Virginia Economic Review: First Quarter 2019

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A behind-the-scenes look at why Virginia won HQ2








Atop this 4,220-foot summit, the High Knob area of Stone Mountain in Southwest Virginia, a clear sky can produce views of the surrounding mountain ridges in Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

Contents 14 The Big Reveal A behind-the-scenes look at why Virginia won HQ2

26 The New Dominion Learn why so many tech companies, large and small, choose Virginia

44 On Target for Tech Talent A look at Virginia’s plan to double its tech-talent pipeline

56 High Tech Comes to the Coalfields How Southwest Virginia entered the information age

04 Facts & Figures 06 Virginia Wins 10 Remaking Economic Development 12 Perspectives on the Tech Labor Market 24 Greg LeRoy Puts Good Jobs First 32 Technology Throughout Virginia 38 Tim Sands’ Bold Vision for Virginia Tech 54 Select Technology Companies in Virginia 58 International Trade Spotlight 62 Regional Spotlights 70 Economic Development Partners in Virginia


Our Inaugural Issue I am delighted to share this inaugural issue of Virginia Economic Review – a new quarterly focused on one of America’s premier locations for business, education, and quality of life: the Commonwealth of Virginia.

This issue also features interviews with several thought leaders, including Amy Liu on remaking economic development, Greg LeRoy on the future of incentives, and Peter Cappelli and Dan Restuccia on America’s tech talent challenges.

Each issue of Virginia Economic Review will provide an inside look at Virginia’s economy, its diverse array of world-class companies, its amazing talent, and its stunning natural beauty, as well as insights from national thought leaders.

Virginia has embraced the tech sector – from artificial intelligence to cybersecurity to cloud computing and beyond – as its top traded-sector employment growth opportunity. Recognizing that tech sector growth is all about building the tech talent pipeline, Virginia is making historic investments to do just that. Learn more inside.

This first issue of Virginia Economic Review is all about tech companies, tech talent, and tech education in one of America’s top states for tech. After Amazon issued its RFP for HQ2 in 2017, few initially considered Virginia to be a leading contender. The New York Times picked Denver. The Wall Street Journal picked Dallas. Moody’s Analytics and various oddsmakers didn’t include any Virginia location in the top 10. Our feature article tells the story of how (and why) Amazon came to choose Arlington in Northern Virginia for the biggest economic development win in modern U.S. history.


If there are particular topics you would like us to cover or thought leaders you think we should interview in a future issue, please reach out to me at Best regards,

Stephen Moret President and CEO Virginia Economic Development Partnership


The Roanoke region is home to 600 miles of trails, 22 miles of urban greenways, 24 rivers and creeks, and 300,000 acres of national forest.

Facts Figures No. 4 Best States for Business ONE SPOT FROM 2017

No. 1 Quality of Life No. 1 Regulatory Environment 4



No. 4 America’s Top States for Business THREE SPOTS FROM 2017


No. 3

Highest Concentration of Tech Workers in the Country


No. 5

Fastest Growing Tech Talent Market in North America — Richmond, VA

FA C T S & F I G U R E S



No. 1 Top States for Higher Education


No. 3

No. 10

No. 30

Virginia Wins Micron Technology, Inc. recently announced plans to invest a monumental $3 billion to increase memory production at its semiconductor manufacturing operation in the City of Manassas, creating 1,100 new jobs by 2030. The expansion represents the largest corporate investment in modern Virginia history, and with the company’s annual exports expected to increase by more than $1 billion by completion, it will cement Micron’s position as one of Virginia’s largest exporters. The company has demonstrated a strong commitment to its Manassas facility, which employs over 1,300 and has undergone several expansions and reinvestments since its establishment in 2001. Micron will expand its existing manufacturing site in the City of Manassas and construct a new, state-of-the-art fabrication facility and R&D center. The R&D Center of Excellence will focus valuable talent and resources on advanced technologies such as unmanned and autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things. Alongside the record investment and job creation of the Manassas expansion, the company’s philanthropic organization, The Micron Foundation, established a $1 million fund for Virginia colleges and universities to advance STEM and STEM-related diversity programs. The investment provides grants and funding for programs, organizations, and individuals at state colleges and universities that inspire and enable future innovators, with an emphasis on women and underrepresented minorities in STEM.

Micron plans to invest $3 billion to increase memory production at its semiconductor manufacturing operation in the City of Manassas, creating 1,100 new jobs by 2030.


Gerber Products Company, a leader in early childhood nutrition and subsidiary of Nestlé S.A., will invest $5 million to relocate its U.S. headquarters from New Jersey to Arlington County. The project will create 150 new jobs. “Northern Virginia offers a great quality of life for our employees and provides access to strong talent for our current and future needs.” Bill Partyka, President and CEO

1901 Group, a trusted provider of IT services for the public and private sectors, will invest $4 million to expand its Enterprise IT Operations Center headquartered in Montgomery County and its corporate offices in Fairfax County. The company plans to add 580 new jobs in Montgomery County and 225 new jobs in Fairfax County by 2021. “Our goal of creating high-quality IT jobs clustered in rural areas is the best way to improve quality and performance for the federal government, especially as the pace of cloud adoption increases. Our revenue and headcount growth are proof that this is the next big trend in rural IT jobs.” Sonu Singh, CEO

Framatome, a designer and supplier of nuclear steam supply system and nuclear equipment, services, and fuel for high levels of safety and performance, will relocate its North American corporate headquarters from Charlotte, North Carolina, to the City of Lynchburg. The headquarters move makes Lynchburg the central hub for Framatome’s 2,300 North American employees, more than half of whom are in central Virginia. “When it comes to recruiting, we have access to some of the best university programs in the country, and the region offers a growing diversity of activities and opportunities that make this a great place to live and work.” Gary Mignogna, President and CEO



Selected Wins Central Virginia WillowTree, Inc.

Jobs: 200 new jobs CapEx: $12.3 MM Locality: Albemarle County

Greater Richmond averhealth

Jobs: 50 new jobs CapEx: $325,000 Locality: Henrico County

Cascades Inc.

I-81/I-77 Crossroads

Northern Shenandoah Valley



Jobs: 20 new jobs, 39 retrained jobs CapEx: $1.3 MM Locality: Washington County

Jobs: 61 new jobs CapEx: $10.3 MM Locality: City of Winchester

Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, Inc.

Northern Virginia

Jobs: 160 new jobs CapEx: $35 MM Locality: Smyth County/ Washington County

Jobs: 140 new jobs CapEx : $275 MM Locality: Hanover County

Lynchburg Region

Ocean Network Express


Jobs: 129 new jobs CapEx: $2.5 MM Locality: City of Richmond

Jobs: 1,300 retained jobs Locality: Lynchburg

Rising Tides Solutions, LLC (RTS Labs)

Middle Peninsula

Jobs: 90 new jobs CapEx: $926,500 Locality: Henrico County

Hampton Roads M S International, Inc. Jobs: 20 new jobs CapEx: $4.65 MM Locality: City of Norfolk

Standard Calibrations, Inc.

Jobs: 89 new jobs CapEx: $9.6 MM Locality: City of Chesapeake

Premier Tech

Jobs: 20 new jobs CapEx: $1.89 MM Locality: King and Queen County

New River Valley 1901 Group

1901 Group

Jobs: 805 new jobs CapEx: $4 MM Locality: Fairfax County/ Montgomery County

Amazon, Inc.

Jobs: 25,000 new jobs CapEx: $2.5 B Locality: Arlington County


Jobs: 600 new jobs CapEx: $28.4 MM Locality: Fairfax County

Aurora Flight Sciences Jobs: 135 new jobs CapEx: $13.75 MM Locality: City of Manasas

Discovery, Inc.

Jobs: 240 new jobs CapEx: $16 MM Locality: Loudoun County

Jobs: 805 new jobs CapEx: $4 MM Locality: Fairfax County/ Montgomery County

Roanoke Region Empire Bakery Commissary, LLC

Harlow Group Ltd.


Jobs: 45 new jobs CapEx: $392,000 Locality: Fairfax County

Jobs: 75 new jobs CapEx: $10.4 MM Locality: Franklin County


WestRock Company

Monogram Food Solutions, LLC

Jobs: 150 new jobs CapEx: $5 MM Locality: Arlington County

Jobs: 60 retrained jobs CapEx: $248.4 MM Locality: City of Covington/ Alleghany County

Jobs: 49 new jobs CapEx: $8 MM Locality: City of Danville/ Pittsylvania County

Jobs: 300 new jobs CapEx: $30 MM Locality: Henry County


Jobs: 90 new jobs Locality: Fairfax County

Shenandoah Valley


InterChange Cold Storage, LLC

Jobs: 500 new jobs CapEx: $30 MM Locality: Fairfax County

MAG Aerospace

Jobs: 120 new jobs CapEx: $5.5 MM Locality: Fairfax County

Micron Technology, Inc. Jobs: 1,100 new jobs CapEx: $3 B Locality: City of Manassas


Jobs: 300 new jobs CapEx: $6 MM Locality: Fairfax County

Two Six Labs, LLC

Jobs: 87 new jobs CapEx: $3.4 MM Locality: Arlington County

Press Glass

Jobs: 212 new jobs CapEx: $43.55 MM Locality: Henry County

Jobs: 88 new jobs CapEx: $41.6 MM Locality: Rockingham County


Jobs: 30 new jobs, 117 retrained jobs CapEx: $14 MM Locality: Augusta County

Southern Virginia BGF Industries, Inc.

CapEx: $7 MM Locality: City of Danville/ Pittsylvania County

Essel Propack

Jobs: 45 new jobs CapEx: $31.2 MM Locality: City of Danville

Northern Neck Carry-On Trailer, Inc. Jobs: 42 new jobs CapEx: $1.6 MM Locality: Westmoreland County

Roanoke Region

New River Valley

Southwest Virginia I-81 I-77 Crossroads



Northern Shenandoah Valley

Washington, D.C.

Northern Virginia Shenandoah Valley Central Virginia

Greater Fredericksburg

Greater Richmond

Northern Neck

Middle Peninsula

Lynchburg Region

Eastern Shore South Central Virginia

Southern Virginia

Virginia’s Gateway Region

Hampton Roads

Greater Williamsburg

Remaking Economic Development Amy Liu is vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings and the Adeline M. and Alfred I. Johnson Chair in Urban and Metropolitan Policy. Most recently, Liu authored Remaking Economic Development: The Markets and Civics of Continuous Growth and Prosperity, in which she argues that city and metropolitan leaders must adopt a broader vision of economic development that can deliver economic growth, prosperity, and inclusion for all residents. VEDP’s president and CEO, Stephen Moret, recently spoke with Liu about the future of economic development.


