By the BF Staff
From the March/April 2017 Issue
BF: What are VEDP’s top priorities for 2017? Are you focusing on specific growth sectors?
SM: Working in close collaboration with our partners and stakeholders, we will be developing a strategic plan for the future of VEDP and economic development in Virginia, with a central focus on how to achieve a few big goals. These include: (1) position Virginia to be one of the fastest employment growth states in the South and U.S.; (2) ensure that every region of Virginia meaningfully participates in the growth of the Commonwealth (we aspire for our rural regions to experience sustained growth, instead of the national trend of gradual rural decline); (3) enable Virginia to once again be ranked the best state for business in the U.S. (we rank very well today, but we want to get back on top again); (4) reestablish VEDP as the premier state economic development organization in the U.S. (we are best-in-class in some but not all areas); and (5) develop strong working relationships and alignment with our key state, regional, and local partners.
We will be focused on marketing Virginia’s many strengths to several target industry sectors, including software development, data centers, corporate headquarters, cybersecurity, distribution, and aerospace. One of the great things about Virginia is that, with our geographic location, incredible human capital assets, and diversity of regions, there is something here for every industry.
BF: Virginia scored a big win with Nestle USA’s decision to relocate its headquarters to Arlington County, VA from California. What were the key factors that sealed this deal? Why is Virginia such an attractive location for corporate headquarters?
SM: Over the last few years, Virginia has been one of the top destinations in North America for corporate headquarters relocations and expansions, with firms such as Corporate Executive Board, Lidl, CoStar Group, Northrop Grumman, Dollar Tree, Navy Federal Credit Union, Hilton, and Nestlé USA moving or dramatically expanding their corporate headquarters here.
Virginia’s pro-business climate, global access, world-class infrastructure, award-winning education system and especially its incredibly talented workforce all combine to provide ideal locations for corporate headquarters. Virginia is home to 69 corporate headquarters of firms that have an annual revenue of more than $500 million, including 37 Fortune 1000 companies and many of the largest private firms in the U.S.
The Commonwealth continues to attract corporate headquarters due to our central East Coast location with easy access to major national and international markets; a low cost of doing business; an existing business concentration with a large, growing labor pool of skilled professional workers; and all the amenities necessary to recruit and keep a professional workforce, including colleges and universities offering specialized business and technical degrees. These unparalleled assets represent repeated themes from companies that choose to locate in Virginia.
The top factors for Nestle USA choosing Arlington County, Virginia were the following: best-in-class cost competitiveness; strategic location providing close proximity to consumers, customers, key food and beverage industry stakeholders, and other Nestle U.S. operating facilities; and sustainable access to a top-notch talent pool. In addition, our transportation network and quality of life were strong selling points. Arlington County offered a state-of-the-art building with stunning views of the nation’s capital—a fitting home for a company of Nestlé’s caliber.
BF: Northern Virginia has established a leadership position as a top U.S. data center hub. Is the infrastructure in place to maintain and expand this position?
SM: Northern Virginia is the nation’s number one data center market with respect to capacity absorption. In fact, there are multiple data center hubs in Virginia. Microsoft has invested almost $2 billion in its data center in Boydton, Virginia since its construction in 2010, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise maintains a data center in nearby Clarksville. In Wise County, DP Facilities is constructing a $75 million data center, and Northrop Grumman has maintained a data center in Russell County for a decade. Central Virginia is home to enterprise and colocation data centers from companies like Capital One, Peak 10, QTS, and EdgeConnex. We also expect that this sector will grow in Hampton Roads as Virginia Beach becomes a key connection point for subsea fiber optic cables.