BUSINESS REPORT: Stafford County – Where Connectivity And Opportunity Intersect
Stafford County, VA offers an ideal location for companies seeking an East Coast presence and global corporations entering the U.S. market. Located just 25 miles south of the Washington Beltway, Stafford County is between two of the fastest growing MSA’s in the Mid-Atlantic region, Baltimore/Washington and Richmond.
Stafford County offers exceptional access to major markets for a wide variety of corporate and industrial users. The county is situated along I-95 with 5 interstate interchanges and it is within an easy drive to four major airports—Dulles, Reagan National, Baltimore Washington International and Richmond. Stafford Regional Airport recently opened a new 10,000-square-foot terminal.
The nearby Port of Virginia in Hampton Rhodes offers a deep-water gateway to the global economy. The East Coast’s primary north-south passenger rail line bisects Stafford, with CSX and Amtrak service complemented by Virginia Railway Express, which provides commuter service to DC.
INVESTING IN 21ST CENTURY INFRASTRUCTURE
Stafford County has put a high priority on investments in infrastructure, including high-speed broadband as well as traditional transportation projects. The Stafford County Board of Supervisors is supporting $500 million in new infrastructure projects in the county in addition to a new $1-billion HOT Lane project, now under construction, which will connect Interstate 95 express lanes from Stafford to the Washington Beltway.
SummitIG is rolling out a new fiber-optic network along the I-95 right-of-way; the company is leveraging its extensive network infrastructure across the Commonwealth of Virginia in order to deliver dark fiber networks and connectivity from Ashburn, VA to Richmond, VA. Based in northern Virginia, SummitIG is a custom network solutions and bandwidth infrastructure provider.
Scheduled to be completed this fall, this new dark fiber system will provide unprecedented speed, security and capacity to technology driven firms considering relocation or expansion in Stafford County. Silver Companies, a Virginia-based company, is partnering with SummitIG to deliver dark fiber to the Quantico Corporate Center (QCC) in the city of Stafford and the entire Quantico region.
SummitIG will be installing a regeneration facility at the QCC. Early plans have been designed to develop a new IX facility adjacent to the proposed SummitIG regen to facilitate the distribution of the underground dark fiber conduit system among the existing and proposed office buildings in QCC.
“With SummitIG’s dark fiber offering, customers in the Quantico region will have unique connectivity options to multiple carriers and Internet Exchange (IX) points along the network,” said David Newman, Vice President of Silver Companies and developer of QCC.
“The dark fiber will provide virtually unlimited connectivity to tenants at QCC. Our unique offering between northern Virginia and Richmond passes through the heart of Stafford County and presents an opportunity to empower and support the growth of companies located within the region,” said Bill Cook, CEO of SummitIG.
The infrastructure is being designed to support other strategic facilities nearby, including an adjacent 13-acre tract of land recently purchased by Stafford County for the development of its technology and research park initiative (Boswell’s Corner, see below). The entire development will include over one million square feet of Class A office space. The space can be designed to meet DOD Minimum Anti-Terrorism Standards and SCIF Compliance. Leases range from 5,000 square feet to complete buildings.
According to Newman, many companies’ location decisions are IT driven. The dark fiber will offer numerous benefits to subscribers, including speed to market, cost advantages and control of their own data distribution. Stafford County’s Tech Park 501c3 also is actively negotiating an option for dark fiber to support its interest on the land it just purchased adjacent to QCCS, working to be SummitIG’s first customer.
“Stafford County is very focused on creating an enviable business climate. This new fiber capacity will enhance the County’s competitive position as a premier destination for companies that require unencumbered, secure broadband access, and are seeking a location that will support their growth,” said Tim Baroody, director of economic development.
“These efforts, combined with the $1-billion HOT lanes project, are paying dividends,” Baroody added. “Now Stafford will have access to the critical dark fiber needed for our growing commercial business, and to support our new Tech Park initiative. Low taxes, significant infrastructure investments, and dark fiber are collectively making Stafford a high-profile destination for business investment.”
A BUSINESS FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT
Investment by Stafford County officials is not limited to infrastructure. An excellent education network of primary and secondary schools appeals to employers and employees alike. US News ranked North Stafford High School as one of the best High Schools in America. The University of Maryland University College and the University of Mary Washington have established locations in the county. Germanna Community College is building a new campus on 25 dedicated acres in the heart of the county near the new 100-bed Stafford Hospital.
Stafford offers a favorable tax climate, competitive utility rates, and a variety of incentives for qualified projects. The Stafford County Board of Supervisors is committed to maintaining a business friendly environment. The Board of Supervisors has eliminated many taxes on business including BPOL, M&T and Common Carrier, Boat & Aircraft Taxes.
Sound and diligent fiscal policies were rewarded by all three bond-rating agencies in June 2013. Standard & Poor’s and Fitch both upgraded the County’s bond rating from AA to AA+. Moody’s affirmed the County’s Aa2 bond rating upgrade the County’s outlook. These ratings positioned the County as a leader in job creation, economic and business growth.
“Our economic development team is committed to fast-tracking business permits,” said Baroody. “Our team has the ability to provide current market and demographic packages to support site selection and an array of incentives to ensure that Stafford will be a locality considered by a wide range of business sectors.”
BOSWELL’S CORNER MOVES FORWARD
Another employment growth area in Stafford County is Boswell’s Corner. Located in the northern part of the county, this redevelopment area consists of 354 parcels that contain 575 acres of land area. The site’s proximity to Marine Corps Base Quantico and Interstate 95 make the area attractive for redevelopment, especially with the growth at Quantico as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) actions.
Boswell’s Corner is named for a crossroads of the same name, and in many ways, the area represents a crossroads of the different groups that live in this area of Stafford County. The vision for this redevelopment area will result in a more pedestrian friendly environment and a mix of commercial and residential uses that create a sustainable market.
Projected new employment in the County is expected to create demand for an estimated additional 2.9 million square feet between 2007 and 2020. The biggest driver in Boswells Corner is the Quantico base and those who serve the government operations HUBZone, located in northwest quadrant of Boswell’s Corner. The HUBZone includes Marine Corps Base Quantico and the Quantico Corporate Centers as well as additional properties along Route 1.
The Quantico Corporate Center campus, a project of the Silver Companies, is expected to have a total of 1 million square feet of space, including a conference center and retail square footage, to be built in phases. Over 500,000 square feet of space is now complete. The tenant mix includes a mixture of national and international high-tech and defense related businesses. Several housing and hotel developments in the area also will potentially serve as demand generators for service retail in this market.
A new Courtyard by Marriott opened in north Stafford in December 2013. Located near the Quantico base, the hotel was designed to accommodate visitors to the base and surrounding community and includes meeting space and flex workspace. Two additional hotels are in the pipeline and will be opened by 2015.