Stephen Moret: You’ve worked and spoken a lot on the notion of shifting from an attraction-heavy economic development model to more of a balanced multi-mode attack. Can you share what that really means to you and how you see it playing out in the country right now? Amy Liu: We have to have a broader toolbox. The real purpose of all of our collective efforts should be to put our communities, our regions on a trajectory of higher growth over time that comes from the increasing productivity of firms, workers, and industries, that ultimately increases the employment and incomes of everyone in our community, no matter where they live. It is that dynamic system of innovation, human capital contribution, inventive industries, and having more people and more firms participate in the economy that generates ongoing growth. Growth that is successful ought to be organic. Our strategies ought to create the conditions for long-term wealth creation, not simply pursue short-term transactions. Economic development should be about creating the conditions in which people, places, and industries continue to thrive and innovate. Getting the purpose right is really important. If there’s one lesson out of Amazon HQ2, it is that the knowledge sectors of the economy prize the attributes listed in Amazon’s RFP. They are the ability of a region to produce a technical workforce, provide infrastructure choice, including infrastructure


that connects you to global markets and global talent, and offer a high quality, sustainable place. The last asset was diversity ..... economic development needs to have its eyes squarely focused on these attributes. Moret: While the kind of prescription that you've laid out clearly would be a compelling way to build diverse, growth-oriented, dynamic economies, it is something that would build over time. One of the challenges economic development practitioners face is that so many of the funders of economic development programs (e.g., state legislatures, city councils, and private sector investors) that are putting money into regional and local economic development groups want to focus on "wins" — largely jobs and capital investment from project announcements. What do you think we could do to help to better position our economic development leaders to have the context that would support your vision? Liu: There is a light bulb going off in many communities around the country about how the traditional metrics of economic success are not only harder to achieve, but they also seem increasingly out of tune with the dynamic changes in the economy. Economic professionals, like all of us, want to be working on something of relevance. They want to be relevant. They want to make a difference in their community. We have to re-educate everyone about what success looks like in the modern era when there's disruption in the retail sector, rise of automation, and a leaner manufacturing sector that is producing fewer jobs than it once did. Today’s economy is service-oriented and knowledge-based. It is going to run on the ideas, entrepreneurialism, and skills of people. So future growth and wealth creation will come from investments in workers, including workers from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Economic developers are realizing the critical nature of talent development in economic growth. One of our collaborations with economic development professionals has been around the power of global trade in driving economic growth. Even in this policy climate, we must embrace the reality that we are in a hyper-integrated global economy with consumers eager for U.S. products and services. This is not just about FDI but also the importance of helping local companies continue to innovate and create goods and services that can compete on the global stage. Moret: What do you think is holding us back from better meeting the talent needs that are out there in the country? Liu: I think the technology is occurring faster than the educational systems are adapting it. We need to accelerate

that. That's why you're starting to see coding schools and other nontraditional institutions emerging into the training marketplace. We need to focus on a mid-tech workforce. In a review of 90 percent of all U.S. occupations, we have found that more than three-quarters of them have rapidly digitalized, including traditional pathway jobs. Many of these jobs do not require a worker to have a four-year college degree. I would love to see more K-12 and two-year institutions do more to prepare our young workforce for future jobs with basic computer literacy, software programming, and other data analytics. Moret: Shifting gears to HQ2, you’ve written a lot about that topic. Can you share your thoughts on Virginia’s proposal now that you have had time to review it? Liu: On the surface, I definitely applaud Virginia for putting together a response to the HQ2 opportunity in a way that is not just about subsidies, and, in fact, the subsidies were not the kind of rip-off that most people were worried about. Virginia took a little bit of the sting off any of the criticism about its package. The other thing I thought was very smart about the Virginia application was the focus on the talent pipeline. Unlike many other applications, Virginia did not offer an Amazonspecific solution and instead chose to invest in engineering and broader skills development through its higher education and K-12 institutions. It actually said, “We're going to commit to producing a technical workforce across the state over this 10- to 20-year period so that this location, your new home state, will continue to be a source of talent development for Amazon or other tech companies.” That was super smart. You matched the subsidies with investments in the ecosystem, investments in the institutions that are going to last in the community. I thought the Virginia response actually reflected the future of economic development. Moret: Recognizing that Virginia views this multi-sector tech focus as our biggest traded-sector employment growth opportunity, if you could pick one thing that we should get right in the next five years, what would it be? Liu: Statewide, I think the answer is that talent is at the center of economic development, and that the state commitment for improving the talent pipeline across the state should be considered a down payment for additional action, and that it shouldn't just engage Northern Virginia, but it really needs to be a way of empowering the other regions to also contribute to that tech pipeline. You now have this opening to spread this innovation capability and opportunity to more parts of the state and to more people in your workforce. The question is, how do you do that with intentionality? To grow, the state needs to create deep local partnerships.


Perspectives on the Tech Labor Market

Peter Cappelli is the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School and Director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources. Virginia Economic Review: Is there a tech skills gap in the U.S.? If so, how do you think it could be addressed? Peter Cappelli: Let’s start out first with this idea of what a skills gap means, because this is the big problem, that people use that term to mean all kinds of things. Let’s just say, is there a tight labor market for IT workers? I think the evidence on that is, it depends what part of IT you’re talking about. There’s enormous demand for very good programmers and one of the reasons why there is so much demand is that it is hard for the employer to predict what will be in demand even more than a year or so out. Part of the problem is, by the time the kids are already on a path, the labor market changes, particularly in tech. How the students could predict this is pretty impossible to know, but it does suggest that there is a problem there in communication for sure, and connection. In the extent to which there are things we can do anything about, it is all about shortening the communication ties between employers and also employees, and particularly employers and students. I think another thing to think about on the IT side is that one of the reasons why the labor market is tighter than it otherwise ought to be is that people don’t stay in these jobs very long. VER: When we look at the future of the tech sector, is there any way to gauge where demand is going to go, or areas that would be good, long-term bets? Cappelli: I think the short answer is, of course you can’t do it very far out. We can do a better job than we’re doing right now, but we’re not going to be able to tell high school students what’s going to be hot the year they graduate. Part of that is the students themselves are adjusting all the time, and there’s pretty good evidence that they’re spending a lot of time trying to figure out what’s hot. They listen to the pundits because their parents listen to the pundits. A job could be really hot this year, and could still be hot in terms of overall demand when the kids graduate, but so many people have poured into that field, like nursing, right, depending on where you are in the U.S., that it’s no longer hot in terms of pay.


VER: Do you think there are things that students or colleges or policy makers could do to lower the incidence rate of initial underemployment for graduates, or do you think it’s more that there’s just not enough college-level jobs? Cappelli: Well, I think the problem certainly starts with the supply, that there’s just not enough of these jobs. It’s an interesting problem thinking about remediating these issues, because at heart they are problems that are caused by employers not being always particularly rational. There are biases that employers have, like not wanting to hire anybody who has not been hired before. There might be some reason for that. The question is not just how big an issue should that really be for you. Then for public policy, it’s a little quirky to say, “Okay, employers are doing dumb things here and let’s see, how do we figure out how to get around what they’re doing?” That’s conceptually a little quirky, but there we are. VER: Let’s shift gears to the Amazon HQ2, what we could learn from that. Amazon suggested talent was the biggest factor that drove the decision to initially select New York and Northern Virginia for its new headquarters locations. Those two markets are some of the most expensive metros for talent and costs of living in the country. Why do you think it made sense for them to go there considering this? Cappelli: Well, the earlier version of this story was just Silicon Valley per se, a place where everybody says for the employers it’s really difficult to run a business here, a lot of regulations, really expensive, commuting is a pain, all that stuff, and yet why is everybody here? Well, everybody’s here because the employees are here that we want to hire and the employees are here because everybody else is here, right? The reason for those agglomerations, of course, is because employers want to hire on a just-in-time basis. The reason they’re there is they want experienced hires, and where do you find experienced hires who are in your niche industry and have had 10 years experience with these particular types of problems? The only place you find that is with density.


Dan Restuccia is chief product and analytics officer of Burning Glass Technologies, a labor market analytics firm. He leads the firm’s efforts to harness big data and illuminate real-time trends in the job market.

Virginia Economic Review: Is there a tech skills gap in the U.S.? If so, how do you think it could be addressed?

about giving them advice of what skills will be necessary for them to be successful in current and future tech careers?

Dan Restuccia: It’s actually really important when you’re talking about skills gaps to measure and assess it at the level of skill.

Restuccia: I think one thing is recognizing that the tech sector is a big place. People should be thoughtful about what is within tech, what is the kind of job that they are looking for? Then, zero in on a specific domain.

That’s particularly important in the tech workforce, because software developers are not all the same. Network engineers are not all the same. What we find is that when you look at the skills gap at the level of individual skills, you certainly see that there are skills which are much harder for employers to find. It’s typically driven there by the increasing pace of demand and the inability for supply to catch up in real time. VER: Why do you think employers are saying they’re having difficulties securing tech workers? Is it that there are not enough folks out there that have “tech skills”? Or that they just don’t have the right skills employers are looking for? Restuccia: I think that is largely it. Employers can increase demand quite quickly. The ability of job seekers to respond in real time is not there in the same way. On one hand, you can’t have a supply-side system that responds immediately for high-growth skills, because those skills take time to learn. On the other hand, we right now have very poor and very weak signaling to students and job seekers around what it is that employers are looking for and how can you as a job seeker make sure that you have the skills that employers are looking for today and will be looking for one-to-five years down the road so that you can make yourself more appealing to those employers. VER: If there’s someone today that’s just getting started and they’re interested in working in the tech sector, how do you think

If you take steps every 12 to 18 months to take stock, do a landscape scan and say, “What is it that people in my field are doing today?” That means you never get caught behind. I think where workers get caught is when they are multiple generations behind in terms of the technology they know versus what employers expect of them. VER: Amazon suggested talent was the biggest factor that drove the decision to initially select New York and Northern Virginia for its new headquarters locations. Those two markets are some of the most expensive metros for talent and costs of living in the country. Why do you think it made sense for them to go there considering this? Restuccia: For a place like Amazon and the number of workers that they’re hiring, the question for Amazon was not a cost-driven one. Their optimization was not, “Where can I get the most workers most affordably?” Their question was, “Where can I get the tens of thousands of tech workers that I need?” I think they were driven to New York and the Washington region because those are cities that have large tech workforces from which to draw. They have robust pipelines of new tech workers coming in, both through local universities and also as cities that are relatively easy to attract people to move to.


V The Big Reveal When Amazon announced Northern Virginia as the location for its new headquarters (HQ2), it revealed more than the winning region. It revealed Virginia’s not-so-secret identity: Technology Talent Juggernaut. Get a behind-the-scenes look at how Virginia won HQ2, and see how its current and future tech talent sealed the deal.



batteries slipped into cushioned white envelopes, bulky bed frames packed with care, and yes, even paperback books with pages you can physically turn — the product that got it all started. These packages find their way home from more than 175 fulfillment centers dotted across the globe including six in Virginia, and often arriving the next (or even the same) day. But in the days leading up to October 19, 2017, Amazon flipped the script. People were now sending packages to them. They came postmarked from Boston, Austin, Denver, and Dallas. There were binders packed with colorful printouts featuring sleek infographics and bolded digits. These were the responses to Amazon’s ambitious RFP to build a second corporate headquarters (HQ2). When the ecommerce titan released that RFP, economic developers, elected officials, higher education leaders, and others rushed to package proposals positioning their cities and regions as the best possible suitors for up to 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion in capital expenditures.

The primary driver of this entire project was talent. Not just day one talent, but the opportunity to evaluate a talent pipeline. HOLLY SULLIVAN Head of Worldwide Economic Development, Amazon

with plans to deliver at least 25,000 jobs and $2.5 billion in capital investment. This is the story of how Virginia, a dark horse and (later) frontrunner wrapped into one, took home HQ2. The game plan comprised a critical mass of collaboration, leveraging decades of favorable public policy decisions and shining a light on one of Virginia’s greatest assets: its thriving tech sector and talent.

In all, 238 proposals landed at Amazon’s doorstep, including one each from Greater Richmond, Hampton Roads, and Northern Virginia (NOVA), which included the City of Alexandria, as well as Arlington, Loudoun, and Fairfax counties. All told, Virginia’s submissions weighed in V I R G I N I A’ S T A L E N T S H O W at 27 pounds. According to bookmakers Amazon’s RFP laid out many preferences and major prognosticators with a platform, that one might expect from such a robust Virginia was a longshot, with none of its development project: proximity to an locations being picked to win. airport, a stable and business-friendly environment, as well as mentions of By January 2018, the HQ2 field was thinned sound tax structures and incentives. to 20 communities, including NOVA and its four proposed sites. A second, 900But for the Virginia Economic page response was prepared. And then in Development Partnership (VEDP), which early November, after more site visits and was wrangling proposals, as well as local interviews, Virginia got the news that had economic developers on the ground, slowly leaked through the selection process something else stuck out: talent. It wasn’t vacuum: the Commonwealth’s National shouted out in bolded, all-caps headers, Landing location straddling Alexandria and but it was woven into the RFP subtly and Arlington was selected as the HQ2 location, strategically time and again.


