State, leaders of local economic development: Loudoun in the lead

Economic development officials hope to make Virginia one of the fastest growing states for businesses in the nation, and Loudoun is leading the way, members of the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce heard Friday morning.

Virginia Economic Development Partnership President and CEO Jason El Koubi said at the House PolicyMakers Breakfast Series on June 24 that Virginia’s job numbers and economic recovery from the pandemic of COVID-19 have not been as quick as he would like.

“We’re one of the slowest states to recover our pre-pandemic job base, and we’re not keeping up with the crowd we’d like to stay with in terms of fast-growing states,” he said. he declares. But, he said, Virginia should hit that benchmark by the end of the year, and rural areas of the state aren’t as far behind as once feared.

But he said he wants Virginia to be one of the fastest growing states squarely in terms of job growth and median income.

“Historically, Virginia has been kind of a middle-growth state. We weren’t super slow, but we were kind of in the middle of the pack,” he said. “So getting squarely into the top 10 is a big transformation, and it’s a transformation that Loudoun, the top economic engine, is going to have to be part of.”

He highlighted investments in data centers in Loudoun, the largest data center market in the world.

“You have capabilities here that can kind of be exported to other parts of Virginia as other parts of Virginia get more involved, and that will be great for you,” he said.

But he also spoke about some of the statewide challenges that Loudoun is particularly feeling — housing costs and the labor pipeline. El Koubi said the way governments thought about labor in the past was “pretty crude”.

“It’s not just about increasing curricula. It’s about getting really, really smart about the connections between what’s happening in our education and workforce space, and how that manifests in the economy,” he said. He said it was one of the most important things he wanted to address as CEO of the Partnership for Economic Development: “This is huge for us, and it has huge implications for Virginia and our community, and I think if we can crack that code, it’s going to have huge implications for America.

Loudoun County also has one of the highest costs of living in the state and low unemployment, which Loudoun Executive Director of Economic Development Buddy Rizer says may deter new businesses from settling in as they consider how they will find and pay employees.

“This council has really decided to take care of affordable housing, because it’s an economic development issue, it’s a quality of life issue, it’s a community issue – it’s really important,” said Rizer. “…We can’t create those jobs unless we have homes that can support a wide range of people.”

Rizer spoke of Loudoun’s transformation from a residential community – with tax revenues that exploded when a real estate bubble burst – into an economic development success story that is leading the fastest growing commercial real estate industry. fast, data centers, has attracted various employers like Raytheon, Athari Biosciences, and the USDA, and, where appropriate, now relies too heavily on commercial tax revenue for local government. County supervisors have just launched a likely multi-year project to rebalance local tax revenue following warnings from budget officials that the local government is overly reliant on revenue from data center taxes.

And he said the ongoing debate over where new data centers should be allowed to be built in the county is important. But he said the opportunities ahead for Loudoun are even greater, both in data centers and in other developments, especially mixed-use. He pointed to Rivana, the ongoing project on the eastern border of Loudoun currently before the Planning Commission.

“This will and may be the most important mixed-use site for American businesses on the East Coast, if we do it right,” Rizer said. “An airport metro station, at the intersection of [Rt.] 28 and the toll road – that’s all we could ask for, and that’s the real vision Loudoun saw when we opted for Metro.

“Virginia is a state where you really can have it all,” El Koubie said. “It’s an amazing Commonwealth, and I think there’s no place that’s more a microcosm of this incredible array of assets, quality of life and commercial vibrancy than Loudoun County.”