Photography: David Kidd
Innovating Technology’s Future
By Susan H. Burnell
Northern Virginia is Innovation Central. Its healthy mix of technology, business, universities, research, green initiatives and proximity to the federal government keep it rock-steady in any economic conditions. The region is poised, wired and fully equipped to meet increasing worldwide demand for innovative solutions.
“The technology corridor here maintains an impressive status because of the stability of the federal government, international connections and aggressive innovation,” says Bobbie Kilberg, president and chief executive officer of the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC). “Added to that are the advantages of a pro-business, environmentally friendly climate, filled with opportunities that draw educated workers from around the world each year.”
“Proximity to power is one of this region’s longtime advantages,” Kilberg adds. “Location is paramount for any business, and Northern Virginia is next door to the nation’s capital, the epicenter of political, governmental and financial power. Northern Virginia has thrived because of its low taxes and reasonable regulations. It is distinctly attractive to a broad spectrum of innovators.”
Bolstered by the Commonwealth’s favorable business environment under former Governor Mark Warner and current Governor Tim Kaine, the region continues to attract both new and expanding companies.
“Northern Virginia offers unique and multifaceted opportunities for growth in business, culture, community and education,” says Donna Morea, president of CGI, U.S. and India, and chair of NVTC. “My leadership at NVTC has allowed me to foster this same kind of environment in the technology industry. Diversity is a hallmark of this community, fostering innovation and creative public-private partnerships to move our economy forward.”
NVTC: Strength in Numbers
Formed in 1991 to support and promote the region’s technology community, NVTC has over 1,000 member companies representing more than 200,000 employees. NVTC provides its technology business community with networking and education, public policy advocacy, and branding of the region as a global technology center. NVTC fosters philanthropy and mentoring through its Equal Footing Foundation, whose Computer Clubhouses provide underserved youth with the tools to compete in a global workforce, and The Entrepreneur Center @ NVTC, a resource hub for technology-focused start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Invented Here: The Legacy of Internet Pioneers
Northern Virginia has a unique and ubiquitous high-tech infrastructure, created long before the World Wide Web had its first spider program. The region claims many of the first-generation Internet pioneers, among them America Online (AOL). “This is where the Internet was invented and commercialized, so the region is the most wired of any in the country, with the highest bandwidth available,” says Ted Leonsis, former president of AOL and now vice chairman emeritus as well as owner of the NHL’s Washington Capitals. “It’s taken for granted, like running water.”
Founded in 1987, AOL was the first company to commercialize the benefits of the Internet. “In the early days, half of the world’s Internet traffic flowed under this part of Northern Virginia,” says Leonsis. “Many AOL executives have stayed in the area, started new companies, or now work for Comcast or Verizon. So the DNA of the original company that embraced the Internet has been dispersed and is still being felt throughout the region.”
“Northern Virginia has long been an important area for tech innovation,” says Vint Cerf, Google vice president and chief Internet evangelist. Considered one of the “Fathers of the Internet,” Cerf is the co-designer, along with fellow Northern Virginian and NVTC board member Dr. Robert Kahn, of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet.
“Significant growth began in the late 1980s, when the Dulles Toll Road tech corridor opened between Washington, D.C., and the Washington Dulles International Airport,” Cerf notes.
Drawn by the presence of potential business partners, along with the region’s focus on technology and innovation, Google opened an office in Reston last year. Its teams work with other technology companies, systems integrators and the government on developing and adopting Google products and solutions.
Proximity to Government Business and Policy Makers
Northrop Grumman is one of the largest providers of systems integration and IT systems and services to the U.S. government. The largest concentration of this work is in Virginia. Linda A. Mills is corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Information Systems Sector and a member of the NVTC board of directors.
“Northern Virginia provides Northrop Grumman with the unique combination of proximity to the federal government and a world-class technology workforce that serves both private- and public-sector technology users, as well as an attractive place for employees to live, infrastructure — especially communications — and transportation,” says Mills.
A recent example of the type of work Northrop Grumman performs for the U.S. military is a $276 million contract for fielding and operational deployment of the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN), an airborne communications system that provides war fighters with critical real-time battlefield information.
“The Washington, D.C., federal region is rich in opportunity, innovation and excitement for a broad set of IT players, including Microsoft,” says Teresa Carlson, vice president, Microsoft Federal. “For several decades we’ve worked with federal government customers in areas ranging from government health IT to justice and homeland security.” To service these customers, nearly 1,000 Microsoft employees live and work in the D.C. area.