“They signaled to us in their RFP that talent was going to be a huge piece,” said Stephanie Landrum, president and CEO of Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP). “It might be the underlying reason we needed to work together.” Added Stephen Moret, VEDP president and CEO: “As far as we know, no other state made higher education the focus we did. It was the first time in Virginia we’ve done something of this scale with economic development and education.” These were more than mere hunches; they were accurate assessments of Amazon’s motivation. “The primary driver of this entire project was talent,” said Holly Sullivan, head of worldwide economic development at Amazon and chief negotiator. “Not just day one talent, but the opportunity to evaluate a talent pipeline.” Make no mistake: tech talent was simultaneously one of Virginia’s greatest

Crystal City, Arlington

assets as well as the Commonwealth’s No. 1 opportunity for job growth, a dichotomy that also played out when you started stacking NOVA’s cities and counties and connecting the data points: �

With nearly 50 percent of the populace 25 and older holding at least a bachelor’s degree, the Greater Washington, D.C., area, including NOVA, is the most educated region in the nation. (Meanwhile, Seattle, the home of Amazon’s original HQ , comes in just shy of 40 percent). The region produces more computer science graduates than any other metropolitan area in the country. With the second-most tech workers in the United States, including the thirdlargest pool of software developers, NOVA possessed a ready base of talent.

When weighed against the other cities who sat above Amazon’s Top 20 cut line, the D.C. MSA’s concentration of tech talent sat alone atop the list.

The synergy didn’t end there. When looking at the demographics of NOVA’s workforce, it checked another of Amazon’s big boxes: diversity. �

Greater D.C. is among the most diverse regions in the country, with non-whites making up 45 percent of the population and 28 percent of residents born abroad.

Focusing on the tech workforce, 29 percent are non-native workers. Likewise, 29 percent are women, numbers that are much higher than the national benchmarks.

Greater D.C. and NOVA’s communities are ranked among the most LGBTQ-friendly in the country.

As Amazon has stated, day one talent is a boon for NOVA — and a key driver that led to their selection for HQ2. But what about day two? Or day 3,650? There was a plan, an innovative and ambitious one. Similar to many

components of the HQ2 solution, it wasn’t the Amazon RFP that started the work. It just accelerated it. “Amazon allowed us to do this quicker than planned,” VEDP’s Moret said of bridging the tech talent gap. “We reached out to higher education leaders across the Commonwealth to see how much they would be willing to grow their tech- talent programs. It was a jump ball, an opportunity to play.” VEDP invited all public colleges and universities as well as community colleges across Virginia to help craft a bold vision for a historic tech-talent pipeline initiative. Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, George Mason University, and other institutions came to the table to make commitments and refine the details. In broad strokes, the plan and promise is to double Virginia’s tech graduates statewide, investing up to $1.1 billion in new state support to expand the talent base by more than 1,700 degrees annually in computer science and related fields.



In addition to that objective, Virginia has also committed to launching a tech campus to spur additional tech talent, Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus, as well as expanding George Mason’s Arlington campus, and extending the pipeline by investing more in K-12 computer science education. The investment was a three-pronged approach, providing performance-based assessments for bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees, investing $50 million over 20 years in K-12 education, and creating internship programming to connect higher education students to tech jobs. For Virginia Tech and Theresa Mayer, the school’s vice president for research and

innovation, the Innovation Campus fit in with a marked shift in the way higher education and industry partner up: fewer but more holistic engagements.

from the entire region that all have specialties and curriculum that support the needs of the entire region.”

These discussions included ramping up “I think the strategy VEDP and Stephen the involvement of demographics that are underrepresented in Virginia’s tech [Moret] took, as he really explored making higher education a very integral part of the talent pipeline. package, was an incredibly strategic move,” “As we look at the talent pipeline, we’re Mayer said. “It was a really amazing process where we went through many steps asking what we can we do at a K-12 — reviews, site visits, and final negotiations level for women and underrepresented with the company. We took input from minorities,” Mayer said. Amazon and in real time adapted the plan to be more responsive to their needs.” It’s an area where Virginia is already performing in the top tier, ranking fourth Added Amazon’s Sullivan: “We met with nationwide for the percentage of students several leaders with higher education who have passed an AP STEM exam, in

There is a larger share of residents with bachelor’s degrees and above in NOVA than in any other large metropolitan area Level of educational attainment Percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher (%) Arlington Alexandria Fairfax Loudoun Greater D.C. San Jose San Francisco Boston Raleigh Austin Denver Seattle Minneapolis New York



U.S. average 33



39 39 38




46 45








addition to recently expanding access for K-12 students to STEM and computer science education.

Virginia Tech

The Innovation Campus, a $1 billion graduate studies project that will be located in Alexandria a mere jaunt from HQ2, is a massive stake in the ground for this new way of thinking. “It’s not just thinking about being a degree mill,” Mayer said of Virginia’s higher education partners’ role in supporting this evolved approach to creating industry partnerships. “It’s about thinking and delivering where you see the leading tech companies going.”

The greater D.C. area has more annual computer science graduates than all other metropolitan areas New computer science graduates, annually (bachelor’s degree and above) Number of new computer science graduates, 2015


New York









Greater D.C.

Los Angeles 3,653



Atlanta Dallas 2,049






f V ir g i nia | 2






As it turns out, in the world of innovation, productivity and creativity can outweigh labor and real estate costs. ENRICO MORETTI The New Geography of Jobs

ODDS & ENDS With four of Virginia’s 10 initially proposed sites spanning NOVA — from Loudoun to Fairfax and Arlington counties in addition to the City of Alexandria — there was a looming concern, a counterbalance to the region’s upside. “We were worried almost the whole way about cost,” VEDP’s Moret said, not knowing how Amazon would weigh cost of living vs. talent and other advantages NOVA touted. “One really insightful moment for me occurred while interviewing tech execs in NOVA, when we asked, ‘Excluding Silicon Valley, how do we compare to other tech hubs?’” The answer, in most cases, was that the comparison was quite favorable to NOVA. There is also a flip side to the thinking that in-demand urban areas are cost-prohibitive. It’s the belief that the clustering of talent stokes productivity exponentially, and that bright minds illuminate an area by more than the sum of their combined lumens.

“Companies appear to locate in absolutely the worst places: they pick very expensive areas — the Bostons, San Franciscos, and New Yorks of the world. With sky-high wages and office rents, these are among the costliest places in America to operate a business. We would expect these cities to be unattractive for firms, especially those that compete globally,” Moretti wrote. “… As it turns out, in the world of innovation, productivity and creativity can outweigh labor and real estate costs.” But to test that clustering theory in NOVA, it would require a win. The world was following the Amazon HQ2 derby with great intrigue, and NOVA was climbing the rankings. According to the odds crunched by entities including Paddy Power and Bovada, NOVA wasn’t in the top 20 of potential sites likely to be selected for HQ2 back in November of 2017. Instead, Atlanta, Austin, and Philadelphia led the way, while Washington, D.C., checked in at No. 11. Two months later in January 2018, NOVA cracked the field, picked as the 19th most likely HQ2 site, while Boston grabbed the lead. By March, and all the way through August, NOVA emerged as a favorite. So, was Amazon watching the armchair prognostication from home?

“We saw clustering in Seattle,” Amazon’s Sullivan said. “That takes time; that does not happen overnight.” It’s a concept that rings true with Moret, who hoped that Amazon would borrow a page or two from The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti, an economist and professor at the University of California, Berkley.

“In short, no,” Amazon’s Sullivan said. “Our team was very focused on decision-making around the analytics and the primary drivers of this project.”


A ‘TECH-TONIC’ SHIFT It wasn’t quite speed dating. But it was close. With just six weeks to put together sweeping initial proposals for HQ2, NOVA’s counties and cities — which traditionally pitched from within their own borders — got together, and got to work. But they didn’t need icebreakers. That’s because Alexandria, Arlington, Loudoun, and Fairfax weren’t starting from scratch. Over the past few years, they had been partnering up, from a joint showing at annual innovation showcase South by Southwest (SXSW) to a shared courting of Nestlé and a handful of other collaborations. “These collaborations were extraordinarily helpful to all of us,” said Victor Hoskins, director of Arlington Economic Development (AED). “These were the moments when it occurred to us that we needed to collaborate more. And when Amazon came along, it just made sense.” His counterpart in Alexandria shared the sentiment. “That had been a marked change from what we had been doing in

decades past,” Landrum said. “In retrospect, that work that we had done ended up being a foundation for our collaboration.” It was a significant pivot for NOVA’s disparate parts. Not only had they worked independently previously, even competing against each other for business, but they also only approached opportunities with data that fit neatly within their borders. Now, with the help of VEDP, they were able to access and leverage regionally defined data points, which turned a good story into an irresistible one. “They never had a full regional perspective before,” VEDP’s Stephen Moret said. Nor did they have a regional organization to foster collaboration. “This marked a whole new shift in thinking,” Moret added. As a result, four NOVA localities — with VEDP at their side — contemplated joining up for an Amazon pitch. “We all very quickly agreed to have an exploratory meeting to discuss how and if we could submit jointly,” Landrum said.

Illustration of Pen Place Public Plaza, National Landing

At first, with multiple regions within the Commonwealth all vying for HQ2, the collaboration was careful and controlled, by design. But that changed when Amazon thinned the herd of potential HQ2 destinations down to 20 in January of 2018, making NOVA the sole remaining Commonwealth contender. Amazon’s site selection team visited all four potential NOVA locations in late February 2018, but when they paid a follow-up visit in July, they only made one stop: the National Landing location spanning Arlington and Alexandria. “At first, it seemed to be a cast of thousands, said Matt Kelly, CEO of JBG SMITH, as 238 regions vied for HQ2. “It was at that point (in July) that we really became one team.” JBG SMITH, a publicly-traded real estate investment trust headquartered in Chevy Chase, MD, was the final piece of NOVA’s HQ2 puzzle. Those tackling the tech-talent pipeline for Virginia’s HQ2 team weren’t the only ones reading between the lines of the RFP and engaging in follow-up conversations with the ecommerce and innovation giant. Kelly also saw just how uniquely National Landing, a recently rebranded area comprising Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard, fit the bill for Amazon. The RFP requested a location within a 45-minute drive of a major airport. You can walk from Reagan National Airport to National Landing. The RFP also stated the need for 5 million sq. ft. to begin, with as much as 8 million required to accommodate the planned build-out and growth. National Landing had 17 million sq. ft. of commercial space to spare. Then there was the issue of affordable housing. The Washington, D.C., region’s 7 percent rent growth rate from 2012 to 2017 made it only one of three cities in Amazon’s HQ2 Top 20 to experience single-digit rent growth over the past five years.



North District South District

Four Mile Run Trail


Central District



Metropolitan Park


Water Park RM

Old Town Alexandria 5 min.

Long Bridge Park


Virginia Railway Express

Aquatic Center

Future Airport Pedestrian Bridge

Mount Vernon Trail

Mount Vernon Trail

Georgetown 15 min. RONALD

National Landing

Additionally, the region’s affordable housing options would be ramped up by working with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to deliver a new regional initiative, increasing options via federally allocated Low Income Housing Credits, and having Arlington County and the City of Alexandria fund affordable housing from revenues generated by Amazon’s presence in the community, among other steps. “There are a lot of cities where they have neighborhoods close to the urban core, but it’s not that common to have all these factors coincide with availability of space,” Kelly said. Sure, National Landing overlooked the Capitol and hugged the Potomac River. But there remained abundant work to be done in order to transform National Landing from a concept pitched on paper to a reality. “It’s been long overdue for reinvestment of new and better amenities,” Kelly said. That’s exactly what JBG SMITH intended on doing, from developing lush green spaces to creating mixed-use construction in a walkable, sustainably built community. Then there’s the brand-new transportation system connecting Pentagon City, Crystal City, Alexandria, and Columbia Pike. “Amazon gives us a real catalyst to do more and do it faster,” Kelly said.





In the near term, Amazon will be taking over space from three buildings that are largely vacant due to a federal government exodus from the area. Kelly explained: “The way this unfolded was that Amazon had spent enough time with us that they knew we were easy to work with in that we were a group that knew how to get to ‘yes’ and how to make deals … Our approach is, ‘Let’s figure what our customer wants, and let’s just put a price on it …’ We find we get a better customer reception when we’re less rigid.” Added Amazon’s Sullivan: “We wanted to choose a location where we could be successful as a company, but also needed to choose a location where our employees can thrive … a region of inclusivity and diversity.”

