Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D., is president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.
Home to more than 82,000 military veterans, Fairfax County is the perfect place to embark on a post-military career, start a business and raise a family. In the past few years, Fairfax County businesses have dominated the Washington Business Journal list of largest veteran-owned companies in the Greater Washington Region. In 2017, seven of the top eight and 17 of the top 25 companies featured on the list are based in Fairfax County. These 17 businesses had a 2016 revenue of more than $1.35 billion and employed close to 3,800.
The deep roster of veteran-owned businesses in Fairfax County goes far beyond the WBJ list. More than 12,000 veteran-owned businesses have a presence in Fairfax County, and they employ more than 34,000 workers, creating $6.7 billion in sales and receipts. These companies span all industry sectors from health care to cybersecurity to construction to professional services.
Additionally, many of the industries found in Fairfax County benefit from the expertise and dedication veterans bring to a job. Long known as a home to government contractors, Fairfax County businesses specifically look for the skills many veterans possess. For many of these contractors, a security clearance can be the first hurdle to employment, but many veterans leave the military with a valuable clearance.
In the county’s burgeoning cybersecurity and technology industry, veterans also have many of the skills needed. It is important not only to the county’s economy, but to our nation’s economy as a whole that the extensive training given to members of the military, not be wasted once they leave the service.
Why do so many veterans and veteran-owned businesses succeed in Fairfax County? Part of it can be explained by the extensive support network for businesses owned by veterans in the county.
For example, my office has a division that works with minority-, woman- and veteran-owned companies to help them start and expand here. The Springfield-based Community Business Partnership operates a Veterans Business Outreach Center, one of 14 in the nation, and CBP annually presents a Veterans in Business Conference. The Tysons Corner-based SkillSource Group offers business development assistance and job placement services through its Northern Virginia Jobs 4 Veterans program. Many Fairfax County-based employers and the Northern Virginia Technology Council offer programs or services to help veterans find jobs or start businesses.
Even for non-veteran owned businesses, Fairfax County is a particularly attractive location. A robust and stable business environment, with ample opportunities for small businesses and major corporations to relocate, expand or launch. Not only is the county well-known for its strength in government and defense technology, but there are also large and growing numbers of commercial IT, financial, software, health, communications and technology management service providers.
As a group that has spent time in a variety of communities around the world, many veterans find that settling down in Fairfax County a welcome respite. The quality of life in the county is very high and the public-school system is ranked among the top in the country. The proximity to Washington, D.C., and the parks and cultural amenities in the county create a comfortable pace of life.
The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority is proud to support veterans and veteran-owned businesses in the county. Their dedication and drive has helped make the county into the place it is today and will continue to push innovation and industry in Fairfax County in the future.