America’s Top State for Business ‘09 … the victory goes to … Virginia!
Source: CNBC.com Annual Special Report 2009
That proximity to Washington policy makers was just one reason Volkswagen Group of America moved its corporate headquarters to the region from Michigan in 2008, investing $100 million and creating 400 new jobs in Fairfax County.
“Volkswagen chose to establish its new headquarters in Virginia because it brought the company closer to key markets and customers, and created the opportunity to create a streamlined business with a new direction,” says Chief Executive Officer Stefan Jacoby. “Volkswagen is a company of innovators and bold thinkers — people who want to challenge the status quo. These are traits very similar to those in the rapidly growing Dulles corridor. Virginia is an influential trendsetter. It has great international prestige and it provided Volkswagen the perfect infrastructure for our new beginning.”
Northrop Grumman Corporation
Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.
While we are proud of our legacy in manufacturing aircraft, spacecraft, ships and defense electronics, the company’s largest business segment today is Information Systems representing more than $12 billion of the company’s nearly $34 billion in annual sales.
The focal point of our Information Systems business is here in Northern Virginia, where Northrop Grumman addresses some of our nation’s toughest challenges in information systems, cybersecurity, intelligence and technical services.
The company also supports federal civilian and state and local governments. For example, in partnership with the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, Northrop Grumman is undertaking a groundbreaking initiative to modernize the Commonwealth’s IT infrastructure and provide Virginians with an unparalleled level of IT services and support.
With 34,000 of our company’s 120,000 employees located in Virginia, we’re at home in Virginia and look forward to the business opportunities we’ll see in the years ahead.
Photography: David Kidd
Support and Capital for Innovative Start-Ups
Since 1985, the nonprofit Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) has supported next-generation technology development statewide by helping innovative start-ups develop and secure capital and by assisting in market development and revenue generation services, including federal funding opportunities. About 60% of CIT’s activity is centered in Northern Virginia.
Included in CIT’s Northern Virginia start-up portfolio are cancer detection, video gaming, energy conservation, enterprise software, antimicrobial drug and software security companies. “The community provides a strong ecosystem to support the development of new technology companies originating in university and federal labs, as well as ‘garage start-ups,’” says CIT President Peter Jobse, an NVTC board member.
CIT’s Growth Acceleration Program (GAP) makes seed-stage equity investments in promising Virginia-based technology and life sciences companies. GAP funds originated seed-stage investment for RollStream, a Fairfax-based provider of supply chain management and communication process software. RollStream recently closed a $6 million B round of funding.
NVTC also bolsters these efforts through The Entrepreneur Center @NVTC (http://tec.nvtc.org). The Entrepreneur Center brings large and small companies together to network, expand and grow local businesses through initiatives like its partnership with mySBX, an online networking tool accessing the business-to-government and business-to-business space.
Early-stage IT companies are the focus of technology venture capital fund New Atlantic Ventures. “We chose to start our company in Northern Virginia in 1998 because we saw the birth of the consumer Internet here with AOL,” says John Backus, managing partner of New Atlantic. “We felt that this region would be an important contributor to the emerging Internet economy. We were right.” Backus served as NVTC chairman and chairman of the Virginia Research and Technology Advisory Commission under Governor Mark Warner.
Green Initiatives Beckon
“The Northern Virginia region is rich in history, with a wealth of intellectual and academic resources to draw upon,“ says Amr ElSawy, president and chief executive officer of Noblis. “Our staff is attracted to the complexities of the problems it tackles and the ability to collaborate with so many smart people around the region.”
A nonprofit science, technology and strategy company, Noblis seeks projects that benefit the public interest. “Noblis is working closely with the NVTC Green Committee and is a thought leader in the area of climate change adaptation,” says ElSawy. In 2009, the company released its Total Emissions Analytics (TEAL) software as a service to help professional service firms develop an understanding of their emissions footprint and to start the process of baselining their initiatives and benchmarking their effectiveness.
NVTC has established Green Information Central (www.nvtc.org/resources/green.php), an online resource for information on green initiatives for its member companies.
Photography: Paul Fetters for HHMI
Business and Wealth Expansion Continues
“If you’re looking to do business, you can’t do better than Loudoun County,” says Scott K. York, Loudoun County chairman of the board. “We provide physical connection to the world through Dulles International Airport and virtual connection in one of the most fiber-optic-rich communities anywhere. We sit at the front door to the world’s largest customer, the U.S. federal government, just 25 miles away.”