Capitol Hill 10 min. Washington Nationals Park 15 min.

“That was a lens that we all looked at this project through from the beginning,” Alexandria’s Landrum said. “It was why we were able to put in so much time and energy. We know it wasn’t just good for the region, but for the Commonwealth.” Christina Winn, who worked alongside Victor Hoskins at the Arlington Economic Development Team as Director of the Business Investment Group, already saw the collaboration’s potential to generate future wins. “The nice thing with the regional approach is that it created a template and gave us a great way to think about how we can work together moving forward,” she said.

Soon enough, the pundits, handicappers, and data all arrived at the same conclusion: NOVA and New York would win the prize.

L AY I N G T H E G R O U N D W O R K In Crystal City, JBG SMITH had been working to consolidate real estate, amassing some 70 percent of the submarket. This included acquiring some buildings just weeks before the HQ2 deal, with the goal of making it a place that residents will be proud to call home.

Its selection validated the choices Virginia made to dial up its tech talent. And now the entire Commonwealth stands to benefit from the doubling down on the pipeline in K-12 through higher education, as well as other benefits, from rural to urban areas.

At Virginia Tech and other Commonwealth colleges and universities, education trailblazers have worked to create more holistic relationships with strategic industry partners to build tomorrow’s workforce. It’s no longer about internships here and financial

Check and check.


We wanted to choose a location where we could be successful as a company, but also needed to choose a location where our employees can thrive … a region of inclusivity and diversity. HOLLY SULLIVAN Head of Worldwide Economic Development, Amazon

contributions there; it’s about fleshing out robust, mutually beneficial relationships. In Arlington and Alexandria, leaders have been seeking an opportunity to deploy a new economic development strategy informed by conversations within the community. This includes building on the areas’ approved 10-year Capital Improvement neighborhood sector plans, which for National Landing includes transit-oriented, walkable, mixed-use urban environments, as those plans envision considerably more growth than HQ2 requires. The totality of this lead-up work cannot be overestimated. And it’s not all today’s news. Some of the heavy lifting on the public policy front goes back several decades, tracing back to Virginia’s General Assembly decisions to create a vibrant, pro-business climate throughout the Commonwealth. It’s evident in everything from accolades — a No. 2 U.S. News ranking for governance and a No. 4 slotting by CNBC for best state for business — to the bankrolling of key transportation projects including a Metro funding solution and a regional transportation financing solution. Add a Triple-A bond rating, stable business tax structure, and a model education system, from public K-12 schools to one of the most heralded higher education systems in the nation. Dig a little deeper and it becomes crystal clear that Virginia’s Major Employment and Investment (MEI) Commission, which

allows for confidential discussions with elected leaders during review of financing for incentive packages, is an attractive and effective tool when working through the math of such complex, competitive financial packages. Moret emphasized how the Amazon project builds on these past efforts, saying, “With HQ2, Amazon and Virginia share a historic opportunity to build on our complementary strengths while further cementing our respective leadership positions — Amazon as one of the most important private-sector innovators in the world and Virginia as America’s premier state for talent, innovation, and business investment. Through our collaborative efforts, we also have crafted a unique partnership that will establish a new, higher standard for economic development in America.” The cumulative upshot was more than helping Virginia win HQ2; it allowed the Commonwealth to do so without entering a bidding war with other states and to invest in infrastructure that would benefit the entirety of Virginia as opposed to simply buffering Amazon’s bottom line. A prime example of these infrastructure investments is transportation, for which the Commonwealth has committed up to $295 million for robust, multimodal connections between National Landing and the regional transportation system. Additionally, Arlington and Alexandria have committed

$570 million. Capital improvements range from increasing access to Metro with new station entrances to constructing a pedestrian bridge connecting Crystal City and Reagan National Airport. These improvements build on approximately $15 billion in multimodal improvements already planned and funded over the next six years, including investments in highways, transit, rail, and airports. DELIVERING HQ2 Elevated collaboration. A focus on talent, both leveraging Virginia’s existing tech base and fueling future growth. And a foundation of good governance. It’s a winning plan that the Commonwealth has already started delivering to Amazon’s new front door. So, what can it bring Virginia? State officials predict that the Amazon HQ2 collaboration will provide the Commonwealth a net return of more than $3 billion over 20 years — and that’s just the windfall from new state tax revenues. Clearly, growing the tech workforce is the most fertile opportunity for Virginia’s economy. “It’s a major validation,” VEDP’s Moret said. “We very well could be the East Coast IT leader now.” That may just be the competition for Amazon’s HQ2’s biggest reveal of all.


Greg LeRoy Puts Good Jobs First Greg LeRoy is the founder and executive director of Good Jobs First, a national policy resource center promoting corporate and government accountability in economic development. Good Jobs First provides information on best practices in state and local job subsidies. Stephen Moret: We have called on Good Jobs First from time to time for advice on economic development incentives administration, reporting, and accountability. We’ve also regularly read the various reports and position pieces that Good Jobs First puts out.

So, I sought a foundation competition in 1998 called the Stern Family Public Interest Pioneer Award, a national competition. I won that in ‘98 and that’s how I started Good Jobs First.

One question I’ve always wanted to ask you is this: What was it that first drew you to get involved with economic development incentives?

LeRoy: I did. I said there’s this war among the states, there’s a lot of poorly regulated money out there, there’s a lot of people who see ways to fix things. We’ve got the embryonic positive movement on these reforms I’ve documented, but we need kind of a laser-focused watchdog player to do that, and that’s what we try to be at Good Jobs First. We’ll be 21 this year.

Greg LeRoy: This is an accidental career. It’s completely a fluke. I’ve lived most of my adult life in Chicago and I got involved with a group in the early 1980s that was helping people trying to prevent factory closings.

Moret: You proposed it as a concept in a grant competition?

Moret: I don’t know that I actually ever knew that, but I just in my gut felt like you had to have been the founder.

In a previous job I had worked a little bit on incentives, so I knew the alphabet soup. And what happened was we kept finding that factories that had announced to be closing had gotten incentives. They had gotten enterprise zone credits or revenue bonds or property tax abatements. And we would read the fine print to see does this give us any leverage to question the company’s decision to close, and almost always the answer was no, even though that was pretty outrageous.

Moret: As you know, we’ve talked about if we really are trying to make sure that companies are doing what they’ve promised to do, how do we actually measure job creation and payroll, dealing with all that technical stuff. So we’re really grateful for what you guys have done.

In the wake of those things a lot of reforms popped up, I mean rightfully so. A lot of elected officials said look, this is crazy that companies can take the money and then run. We need clawbacks or recapture provisions to protect taxpayers in the event of things like that.

When people think about Good Jobs First in the economic development community, I think the perception is there that Good Jobs First is sort of against all economic development incentives, but I think your perspective is actually a little more nuanced than that.


LeRoy: I’m the only one crazy enough.


LeRoy: Yeah. Thanks for asking. And we’ve never been against incentives, per se. We’re not libertarians in that respect, although we like the fact that some libertarian groups have weighed in on these issues in very principled ways. I think there’s really a kind of left/right common ground on a lot of reforms, especially around transparency. To us, transparency is the cornerstone of everything else, no matter where you’re coming from. Moret: In the absence of a unilateral disarmament by communities and states, what do you think are some of the most important public policy decisions that public officials can make around incentives? LeRoy: Yeah, great question, and I’m actually preparing a memo. We’ve had so many questions about what’s to be done, especially in the wake of the Amazon HQ2 competition. When companies are comparing places they run the costs as well as the benefits, and on the cost side 98 percent of the costs of a typical company aren’t state and local taxes, and therefore those big cost variables almost always derive where companies choose to expand or locate. If public officials would focus 98 percent of their energy on great infrastructure, a great skills base, thinking strategically about clusters and linkages and other things that benefit lots of employers rather than the 2 percent, which is to say shaving off some fraction of 2 percent with incentive deals, they’ll come out ahead in the long run, because that’s where the real action is. Moret: As I think you’re aware, previous work by Good Jobs First as well as conversations you and I had early on and later on had a meaningful influence on Virginia’s approach toward the Amazon HQ2 project, but we didn’t actually share our proposal with you prior to the company’s announcement. I’d be curious now that you’ve had a chance reflect on it, what do you think about Virginia’s approach with Amazon sort of compared to other states, as well as the big focus we placed on tech talent development? LeRoy: You know, it’s obvious that Virginia spent far less than New York and much less than Maryland had offered and much less now that we know what Pennsylvania had offered, which was $9.7 billion for the Pittsburgh bid. In that respect it’s good. I tip my hat to the state in that respect for not spending in the stratosphere the way those other bids had. Without knowing your thinking, debriefing now for the first time after the news comes out, I assume you knew that you had a strong hand.

I’ve also been asked by lots of journalists why there was such a difference in the spending of the deals, and I make the point that New York had historically always been a big mega deal state. Depending on how you sliced the data, by money or deals, New York and Michigan have always been the biggest spenders in this space for really nine-and-ten-figure deals. Moret: Our offer was I think less about feeling like we had a strong hand and probably more about being consistent with Virginia’s tradition of being conservative about these things. We really saw this as an opportunity to work on that broader set of issues that you talked about, with a big focus on tech talent, and ultimately roughly $1 billion we expect to add to our public education institutions to double the production of computer science and related degrees, and we think that made a difference. But it certainly is going to make a difference for our whole tech sector. We’ll never know exactly what Amazon weighted the most. What do you think America, broadly speaking, and economic development practitioners can learn from the Amazon HQ2 process? LeRoy: A couple of things. Pulling back sort of 5,000 feet, I think one of the big teachable takeaways for the general public was oh, my God, what’s this system about? I was surprised at how many even semi-experienced business journalists I had to educate about the way site location searches typically work, and it reflects the fact that this was, I think, only the sixth public auction in U.S. history, right? Three by Boeing, Tesla, and long ago Saturn and General Motors back in the ’80s. The fact that these auctions are conducted secretly almost always means that it’s just an incredibly poorly understood aspect of the economy and government practice. I think that now a lot more people understand how this works, and we’ve certainly taken advantage of it for that purpose, to try to explain the history of Fantus and the site location consulting industry and the 80-year backstory about the way the system has evolved and how typically it’s so secretive. I think there’s going to be a lot more pressure now for the kinds of remedies we’ve been pushing all along, which is to say let’s have caps for subsidies. You may also notice that the whole issue of having formal agreements between neighboring states not to pirate each other is, I think, about to get completely rekindled. Moret: That makes sense. We’re definitely going to be continuing to follow Good Jobs First closely, and I think our site consultant friends and corporate executives are going to find it interesting that we’re featuring you guys in our first issue, which we’re proud about.



The New Dominion Why do so many tech companies, large and small, choose Virginia?

IN 1969, an ad agency in Richmond developed one of the most enduring tourism marketing slogans of all time — Virginia is for Lovers.

In the decades since, the slogan became legendary; not only because it was catchy, but because it was true. Visitors have realized Virginia is easy to love — and in recent years, business leaders have, too. That’s because Virginia’s many charms, along with its diversity and natural beauty, make it a place where talented people want to work and live. “Virginia is a beautiful state, and our associates love how the mountains, the beach, and even the capital of our country are all easily accessible,” says CarMax spokesperson Jennifer Bartusiak.

CACI’s Integrated Solutions Center, Reston

Another big draw for tech employers: the state’s nationally recognized educational system. Virginia was recognized as the No. 1 state for higher education according to SmartAsset in 2019 and ranks No. 7 in

the U.S. for educational attainment, with more than 38 percent of the population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, well above the U.S. average of 30 percent. The Commonwealth’s public universities have dramatically expanded their computer science and related offerings in recent years; in fact, Virginia Tech had been planning an innovation campus in Northern Virginia long before Amazon came knocking. The state’s focus on education “has really brought forward a higher-level and a smarter job seeker than we’ve seen, probably, ever,” says Dana Ailsworth, a longtime talent recruiter for Aquent, who works on behalf of Capital One and other companies. As a result of this investment in human capital, Virginia offers fertile ground for tech companies, and for company headquarters with a tech focus, that want to put down roots and grow — not only in the bustling tech corridor of Northern Virginia, but in every corner of the state.




