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DOING BUSINESS MASON ENTERPRISE CENTER

MASON ENTERPRISE CENTER ALTHOUGH GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY’S

(network memory or other computing services accessed by the internet) being these data centers. Buddy Rizer reports that on top of the five million square feet of data centers currently operating in Loudoun County, another two million square feet are permitted, planned or now currently under construction, and that “we see supply lagging demand through at least 2015. I think we can safely predict that Loudoun County will be home to at least ten million square feet of data centers – sooner than later.” Although data centers are not known as major employers, they do have a strong impact on the county’s economy. On top of the thirty or so direct employees that work at a typical 150,000 square foot data center, another fifty employees are typically hired by various other companies in Loudoun County to support each data center. The developers Rizer’s team is working with tell him that the availability of a highly skilled workforce here in Loudoun County gives us a competitive advantage. These data center jobs are also some of the most secure, competitive, and highest paying jobs in the county. Rizer says, “Our data center clients tell us they are able to find and hire the people they need.” Data Center development has been a net positive for Loudoun County in many ways, Buddy Rizer explains, “These data centers are not a big draw on community services. They provide excellent jobs for lots of people, and they have created high value real estate with excellent tax revenues. Indeed, the amount of tax revenue generated is game changing. This is a compelling economic development success story in Loudoun County.”

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(Mason) main campus is in Fairfax, its presence is widely felt throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia through the Mason Enterprise Centers and their affiliated offices, centers, campuses, and incubators. Mason maintains Procurement Technical Assistance Centers in Northern Virginia, central Virginia, and southeastern Virginia, and Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) in two dozen communities across Virginia, and six Mason Enterprise Center Incubators in Northern Virginia. One of those Mason Enterprise Center Incubators opened in Leesburg in October 2011. Susan Henson, who has an extensive background in small business development centers, retail marketing and management, and business operations, was recruited by Mason from Kansas City, Missouri to launch the Loudoun County incubator and get it fully operational. Henson explained, “Since I was already looking to move back to Virginia, my home state, this opportunity to help get the Mason Enterprise Center Incubator up and running was a perfect opportunity for me. It’s good to be back home in Virginia.”

The Mason Enterprise Center Incubator came to Loudoun County through the joint efforts of Loudoun Economic Development, the Town of Leesburg, the Loudoun Chamber, a private developer, and George Mason University. Leesburg and Loudoun County worked with Mason to find the best location and a developer who would create/build a space conducive to the unique aspects needed in a Mason Enterprise Center Incubator facility. Ultimately the new building at 202 Church Street SE in Leesburg was constructed to meet those needs.

Susan Henson was then hired to manage the Leesburg facility and Loudoun regional MEC programs, to market the services and to recruit clients to occupy the incubator spaces within the building. At MEC Leesburg, the Loudoun SBDC is an anchor organization, having relocated from Sterling to this primary MEC Loudoun site. Through the MEC, Henson provides what she refers to as her “connector skills,” made possible due to her extensive network of contacts, and a good ear for listening to business needs. “Thanks to my varied and diverse business and education Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce


MASON ENTERPRISE CENTER DOING BUSINESS

Henson explains, “In actuality our incubator is a good launching pad for small businesses and entrepreneurs to grow to the next level. We offer our clients a good looking, centrally located, functional place where they can leave their home office behind them (or in the case of several of our clients, the coffee shop where they were doing business) and come here to be surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs, men and women from various business backgrounds who are also working to grow their businesses and establish a longterm success. We are all here to share, to give feedback and counseling, and we are available to interact with each other – often at any hour of the day.” In addition to the space and the office services that come with the incubator fee, the Mason Enterprise Center tracks each client’s business progress. Henson clarified that her clients must come to the incubator with some sort of proven business record before they are accepted as clients. “A pure startup business is not necessarily a candidate for the incubator. Until a startup business can show us a proven record of income

background,” Susan explains, “I can readily build a resource-provider base and work with a wide-ranging group of businesses to help them succeed.” After its first full year of operations, the Leesburg Mason Enterprise Center Incubator is already at 70% of its revenue goal. Eighteen of 28 spaces are currently occupied with business clients, who are involved in a variety of business operations, including financial services, software development, direct mail marketing, photography, and assorted government contracting services, like cyber security, training, and technology infrastructure. Incubator resident clients pay a monthly fee (12-month lease, 30-day out option) based on the size of the space they occupy, ranging from $400 to $1,400 per month. The incubator building is open 24 hours per day for all clients. In addition to their office space, all clients receive other significant services as part of their fee, including reception at the main entrance, a professional business address with a private mailbox, designated parking, a networked printer/copier/scanner, fax machine, office furnishings, high speed internet services, kitchen facilities, and conference and training space. 2013 Business Guide

and earnings, or that they have the capital to sustain themselves until they reach certain milestones, they should to stay in their current environment, wherever that may be, but as soon as they can demonstrate a business model that’s scalable, we are ready to work with them to bring them into our incubator family.” As part of their lease agreement, clients understand they are responsible for reporting their economic progress to Henson, with all information provided by the clients handled as strictly confidential information. “But,” Henson remarked, “our stakeholders want to know how our clients are doing so I provide them with general reports that show our clients as a group. My tactical goal is to see that each client is moving forward on his or her goals.” Henson commented, “All of us involved in the Mason Enterprise Center in Leesburg/ Loudoun want to assist our clients so they are moving steadily to the point where in two or three years they can leave 202 Church Street and successfully go out into the market on their own, having achieved evident goals, and established a plan and a structure for their business that will make them successful.”

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Profile for Susan Henson

Chamber magazine2013 mec leesburg  

Chamber magazine2013 mec leesburg  

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