Based on 2008 U.S. Census Bureau population estimates, Loudoun is the third-fastest-growing large county (population 10,000 or more) in the U.S. It also ranks first in median household income among all 3,141 U.S. counties, according to the U.S. Census 2007 American Community Survey. And as noted by Moody’s Economy.com in January 2009, the Dulles Technology Corridor, which includes Loudoun County, hosts the largest number of Internet, satellite and defense companies in the nation. The county is home to AOL, NeuStar and The George Washington University Virginia Campus.
Driving many of Loudoun’s recent achievements is MAE (Metropolitan Area Ethernet) East, which is housed on the campus of Verizon Business. The facility gives companies access to hundreds of Internet backbones and makes Loudoun a prime location for the data-center market. Chances are if you use your major credit card, buy a book online or make a phone call from your cell or landline, you are passing through Loudoun’s infrastructure. Top technology companies such as Digital Realty Trust, Equinix and Dupont Fabros all have major holdings in Loudoun, serving many of the most recognizable names in the business world. These three companies are currently in the process of major expansions.
The ability to consolidate several locations into one in Loudoun, coupled with assistance from the state government to extend a critical roadway, were deal clinchers for defense and intelligence company Raytheon, which recently leased approximately 600,000 square feet in the county. As of July, the transaction was the second-largest commercial lease in the U.S. for 2009. At final occupancy, the Raytheon Dulles campus will house 1,500 employees. Raytheon also valued Loudoun’s access to a workforce unlike any other in the U.S. According to a recent Milken Institute study, the Washington metro area employed 275,700 high-tech workers as of 2007 — 30,000 more than the Silicon Valley region.
Expanding Loudoun’s biotechnology and biomedical presence, the renowned Howard Hughes Medical Institute opened its $500 million Janelia Farm Research Campus nearly three years ago, where it invests approximately $100 million per year in research. The research facility engages in advanced biomedical research, including the identification of general principles guiding how information is processed by neuronal circuits, and the development of new imaging technologies and computational methods for image data analysis.
Loudoun’s unique physical characteristics are not to be overlooked. “The natural beauty and accessibility of Loudoun County have great appeal for executives and their families,” says Loudoun Director of Economic Development Larry Rosenstrauch. “We are a place where on any given day you can go from a new master-planned town center to one of our seven historic towns, or out to our western countryside filled with thriving rural businesses. People who have never visited Loudoun are surprised to learn that it has more farm wineries than anywhere else in Virginia — 25 and increasing every year.”
It was this special mix of town, country, an international airport and an available campus setting that first drew Orbital Sciences Corporation to Loudoun in the 1990s. Starting with one building, Orbital has steadily expanded and now has an entire campus in Loudoun, soon to contain more than 750,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space. Orbital employs more than 1,800 highly educated and skilled technology workers at its Loudoun facility. The company develops and manufactures small rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers, including NASA, the U.S. Air Force and global satellite operators. Says Rosenstrauch: “From gigabytes to satellites, fine wines to departure times, Loudoun County really is more than you imagine.”
The George Washington University
The George Washington University is proud of our flagship Virginia campus in the heart of the Northern Virginia technology corridor. Located only 25 miles from Washington, D.C., this 100-acre campus houses cutting-edge research that makes GW a real asset to the region and to the Commonwealth as a whole. Our investigators work with colleagues from other Virginia institutions on important research initiatives. To cite just one example, GW researchers are engaged in advanced work on transportation safety with colleagues from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and the University of Virginia.
We are equally proud of the contributions our faculty members are making to enrich education and to meet Virginia’s health and safety needs. GW is collaborating with public school systems to train teachers in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties; with George Mason University to train nurse practitioners; and with Shenandoah University to offer a unique undergraduate program in pharmacogenomics. This fall, we are launching a new program on the Virginia Campus to train nurses and help address the Commonwealth’s critical nursing shortage.
This year, the GW Virginia Campus marks 18 years of groundbreaking research, innovative education, and strategic collaboration. We will continue to expand our teaching and research activities in ways that strengthen the vitality of the Northern Virginia region and of the Commonwealth — an example of the academic excellence and civic commitment that are hallmarks of The George Knapp, The George Washington University Washington University.