We sought out dynamic surroundings where associates could be inspired, recharge, and look at our work from different perspectives. JENNIFER BARTUSIAK Public Relations Manager, CarMax

CarMax, Goochland County


B I G O N TA L E N T CarMax is one of the original disruptors, having radically transformed the used-car market since its founding in 1993. Now the largest used-car retailer in the United States, CarMax operates its headquarters out of multiple locations in Greater Richmond. “We’ve found that being headquartered in Richmond has helped us attract top talent with diverse ideas to fuel our growth,” spokesperson Bartusiak says. Its primary office is in the West Creek Business Park, a 3,500-acre wooded enclave that’s also home to more than 8,000 Capital One employees. In 2015, CarMax decided it needed a second, smaller headquarters to house its product innovation team. “When searching for a second location, we wanted a highly collaborative and attractive space to enhance our modern, lean start-up methodologies, and facilitate small team collaboration,” Bartusiak explains. “We sought out dynamic surroundings where


associates could be inspired, recharge, and look at our work from different perspectives.”

says. The average commute time in the Richmond region is 25 minutes, just under the national average.

The company discovered the perfect place in downtown Richmond: a 125-year-old former hat factory on the banks of a historic canal, originally surveyed and planned by George Washington. At CarMax Shockoe, around 100 employees come up with fresh ideas for improving the company’s UX, such as the 360-degree photography used to showcase cars.

RTS Labs is a team of builders specializing in custom software for growth-stage and middle-market companies. Founded in 2010 with two people, the company plans to grow to 200 employees in the next few years. Singh’s employees have been bartenders, chefs, teachers, architects, and military service members. They’ve come from Florida, New York, and Texas; Bulgaria, Serbia, and Sri Lanka.

Jyot Singh, founder and CEO of RTS Labs, found a very different, but equally effective environment for collaboration: the lakeside trails in Innsbrook, an office park just west of Richmond. When his developers are struggling with a particular challenge, they go for walks through the bucolic campus. “That’s when we solve the most complex problems — not just sitting behind a desk,” Singh says. It’s easy to get there, too. “Life is way too short to be stuck in traffic,” Singh

The big draw: great quality of life. “We sell the city first. Then we sell RTS,” Singh says. “I don’t think there’s any city better than this place.” Dana Ailsworth echoes that sentiment. “When we are recruiting, we have a much better story to tell today than we even did 10 years ago,” says Ailsworth. Increasingly, Ailsworth sees young professionals who cut their teeth in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago — and

then seek a better quality of life in Virginia. Richmond, in particular, offers affordable housing, a low cost of living, vibrant culture, a nationally acclaimed food scene, and breweries galore. “It’s a very easy sell,” she says. From an employer’s perspective, Virginia’s biggest draw is its highly educated workforce. Chris Busse is the chief technology officer at APIvista, a company that assists businesses with software integration and builds cloud environment management and deployment processes around software development. “Our work is very under-the-hood,” Busse explains, with no front-end design component, so he’s always looking for software engineers and DevOps engineers who relish that type of work. Luckily, Richmond furnishes its own talent pipeline. Local company Maxx Potential’s innovative apprenticeship program trains and places people who have technical aptitude but limited experience. APIvista has hired five people from there, Busse says. Other

RTS Labs, Henrico County



reliable sources of recruits are the highly regarded Coding Boot Camp offered by the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Engineering, which offers cybersecurity and data science specializations. With resources like these, Busse says, “Richmond is a good town to find the kinds of developers that we’re looking for.” HAMPTON ROADS:

A M I L I T A R Y- T R A I N E D WORKFORCE People from outside the state know Hampton Roads primarily for the Virginia Beach oceanfront, a popular vacation destination. But Virginia Beach and its immediate neighbors — including Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Suffolk — are home to more than 1.7 million people, making it the state’s second most populous area. Hampton Roads has one of the world’s largest populations of active-duty military personnel: approximately 83,000 service members, plus many more civilian personnel. Every year, according to the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce,

Rob Hegedus, Co-founder and CEO, Sera-Brynn


around 13,000 military personnel in the area leave the service, transferring their skills and advanced training to private industry. That’s exactly why cybersecurity compliance and advisory firm SeraBrynn is headquartered in Suffolk, says co-founder and CEO Rob Hegedus: the access to former government employees and the opportunity to take “that highly trained and highly skilled competency and redirect it to the private sector.”

What Sera-Brynn does is “very boutique, but it’s growing tremendously,” Hegedus says. And good people aren’t hard to find. There are a few reasons for this, he says. One, with such a big military presence, “there is a lot, a lot of talent down here.” Two, it’s not hard to talk someone into moving to Hampton Roads. The cost of living is low and the quality of life is high. A competitive salary, plus affordable housing, plus weekends on the water? That’s a winning proposition. SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA:

Sera-Brynn was founded in 2011 by former members of the U.S. intelligence community. They partnered with TowneBank, now one of the largest banks headquartered in Virginia, to offer security and compliance services to financial institutions. Today, Sera-Brynn is listed as one of the world’s top-ranked cyber compliance and risk management firms. The company recently launched a new software-as-a-service offering, backed by blockchain technology, that helps organizations manage their security and regulatory compliance.

T E C H I N N O VAT I O N A M I D M O U N TA I N S P L E N D O R Southwest Virginia is famous for its natural beauty, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the New River, which is one of the oldest rivers on earth. It’s less known for its fast-growing tech community — but that’s about to change. In the university town of Blacksburg, many companies with headquarters elsewhere have found a home for tech-based support operations. There’s, a provider of high-performance blockchain solutions headquartered in Hong Kong, with around 100 employees in southwest Virginia. There’s 1901 Group, a Fairfax-based IT firm that’s building a 40,000-square-foot space and adding 580 new jobs. And there’s Mahindra Group, the India-based global leader in farm equipment, which recently opened a Blacksburg arm to focus on emerging agricultural technology, like grape-picking robots. All three are located at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, a tech-centered research and development park that helps companies make use of intellectual property developed by the adjacent university and provides access to the talent developed at Virginia Tech. The Center takes an active approach to business development, helping connect companies with angel investors, bankers, and other sources of capital. Smaller startups may move to any office space that suits them without penalties, reducing their risk (one company held 26 leases in a two-year period).


Booz Allen Hamilton, Fairfax County

Around 185 companies are located there, employing 3,000 people. “It’s unusual to have that many high-tech people in one place, outside of Northern Virginia,” says Joe Meredith, the Center’s president and CEO. They’re attracted by the wealth of talent coming out of Virginia Tech; by the access to university faculty and researchers; and by the low cost of living and doing business. Blacksburg also offers the rare opportunity to enjoy urban cultural amenities in a rural environment without the hassles of urban life, like traffic. “Sometimes we have a backup at about 5 to 5:01,” Meredith jokes. Without a lengthy commute, he observes, “you can be so much more productive. And when you combine the productivity with the reduced cost of employment, it’s just a tough combination to beat.” N O RT H E R N V I R G I N I A:

A TECHNOLOGY BOOMTOWN Amazon will join a host of large tech firms that call Northern Virginia home. NOVA, as locals call it, isn’t a homogeneous region, but rather is a constellation of city centers, established suburbs, and modern developments. In every part of this diverse part of the state, tech leaders have found a lot to love. The Motley Fool is headquartered in Old Town Alexandria, a picturesque cluster of historic buildings, art galleries, and restaurants. Loudoun County is

home to Data Center Alley, the world’s largest concentration of data centers, through which an estimated 70 percent of the world’s internet traffic flows. In Tysons Corner, Capital One Financial Corp. has occupied a new 31-story headquarters. At 470 feet, it’s the tallest building in the area and eventually will house 8,000 employees. NOVA is also home to major headquarters such as CACI, Booz Allen Hamilton, MicroStrategy, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, and Verisign. Many of these companies are located in the Dulles Technology Corridor, a cluster of neighborhoods and office towers that stretches from Tysons Corner, just outside Washington, D.C., westward to Dulles airport. The corridor’s growth has been fueled by federal defense contracts and proximity to major data centers, although many companies have shifted their focus from government work to the private sector. One of these is Appian, a company that specializes in accelerating business processes through its low-code platform and intelligent automation. Since its founding in 1999, Appian has moved its headquarters five times, all without leaving Northern Virginia. It’s establishing its sixth headquarters in Tysons in 2019. “We’re really a representation of what can be done with the resources at hand in Washington, D.C., instead of a

The Motley Fool, Alexandria

transplant from Silicon Valley,” Appian chief executive Matt Calkins told The Washington Post in 2018. “We’re about ‘here’ — we’re about this place, these resources.” Dawn Mitchell, Appian’s senior director of talent acquisition, appreciates the collegial business culture of Northern Virginia. “I think there’s a sense of pride in being a tech hub on the East Coast,” she says. She knows the talent acquisition leaders at other tech companies, she says, and rather than competing for top talent, “we all kind of win together.” That’s because each firm has its own distinct culture which attracts specific types of people. Appian, for instance, is founded on two core principles: generosity of spirit and enthusiasm for debate. Turnover is low; half of its 1,000 employees have been there for 10 or more years. The ability to recruit from local universities is one main reason Appian is anchored to Northern Virginia, Mitchell says. Another big draw is quality of life. For families, the NOVA suburbs offer nice homes with great schools, while many younger employees prefer to live closer to the city. “It’s just a really fantastic area,” Mitchell says. Of course, there’s a lot to love about every part of Virginia — just as those ad guys realized 50 years ago.


Technology Throughout Virginia Virginia stands ready to push new boundaries as a U.S. leader in information technology. Already at the forefront of emerging sectors like cloud computing and cybersecurity, Virginia is committed to technology and innovation. Virginia is the leading data center market in the U.S. and has the 3rd-highest concentration of high-tech workers in the nation. The Commonwealth is preparing for future growth for IT companies through its top-ranked higher education system to build a pipeline of technology talent.

Facebook | Henrico County In September 2018, Facebook announced an additional $750 million investment in the company’s data center campus, currently under construction at the White Oak Technology park in Eastern Henrico. This news came less than one year after Facebook chose Virginia for an investment of more than $1 billion in a new data center and the construction of multiple solar facilities in the Commonwealth to service the Henrico Data Center with 100 percent renewable energy. 32


Torc Robotics | Blacksburg Torc Robotics, headquartered in Blacksburg, offers a complete autonomous software solution to turn any car into a self-driving vehicle. Founded in 2005 at Virginia Tech, Torc has integrated its self-driving solutions on ground vehicles ranging from two-ton SUVs to 300-ton mining trucks.

Equinix | Loudoun County Northern Virginia is the largest market for data centers in the U.S., home to over 12 million square feet of commissioned data center space, representing over 800 megawatts of commissioned power. Much of the industry’s presence is concentrated in Loudoun County, known as “Data Center Alley,” and it is estimated that up to 70 percent of the world’s internet traffic flows through Loudoun’s data centers each day.



Lockheed Martin | Suffolk Lockheed Martin has 24 facilities and more than 2,500 employees in Virginia. Its Center for Innovation (the Lighthouse), located in Suffolk, provides both a physical and virtual portal into the vast network of Lockheed Martin laboratories, research centers, and engineering facilities. Designed as a 50,000-squarefoot, high-end laboratory, the Center is part of Lockheed Martin’s investment in global research and development programs and infrastructure.

Jefferson Lab | Newport News Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory. Scientists worldwide utilize the lab’s unique particle accelerator, known as the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF), to probe the most basic building blocks of matter — helping to better understand these particles and the forces that bind them — and ultimately, the world. In addition, the lab performs advanced computing and applied research with industry and university partners, and provides programs designed to help educate the next generation in science and technology. 34


AvePoint | Richmond

Micron | Manassas

East Coast Veteran AWS Apprenticeship Cohort | Reston

AvePoint announced in January 2016 the opening of an office in Richmond to serve as a primary operations center for the company. A fourtime Microsoft Partner of the Year, AvePoint has been named to the Inc. 500|5000 six times and the Deloitte Technology Fast 500™ five times.

