- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2000

For several years now, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority has been trying to convince South Korean technology companies to start their global expansion in Northern Virginia.

Now, the South Korean Embassy has created an expansion plan of its own using the new Korean Venture Center as its primary instrument.

The center, a small office in the Skyline building near Baileys Crossroads in Falls Church, will help Korean-owned companies get off the ground. The center offers to "incubate" 10 Korean technology companies each year.

Each company will receive office space, access to capital, a labor pool and the opportunity to team up with other Korean-owned businesses. They will receive advice and gain a foothold in one of the largest technology-rich areas in the world.

"The Washington, D.C. metro area is a 'Silicon Dominion,' [with] large companies, the U.S. government resource center, excellent recruiting for high-tech companies and many of the nation's strongest colleges and universities," said Jong S. Woo, executive director for the center.

"So, I chose this area."

Mr. Woo considered Atlanta, Austin, Texas, and even Silicon Valley as venues for the center. But, the cost of living and the incomparable attributes of metropolitan Washington, made his choice simple.

"It's a great deal [for them]," said Gerry L. Gordon, president of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. "That's a heaven sent for us."

Mr. Woo said the South Korean economy is declining, so an opportunity for Korean businesses to expand globally through the United States and this area is kind of a dream come true.

The South Korean government will invest $2 million per year to help maintain and operate the center, while private venture capital firms will invest $10 million to the center each year.

But the South Korean businesses must be strong and successful in their home country before they are chosen by the government to establish a U.S. presence, Mr. Woo said.

For Fairfax County, Mr. Gordon said, the center puts the region "on the map."

"It's necessary for us to get our name and face in front of technology decision-makers," Mr. Gordon said. "It puts us on the map. It's one more thing we have."

The county has always craved a larger South Korean presence, Mr. Gordon said. The county has even extended a tax exemption for software development outfits. New software companies will receive 100 percent tax exemption in 2001 for opening up shop here.

The idea is to bring in businesses that will rent out office space. Those businesses bring in commercial real estate taxes, and the county can ease some of the tax burden on home owners, Mr. Gordon said.

All income taxes go to Richmond, so the county must rely on real estate taxes for revenue. In light of this mission, the economic development authority has created domestic and international marketing divisions in offices in London, Tokyo and Frankfurt.

Mr. Gordon said the county spends a lot of money going overseas to recruit businesses into the area, although he couldn't say how much. "Here we have the Korean government doing that for us," he said.

There are 2,200 technology companies in Fairfax County.

So far there are only four South Korean-owned technology companies in Fairfax: AbleClick Inc., a Falls Church Internet advertising company, Cintel USA Inc., a McLean Internet traffic monitoring equipment and services provider, Handysoft Inc., a Falls Church software developer and systems integrator, and Uriel Systems Inc., a Herndon software developer.

The county recruited three of those in the past year. "Korean businesses are wonderful to have in the community," Mr. Gordon said.

"Because of the nature of the business, they tend to fit in well with this community, and within the business community and the community at large."

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