths.
â€œI consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to meet with these members of Parliament and share experiences regarding how communities can recover from economic decline,â€ Gordon said.
A team from the FCEDA is in London for the 11th annual Fairfax County business networking event scheduled for tonight. The event is being presented by the FCEDA in partnership with BritishAmerican Business. The keynote speaker at the event will be Ian Godden of ADS, the British aviation, defense and security trade group. The FCEDA team also is meeting with British companies interested in expansion in the U.S. and senior figures involved in transatlantic business growth.