As part of its recent expansion, Micron will establish a global research and development center in Manassas for memory and storage solutions. The research and development center will include laboratories, test equipment, and approximately 100 product engineers focused on applications such as unmanned and autonomous automotive systems, the IoT (Internet of Things), and other industrial and networking applications.

Mitre | McLean

PowerSchool | Roanoke

Revature | Reston

Approximately 3,700 employees work at MITRE’s location in McLean. MITRE is a systems engineering company committed to the public interest, operating federally funded R&D centers on behalf of U.S. government sponsors that focus on challenges in defense, cybersecurity, healthcare, homeland security, and the judiciary.

PowerSchool, a leading education technology platform for K-12, operates a new office located in downtown Roanoke with positions in software development, project management, professional services, customer support, marketing, and human resources.

Revature is a technology talent development company that provides turn-key talent acquisition solutions for corporate and government partners and no-cost coding immersion programs for university graduates.


On Thursday, November 15, 2018, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) celebrated the completion of its first-ever East Coast Veteran AWS Apprenticeship cohort. Five veterans are now full-time employees of AWS as Associate Cloud Consultants. The program started with a 16-week tailored curriculum delivered by NVCC and then the veterans bridged over to AWS in Reston, Virginia for one year of experiential learning, OJT, and mentoring.



Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems | Dulles Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, formerly known as Orbital ATK, headquartered in Dulles, builds and delivers space, defense, and aviation-related systems including the Antares launch system, which handles resupply services for the International Space Station launched from Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.



Mobelux | Richmond Mobelux has been producing top-notch digital products since 2008, ranging from Tumblr’s iPhone app, a complex open-source platform for Ford, an award-winning iPad experience for UNIQLO, to a custom ecommerce platform for iHome.

Accenture | Arlington County Accenture has a large presence in Arlington in Northern Virginia, operating a Cyber Fusion Center and Accenture Lab in Rosslyn, as well as a major office in Ballston.



Tim Sands’ Bold Vision for Virginia Tech Timothy D. Sands is the 16th president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, joining the university in June 2014. VEDP’s President and CEO, Stephen Moret, recently spoke with President Sands about exciting new developments at Virginia Tech.



I think it’s really important to get into the ethics, the policy piece, and doing it in the vicinity of the nation’s capital in all that tech concentration, Northern Virginia. It’s just a perfect place to be for that kind of work. TIM SANDS President, Virginia Tech

Stephen Moret: Virginia Tech played a leading role in helping position Virginia to successfully secure the Amazon HQ2 project. What a lot of people don’t know is that Virginia Tech really stepped up from the very beginning of the process, committing both university leadership and significant funding to actively support Virginia’s bid. This is actually a question I don’t think I’ve even asked you, which is what was your thinking 16 months ago or so, at the beginning of the process, in making that project such a big priority for the university, particularly at a time when really few in Virginia thought we would be competitive for that project? Tim Sands: Thank you Dr. Moret. We were thrilled to be part of that opportunity and to be part of the team that came through for Virginia and for the region. Probably about four years ago, we assembled a team to talk about where we were headed as an institution. We had been in Northern Virginia for 50 years, with various outposts and some bigger than others, but spread throughout the region, and we had a sense that we needed to have a more significant presence in the form of an open campus or an innovation district type model. So when you called, it was 16 or 17 months ago, we were already thinking about it and one of the reasons we were so enthusiastic is that it lined up perfectly with the work that we had already done in planning. So, we just jumped on it.


Moret: Well, you sure did. And while we’ve talked about the central role that higher education played in Virginia’s bid for HQ2, there’s no question that Virginia Tech’s role was really singular and really was the institution that made the biggest difference in the whole effort, so we’re really grateful for that. Talk about your vision for the innovation campus, a little bit of history about how that came together over the last few years, how it got accelerated in the last year and, in particular, the vision for where it’s going to go in the future. Sands: The innovation campus was an offshoot of a conversation we started about four years ago on a global innovation district. We were thinking how could Virginia Tech anchor global innovation districts somewhere in Northern Virginia? We started planning. We did a lot of detailed planning actually, not knowing where it would go, when it would start. So, the opportunity that was brought forth by Amazon has given us an avenue to put this on the fast track. If I look at the future, in terms of how we might shape that future through the innovation campus, there’s some huge opportunities I think. One area that we’re exploring and is a personal passion of mine is human cyber networks; just this idea that machines and humans are now forming networks to make decisions jointly. And that this is changing our economy rapidly.

Rendering of Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus, Alexandria

We’re exploring different things. That’s one that we’ve been discussing, but they all involve at the core; new disciplines like machine learning, artificial intelligence, but also the human factors piece of that. I think it’s really important to get into the ethics, the policy piece, and doing it in the vicinity of the nation’s capital in all that tech concentration, Northern Virginia. It’s just a perfect place to be for that kind of work. Moret: That whole campus, as you know, was one of the most important parts of Amazon selecting Virginia for their new headquarters here. It’s one of the things we’re most excited about as we think about the future of the tech sector in Northern Virginia and statewide. President Sands, one of the things that has really distinguished Virginia Tech in the Commonwealth, and to some extent nationally, has been the way that university partners with the corporate sector. I’m curious about how that fits into your DNA as an institution and also how the innovation campus will fit into that approach. Sands: We’ve always been comfortable engaging with industry and with employers throughout the history of Virginia Tech. But we noticed a few years ago that a lot of our really good partners in industry were starting to down select and choose a smaller number of universities to be partners with, because I think they were really burning too much time and energy on

coordinating disparate and small programs around the country and maybe not focusing enough on the institutions that provide the most value. So we restructured, created a center called LINK which really brings Virginia Tech closer to industry. It’s a one-stop shop kind of model where we have individuals assigned to big companies as relationship management, but we bring all the resources from the university together around the internships, the employment pipeline through Virginia Tech. The research opportunities, everything that is associated with our relationship is now brought into the center so that the company doesn’t have to spend so much effort. They know there’s one person they can go to. They don’t have to go to that one person. They can still have connections throughout the institution, but if they want to get the full picture, there’s one place to go. I think that approach makes sense. We’re not the only ones doing it, but I think we got in ahead and we’re able to take advantage of that leadership role going forward.


Innovation and commerce are part of the Commonwealth’s DNA. REGINALD McKNIGHT Head of U.S. Economic Development, Facebook


Arlington elementary school students

On Target for Tech Talent How Virginia’s plan to double its tech-talent pipeline by aligning resources at all levels hits the bull’s-eye.


WHEN IT COMES TO BUILDING a comprehensive strategy for increasing

talent to meet the technology workforce demands of today and tomorrow, there is a nationwide call by employers for talent with skills that include a particular focus on software development, engineering, machine learning, artificial intelligence, user experience design, and user interface design — all competencies with roots in computer science. Virginia has plans to fill that supply-side gap and hit the bull’s-eye of employer demand by increasing and roughly doubling its tech-talent pipleline in the near future. It’s an approach that was buoyed by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s (VEDP) 2017 Strategic Plan for Economic Development of the Commonwealth that identified the tech sector as Virginia’s largest tradedsector employment growth opportunity. And while it is an approach that synced up with the timing of Virginia winning HQ2, it’s also an effort that’s been building momentum at all education levels across the Commonwealth. Now that Amazon is looking to Virginia to fill as many as 25,000 highly skilled jobs over the next 12 years, the Commonwealth is primed to produce 25,000 to 35,000 additional degrees in computer science (CS) and related fields statewide, roughly split between bachelor’s and master’s degrees, over the next two decades. While Amazon is in the spotlight today, these are workers who will benefit existing Virginia employers, from Capital One to WillowTree and PowerSchool, to tomorrow’s startups. Tidewater Community College

Virginia’s plan is a seamless approach, targeting CS and related fields across each phase of the education spectrum — K-12 classrooms, community colleges, undergraduate, and post-graduate programs — with performancebased investments and other funding. Similar to other states, Virginia’s current tech-talent pipeline poses a dichotomy of risks and opportunities. While the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) workforce shortage is expected to grow nationally, and two in five Americans say that the shortage of workers in STEM fields is at crisis levels, according to a study from tech and engineering company Emerson, the Commonwealth touts a few advantages in not only bridging the gap, but building for the future.

Virginia State University

George Mason University

First, Virginia has a head start. It has the vision to anticipate this tech-talent need, and with plans accelerated thanks to the Amazon HQ2 project and other tech company expansions, Virginia is poised to be a leader among states working to turn their tech-talent tide. In fact, according to CodeVA, an educational nonprofit created to promote computer science across Virginia, in 2016, Virginia became the first state in the nation to pass sweeping computer science education reform. This law mandates that every Virginia child will receive access to essential computer science literacy — to include coding — from kindergarten through graduation. From K-12 classrooms to Virginia’s robust community college system, and from four-year university labs to graduate program internships, Virginia is on target to meet the needs of tomorrow’s technology workforce. Chalk it up to an accelerated start, a recognition by tomorrow’s workers of where the jobs will be and the influx of funding and programs designed to ensure Virginia stays at the head of the class when it comes to tech aptitude and workforce readiness moving forward.



Starting on the Right Foot in K-12 Schools Virginia holds a prime position at the head of the class when it comes to providing STEM and Computer Science (CS) education for students spread from Tazewell to Winchester. That’s because the Commonwealth was the first state in the nation to adopt CS standards across the K-12 continuum, having integrated these disciplines into Standards of Learning (SOLs) in 2016. While the K-8 CS curriculum is woven into existing content areas, high school students receive instruction through standalone electives. One solely has to look at some of the innovative programs already thriving in Virginia’s K-12 schools and imagine them played out on a grander scale to envision the impact. Step into CodeRVA, located in Greater Richmond’s up-and-coming Scott’s Addition area, and you’ll think you’ve entered a thriving start-up or collaborative co-working space. Featuring a wide-open layout, cutting-edge equipment, and “workers” sporting hoodies and headphones, it’s a window into the work environment of the future. And it’s also a high school. Here students from the city and surrounding counties tackle real-world-worthy work and nextlevel methodologies such as Agile.


Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology



“Our overall purpose is to create a more prepared and diverse workforce for Richmond and Virginia,” said Michael Bolling, CodeRVA’s executive director.

Fairfax County Public Schools

The regional public high school uses a lottery system to determine enrollment, weighting enrollment to ensure gender and economic gaps are accounted for. “So many specialty programs are based on academic performance at a very young age. Some parents don’t even know that they need to get their kids on an accelerated path,” Bolling said. “The industry needs a more diverse workforce, especially women.”


CodeRVA isn’t the only K-12 school that’s pivoted from the traditional lesson plan. In Fairfax County, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) has ridden a STEM-focused, highly integrated curriculum to a No. 10 overall ranking and No. 3 Best STEM High School ranking by U.S. News & World Report and is ranked the No. 1 Best High School for STEM in America by Niche. The school, which offers courses including advanced marine biology and automation and robotics, also features 15 specialized research labs. There is another key differentiator between TJ, which was opened in 1985 as a collaboration between the local business community and Fairfax County schools, and the traditional high school experience: a unique mentorship program. This bridge between academia and the real working world gives students the chance to work with mentors in an applied learning environment. It’s also a novel way in which students can fulfill their senior technology research graduation requirement outside the school’s labs. Other Virginia high schools boasting top-rated STEM offerings include NOVA’s McLean High School and Richmond’s Maggie Walker Governor’s School. At Newport News’ Denbigh High School, students can attend the Aviation Academy, which is a nationally recognized STEM site, to learn about engineering and more. Demand for these STEM-focused programs is on the rise. Take CodeRVA, which opens admissions for rising ninth graders, and most recently received 412 applications for 84 open slots. Bolling says one of the keys to evolving CodeRVA and similar programs, from growing curriculum and capacity to generating internship opportunities, is finding more business partners who see the value in investing in tomorrow’s workforce. “We’re trying to create a pipeline that gets to the workforce faster,” he said. All of this has occurred in advance of Virginia’s fresh investment of $25 million in new K-12 computer science funding, which will serve to provide relevant curriculum, fuel staff development, create meaningful career exposure, and to bring high-quality STEM and computer science teaching and learning to scale.



Laying Deep Roots in Virginia’s Community College System

John Tyler Community College

Virginia’s Community College System (VCCS) poses an advantage to growing Virginia’s tech talent — quite simply, it’s everywhere. “One of the greatest assets of the VCCS is our comprehensive coverage and accessibility,” said Jenny Carter, director of workforce partnerships and projects for VCCS. “In every corner of the Commonwealth, a Virginia community college can be reached within 30 minutes. Additionally, as an aligned system, we have the benefit of programming that is consistent and centrally recognized across 23 colleges, institutions which serve unique regions and diverse business partners.” Another benefit of Virginia’s robust community college system is the flexibility it offers students, allowing them to customize their education journey through the pipeline by choosing the speed and direction that best fit their needs, interests, and resources. This flexibility can manifest itself in the decision between pursuing a


Northern Virginia Community College

Reynolds Community College


certificate or degree program, as well as what to do after achieving it. “Our transfer degree programs ensure students can begin with us and literally go anywhere — and do,” Carter said. “By leveraging well-established relationships with our higher education partners throughout the state, we work hard to ensure students have a seamless pathway throughout each of our transfer programs. Plus, we offer a plethora of options for customized training, associate degrees in applied science fields, and other assets to contribute to the goal of doubling our technology workforce in short fashion.” As VCCS leaders and faculty at institutions across the Commonwealth prepare to play their role in the doubling down of tech talent, they’re utilizing a number of methods and funding streams to ensure their partners, programs, and curriculum align with the needs of Virginia’s current and future employers. According to Todd Estes, the Director of Career Education Programs & Workforce Partnerships at VCCS, that work is already occurring. In 2018, the Governor announced the availability of up to $5.1 million of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) state set-aside funds for the planning and capacity building needed to establish and refine educational pathways aligned with critical industry sectors. Using these funds, Information Technology and Computer Science associate’s degree pathways will be strengthened and expanded in 2019.

Tidewater Community College

There are examples throughout Virginia that show what community college partnerships with employers can look like, such as Tidewater Community College’s partnership to create a registered cybersecurity apprenticeship with Yorktown-based Peregrine Technical Solutions. Another example is at Northern Virginia Community College, where faculty have partnered with Amazon Web Services to develop a cutting-edge cloud computing curriculum, and also established an innovative apprenticeship program designed to train veterans. A number of community colleges have also been designated as Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense or Information Assurance by the NSA/DHS, including Danville Community College, Lord Fairfax Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College, and Tidewater Community College. As part of the tech-talent pipeline plan, state leaders will collaborate with the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) and community college leaders to craft performance-based community college tech-talent programs that will complement bachelor’s- and master’s-level tech-talent education programs. “With the successful landing of Amazon’s new headquarters in Northern Virginia and the Commonwealth’s goal to develop our workforce anchored to technical fields, increasing the quantity of students completing technical degrees, certificates, and credentialing programs is a challenge the VCCS is addressing comprehensively and aggressively,” Carter offered.



Virginia Tech

Ramping Up Undergraduate Computer Science Degrees Christopher Newport University

Virginia’s colleges and universities are consistently recognized for blazing the trail forward in Computer Science and STEM undergraduate studies. With the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, the Commonwealth boasts two Top 40 Computer Science (CS) programs in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report rankings, with the College of William and Mary and George Mason University (GMU) not far behind. In all, nearly 60 Virginia schools offer CS degrees. And in the D.C./Northern Virginia MSA alone, there are about 6,300 CS graduates produced each year — a number that tops all other metropolitan areas in the nation. Couple Virginia’s growing CS pedigree with its rising cybersecurity educational resources for an even more impressive view of where Virginia is trending. More than 20 of the Commonwealth’s colleges and universities now offer degree and certification programs in cybersecurity.


University of Virginia


“We’re seeing the second wave of computing this decade,” said Deborah Crawford, vice president of Research for GMU. And unlike the first wave, fueled by the dot-com boom, Crawford believes this one is poised to stay the course. Old Dominion University

“I think we have a much better way of communicating computational skills,” she said. “People can think of computer science in much broader ways than ever before.” Here’s a closer look at some of the forward-thinking programs underpinning the schools’ growth and momentum: At UVA, the Computer Science Department’s Industry Advisory Board counts among its membership several local and regional companies that hire undergraduates, and often provide advisement on curriculum revisions. UVA also recently announced plans to open a School of Data Science. The interdisciplinary school will offer undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates to help meet the growing demand for data scientists. The Capital CoLAB (Collaborative of Leaders in Academia and Business) is an action-oriented partnership that brings together the leaders of the region’s top academic institutions and businesses to develop and execute initiatives that support the vision of the Capital Region, spanning Baltimore to Richmond, as a leading global hub for innovation. UVA’s College at Wise opened the first undergraduate software engineering program in the Commonwealth, and its graduates are regularly placed in software development companies around Virginia, including CGI in Southwest Virginia. Timed with the arrival of Amazon and other tech companies’ growing need for talent, the school is now working to expand its CS and software engineering programs to include additional coursework and faculty with cybersecurity expertise.

Norfolk State University

At Virginia Tech, technology and digital proficiency are a major focus across the board. According to President Tim Sands, “A graduate today needs to be comfortable with digital technology and have proficiency. And these days, that means some exposure to fields like machine learning, artificial intelligence, data visualization, data analytics. But they also need to be able, in the end, to reduce data to actionable information.” Throughout the Commonwealth, similar programs and initiatives are working together to boost tomorrow’s workforce in these key areas of CS, cybersecurity, and other tech-related fields. Now this effort will receive a sizable boost, with Virginia’s institutions of higher education set to receive funding through a performancebased tech-talent fund. These funds can go toward investments in higher education instutions throughout Virginia that can be used for recruiting faculty, enrollment funding, and other measures designed to expand the Commonwealth’s tally of bachelor’s degrees. These new grads would help meet HQ2’s talent needs while also strengthening the overall tech-talent market in Virginia.



Expanding the Potential of Post-Graduate Studies As a result of the HQ2 effort, Virginia Tech has accelerated a plan that has been in the works for at least four years — the establishment of a global innovation district in Northern Virginia, now referred to as the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. In addition to this ambitious plan, George Mason University is scaling Computer Science (CS) and other tech-related programs in response to companies including Amazon, Apian, CACI, and MicroStrategy ringing the bell.

Rendering of Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus

Rendering of Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus

The vision for Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus is clear: that students across the spectrum of academic disciplines benefit from the proximity effect of Amazon’s HQ2. The 1-million-sq.-ft. campus will be located just two miles away from the HQ2 site in National Landing. Distance may be a fitting metaphor for the evolving relationship between higher education and industry — not so much measured in miles, but in how close their interests are tied to one another. “Companies are reducing the number of universities where they have a financial engagement,” said Theresa Mayer, Virginia Tech’s vice president for research and engineering. “They’re really taking a far more strategic approach.” Instead of extending internships here and funding research there, they’re seeking to consolidate their collaboration where it makes the most sense. “They’re really looking at universities to build these more holistic relationships,” Mayer said.



Virginia Tech

In that case, GMU and Virginia Tech, and the entirety of the Commonwealth, are grading out ahead of the curve, even before they’re set to receive performance-based investments of up to $375 million over 20 years for their new programs and facilities. These performance-based, master’s-degree-level investments will be provided on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis for philanthropic funds raised by the universities. “I think that going back several years, the understanding was that we had a capacity that had been growing in a way that was somewhat unique to our region,” GMU’s Crawford said. “We have an ecosystem that is rich and strong. Now the question is what can we do with that and how do we diversify the environment?” The thriving public university currently enrolls the largest cohort of masters students in tech programs among all of the Commonwealth’s public institutions. Part of the answer lies in GMU’s Arlington campus, ideally located close to what will become HQ2. Here, graduate programs in computing will be added to a broad array of existing areas of study, including law and business. The expansion will include a co-working space where industry partners and students can work together. “We’ve already received lots of inquiries from companies federally and commercially facing who have expressed an interest in being close to those new programs,” Crawford said. While GMU has a lead role to play in generating the numbers in the crosshairs of Virginia’s education and industry ecosystem, she also points out that the impact of the tech-talent initiative will be felt in other ways. “It’s not just about the graduation of more majors, Crawford said. “It’s about the graduation across the board [of those] with the necessary digital literacy and skills.” Virginia Tech is also leading the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CyberX), an initiative led to push higher education research and master’s degree programs for cybersecurity, data analysis and computer science, and unmanned vehicle systems in partnership with growing high-tech industries. The CyberX plan would establish a research and educational hub, which would connect the “spokes” of research colleges and universities across the state, including UVA, ODU, GMU, James Madison, Norfolk State, and several community colleges. While Virginia Tech and GMU are playing the starring roles in Virginia’s ambitious plan to ramp up graduate-level talent, Amazon and other tech employers throughout Virginia are the ones that will ultimately benefit the most. The growing tech-talent needs of existing tech firms in Virginia, in combination with the HQ2 application process, led Virginia to make a tech-talent pipeline initiative the centerpiece of its proposal for HQ2 and commit to a major investment in Virginia’s future.

George Mason University


Select Tech Headquarters and Tech Centers in Virginia












Winchester Washington, D.C. Fairfax




Fredericksburg 95

Charlottesville 64



64 95

Norfolk 85


High Tech Comes to the Coalfields The year 2006 marked a turning point for the town of Lebanon, for Russell County, and for the Southwest corner of Virginia: CGI, a Canadian company with a strong presence in tech-heavy Northern Virginia, located its first U.S. onshore delivery center in Lebanon. Within its first 10 years, CGI’s Southwest Virginia Information Technology Center of Excellence had created more than 400 jobs and generated $68.5 million in annual economic impact. In the same year, Northrop Grumman announced the opening of its Southwest Enterprise Solutions Center, also in Lebanon. The long-game plan that brought CGI to the region goes back at least a couple of decades before the company’s arrival. That plan began with a loose confederation of regional visionaries in the 1990s. The effort, a vision to attract technology companies, was led by local economic development organizations, the regional economic development group, the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA), and the area’s higher education institutions. The region’s leaders saw an opportunity to replace coal mining jobs with high-tech jobs, an acceptable trade in a region that would take an economic hit with coal’s decline. On the occasion of CGI’s 10th anniversary, Tim Hurlebus, President of CGI Federal, said: “Nowhere has the


Visionary thinking in the 1990s has led the Southwest corner of Virginia successfully into the economy of the information age. cooperation between leaders and the IT sector been more successful than in the cause of bringing our Center of Excellence to Southwest Virginia. The coalition responsible for making CGI’s Lebanon facility a reality serves as a model for what communities can do when they share a commitment to innovation and economic growth.” Finding a workforce was the first big obstacle to attracting technology companies. Training programs were established at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and at Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, which have been at the center of workforce development efforts for years. A six-month, fast-track program developed to provide a ready workforce for CGI led the way. Today, UVa-Wise has the only undergraduate software engineering program in the Commonwealth. Its comprehensive curriculum offers bachelor’s degrees in computer science, math, software engineering, and management information systems. Southwest Virginia is a region of mountains, rolling hills, and wide-open valleys, and for many, that is a major attraction. The environment is among Virginia’s most lavish, offering a wealth of outdoor activities. The area is surrounded by an abundance of scenic natural beauty, and residents and visitors enjoy hiking and picnicking at Jefferson National Forest and Breaks Interstate

Dickenson County

SYKES Enterprises, Wise

CGI, Russell County

DP Facilities, Mineral Gap Data Center

Park, referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the South.” Two of the nation’s best historical driving trails go through the region: The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail and The Wilderness Road: Virginia’s Heritage Migration Route. The region’s highway system and broadband infrastructure enhance accessibility and add to its appeal as a quality business location. Bordering Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee, Southwest Virginia has the advantage of a regional multi-state workforce and offers proximity to the Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol, TN-VA Combined Statistical Area, with a population of nearly 500,000 that provides a wide labor draw for local employers. VCEDA has branded this region of Southwest Virginia as the e-Region, one of the East Coast’s new centers for electronic information technology, energy, education, and emerging specialty manufacturing that is strategically located at the geographical center of commerce in the eastern U.S. The e-Region’s focus on technology has had ripple effects throughout the Southwest Virginia economy. Notable employers include SYKES Enterprises, which employs 750 in Wise, concentrating on back-office operations, a skill heavily linked to technology. “A lot of the success we’ve had over the last six years

at our facility in Wise is due to the graduates of UVa-Wise,” said Todd McReynolds, operations manager for the SYKES facility, upon signing an agreement with the University in 2007 to create student internships and job opportunities for graduates. That strategic partnership continues today. Recent success has been found in the data center sector, including the OnePartner Advanced Technology & Applications Center (ATAC) in Duffield in Scott County. The Center was the nation’s first commercial data center to achieve Tier III certification by the Uptime Institute. According to OnePartner, since opening the doors, the Center has not had one single outage. In 2017, DP Facilities opened its 65,000-square-foot Mineral Gap data center in Wise County, referred to by the company as “The Safest Place on Earth,” a $65 million project employing 40 people. Future development of the campus will accommodate more than 200,000 square feet of data center space and administrative support buildings. The technology concentration in the region continues to show that Southwest Virginia’s coal fields have room for the 21st century’s dependence on information as a source of jobs and economic development.


The number one challenge we’ve experienced overseas is just understanding who to partner with. So the challenge is making sure we know who the key decision makers are and whether a trip or meeting will lead to something. CHRIS GETTINGS Chief Executive Officer, videoNEXT


Virginia’s Exporters of Services Find Success Abroad WITH THE GLOBAL THREAT OF TERRORISM ON THE RISE,

Virginia technology security services firms are parlaying security concerns into surging revenue growth overseas. Chantilly-based videoNEXT, which provides security and surveillance management software to U.S. clients such as Verizon and the Department of Homeland Security, now counts military forces in Italy, Australia, and Japan among its customers, as well as Saudi Telecom and energy giant Saudi Aramco.

videoNEXT products on display in the Saudi Telecom booth at Gitex Dubai 2018

Another security and surveillance service provider, Alexandria-based Northern Defense Industries (NDI), has established contracts with Colombia’s Navy, works with governments and corporations such as Anadarko Petroleum in Mozambique, and has ambitious overseas expansion plans. Given the sensitive nature of their businesses, private sector clients, and military partners, much of videoNEXT and NDI’s work — and customers — flies under the radar, and executives at both firms are wary about revealing too much about clientele. But both firms — like other U.S. companies attempting to expand overseas services revenue — share the commonalities and difficulties that like-minded companies frequently encounter doing business abroad.



While foreign countries offer golden opportunities to expand from saturated U.S. markets, many are bureaucratic and logistical nightmares, fraught with regulatory minefields, cultural barriers, and problems ranging from shipping product to language barriers. That’s especially true for services providers. Unlike manufacturers and agricultural producers, service-oriented companies may encounter problems cracking international markets because their products are more difficult to judge and evaluate. videoNEXT’s main product is Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited (CAVU), a

cloud-based, video surveillance system that manages on-site security surveillance with features such as facial recognition, license plate recognition, and other security analytics. While international clients now account for about 50 percent of videoNEXT’s annual revenue, no sale is easy, says Chief Executive Officer Chris Gettings. “In my experience, you kiss a lot of frogs and spend a lot of time spinning your wheels. You can have grand visions of a big deal, only to find out that a partner doesn’t have the inroads or relationships they claim they do,’’ says Gettings. “The number one challenge we’ve experienced overseas is

just understanding who to partner with. So the challenge is making sure we know who the key decision makers are and whether a trip or meeting will lead to something.” Depending on the country, the customer, and the potential contract, securing foreign contracts can also take far longer to close than a domestic deal. “The normal gestation period required for international sales is painfully long — in many cases, three to five years, which makes chasing these opportunities costly in terms of time, money, and resources,” says NDI President Robert Janssen.


Services $18.6 B Top 3 Services Exported ■

Products $17.3 B


.7 51

Info & Tech Eds, Meds & Tourism General Business Services




Mineral Fuels


Agricultural Products

$35.9 Billion 2017 Export Value


.3 48 $586 MM

Mineral Fuels

Coal and Petroleum

$859 MM


$15.9 B

Manufactured Products


Luckily, in Northern Virginia, there’s a concentration of highly technical talent that we can leverage. It makes it easier for us to respond to increased labor needs. ROBERT JANSSEN President, NDI

NDI, a division of Alexandria-based defense contractor AMS Group, specializes in integrated air, land, sea, and underwater security systems. The company’s sensor surveillance hardware and services protect U.S. embassies, overseas ports, energy refineries, and airports. “NDI brings some very interesting niche capabilities that other companies don’t have, but service is a highly competitive market — even more competitive overseas because of the price points we compete against,’’ Janssen says. Missteps can be costly. “Companies tend to lose money doing this type of work. But if you do it right, the margins are high,” Janssen says. There’s seldom much glamour operating in austere environments. “You’re not going to Cancun,’’ Janssen says. “The conditions can be hard and not everyone can stomach the work.” Not that the effort isn’t worthwhile. About half of NDI’s revenue came from international markets in 2018, with deals including a perimeter security system for offshore oil rigs in Equatorial Guinea that provides early warning detection, tracking, and threat potential assessments. Janssen anticipates even more overseas growth in 2019 and 2020, with potential contracts in Morocco, Mexico, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Tunisia, Gabon, and the Philippines. The goal: multi-year initiatives with potentially much higher profit margins. Gettings and Janssen say the Greater Washington, D.C. area serves as an

ideal location for their companies, given the close proximity to the Pentagon for military contacts, federal agency approvals required for foreign military sales, as well as convenient outreach to foreign embassies based in the District. “Because of our government customers, Virginia is a good place for us. We are able to get together with different agencies easily,” Gettings says. Another bonus: the availability of retired military personnel and contractors. “Luckily, in Northern Virginia, there’s a concentration of highly technical talent that we can leverage,’’ Janssen says. “It makes it easier for us to respond to increased labor needs.” Both firms say their overseas business has benefited from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. VEDP provides expertise, trade mission support, and other guidance to assist Virginia companies enter foreign markets and accelerate overseas sales. VEDP works with about 320 Virginia exporters a year. In 2017, nearly 52 percent of Virginia’s $35.9 billion in exports were services-related, up nearly 24 percent since 2012. Virginia ranks 12th nationally in total value of service exports, according to Brookings data. Among Virginia’s top sectors for service exports; information and technology, which accounted for $5.3 billion in 2017 sales and 29 percent of the state’s total service exports; education, medical and tourism

products which accounted for $5 billion (27 percent); and general business services, which accounted for $3.2 billion (17 percent). Gettings says VEDP assistance helped videoNEXT offset some travel costs and hastened business dealings during recent trade missions to eastern Europe, the Middle East, and South America. Janssen credits NDI’s participation in VEDP’s Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) Program for paving the way for more business. The specialized, two-year program offers export-minded companies intensified help, from planning and in-country consultants to VEDP-led trade missions. “VALET helped us navigate through some of the new countries we’re hoping to gain access to,’’ Janssen says. Paul Grossman Jr., VEDP’s vice president of international trade, encourages Virginia-based companies with international growth ambitions to contact VEDP. “We want to make more companies aware that they have resources available to investigate and get business overseas,’’ he says. “Companies need a strategy, a game plan, and we’re here to help.” Service exports by Virginia companies supported more than 157,000 jobs in 2017. “The more we can help companies diversify into other markets, the more resilient they’ll be in an economic downturn,” Grossman says.



The Physical and Digital Gateway to the East Coast Hampton Roads is the set of interconnected communities clustered around one of the world’s largest natural harbors at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Home to 20 percent of Virginia’s population, Hampton Roads is located in a scenic, coastal area in the southeastern corner of the Commonwealth. The coastline, at the intersection of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, makes Hampton Roads a global gateway for the country and is an anchor for future growth. The region’s cities and counties have a rich history, from the first English settlements in the U.S. to the last battle for the country’s independence. Hampton Roads is a region that celebrates a tenacious legacy while progressing in the 21st century.

Hampton Roads Offers An appealing quality of life to ensure the ability to attract and retain talent


A pipeline of world class talent complemented by a large military workforce

An affordable and attractive place to do business

Virginia Beach

We chose to locate a new facility in Norfolk because of the thriving business climate in the city and Commonwealth. We have the opportunity to attract a diverse workforce that will make significant contributions to ADP and add value to the client experience. DEBBIE DYSON Vice President of Client Experience and Continuous Improvement, ADP



Virginia Beach is the landing point for four transoceanic fiber cable connection points — the first in the Mid-Atlantic

Virginia Beach Oceanfront and Boardwalk was named one of the top 10 public spaces in America by National Geographic

The Port of Virginia is one of the largest ports on the East Coast

Home to 211,000 veterans, Hampton Roads offers a robust pool of skilled, dedicated workers 65


Access WorldClass Talent at a Competitive Cost The Greater Richmond story is one of ingenuity and growth. Strategically located in the heart of Virginia, Greater Richmond is already capitalizing on its unique combination of affordability and high quality of life to attract the caliber of talent that companies are seeking. Once a region defined principally by its southern charm and history, Greater Richmond has grown into a thriving, dynamic, revitalized metro, revered for its natural beauty and lively art scene. Here, employees enjoy an unparalleled set of amenities, including diverse housing options that satisfy all preferences and budgets, easy commutes, access to a great K-12 school system, and an array of cultural, recreational, and outdoor activities.

Greater Richmond Offers A strategic location with advantaged access to the region’s deep bench of exemplary talent


A vibrant, diverse, culturally rich region that attracts and retains talent

An innovative, low-cost business environment in an exceptionally well-managed state


Richmond provides a highly educated labor pool, a superior quality of life for our employees, and a culture that aligns to our business model. ANDREW FLORANCE CEO, CoStar Group

Henricus Historical Park


Ranked as the No. 1 least congested large metro in the country on the Texas A&M Transportation Institute Urban Mobility Scorecard

5 percent lower cost of living than the U.S. average

No.1 destination for Food Travelers by National Geographic in 2016 and 2017

One of the “Most Fun Cities in America” by Business Insider and the nation’s most playful region by KaBOOM 69

Economic Development Partners in Virginia VEDP works in close partnership with local and regional economic development organizations. For a full list of local and regional partners, visit In addition, VEDP regularly works with a wide network of statewide partners, including: State Leadership Partners

Project Delivery Partners


The Port of Virginia

General Assembly

CSX, Norfolk Southern, and short-line railroads

Major Employment and Investment (MEI) Commission Secretary of Commerce and Trade Secretary of Finance

Dominion, AEP, and other electric utilities Colleges and universities across the Commonwealth (e.g., UVA, Virginia Tech, William & Mary) Virginia Community College System

Policy and Programmatic Partners Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit

Virginia Economic Developers Association

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity

GO Virginia

Virginia Business Higher Education Council

Virginia Chamber of Commerce, as well as many local and regional chambers of commerce

Virginia Department of Taxation Virginia Department of Transportation

Virginia Business Council Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association, Manufacturers Association, Virginia Maritime Association, Virginia Realtors Association, and many other trade associations

Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Virginia Tourism Corporation

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

Center for Innovative Technology

Virginia Association of Counties Virginia Municipal League Virginia Rural Center Virginia Agribusiness Council Virginia Farm Bureau


Virginia Planning District Commissions


Virginia’s Technology Councils

Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development

Roanoke Region 81 460




Southwest Virginia

New River Valley





I-81 I-77 Crossroads 58




Southern Virginia




Northern Shenandoah Valley

Washington, D.C.

66 81

Shenandoah Valley 33

Northern Virginia



Central Virginia


Greater 301 Fredericksburg





Northern Neck 360

Middle Peninsula



Greater Richmond



Lynchburg Region


460 15


South Central Virginia 58

Eastern Shore

295 460


Virginia’s Gateway Region

Greater Williamsburg




Hampton Roads 13

North America’s Top Producer of Tech Talent



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