- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2000

Martin Briley has seen Prince William County flourish in the past two years. As executive director of the community's Department of Economic Development, he has played a part in that success.

The department was created three years ago to lure industries to the county, particularly targeting high technology. Today, several large high-tech companies, including America Online, have opened facilities and created jobs in the county.

But Mr. Briley wants more and is working with the business and political communities to increase incentives and keep Prince William County growing.

Question: What economic development successes can Prince William County point to in the past year?

Answer: Prince William County has been very fortunate. We experienced a dramatic increase in economic development successes during 1999, largely due to many new technology companies moving to this community. In fact, during the past 12 months, 26 companies have announced Prince William County as the location for targeted projects high technology and corporate with a combined investment valued at $602.6 million.

To put this in perspective, this $600 million targeted investment is six times larger than the previous five years combined. And these companies announced their intention to create 2,400 high-paying jobs, three times higher than last year and 15 percent higher than the previous five years combined.

It was truly a watershed year, and we believe that this is only the beginning of a new pattern of technology growth in this community.

Q: Are you targeting high-tech companies or any other industry in particular?

A: Well, it's the high-tech companies that are dominating …

But we also have biotechnology companies, manufacturing and other multiple technologies. Prince William County's motto is "Where Technologies Converge" and we try to live up to that.

Q: How has America Online's decision to build a facility in Prince William County affected the local economy?

A: America Online's facility represents the largest private investment ever to have been made in the county, and it is the fourth largest private investment in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The arrival of America Online has had a very positive effect on the county and, of course, created additional momentum in a marketplace that was already quite responsive. The America Online success, as well as those that followed, confirmed and reconfirmed the county's commitment to the growth and success of the business community.

Q: What other high-tech companies are following AOL to the county?

A: The list of high-technology successes in Prince William County is impressive and also includes such companies as Covad Communications and Avenir Software…

So many technology companies have already recognized the value of being in Prince William County. I believe others will follow.

Q: What are you doing to encourage companies to set up office campuses in the county?

A: It's very important to our clients that a community is supportive of their company and project. We work hard to demonstrate this.

For example, time to market is a pressing demand by our clients and we have streamlined our process to ensure the fastest turnaround time on any and all county involvement. Also, the cost of doing business in the county is very competitive and our policies on this issue are very stable with the intent to aggressively maintain this cost advantage.

We have a number of sites to accommodate our clients, extraordinary fiber-optic connectivity, and a technology park that includes a George Mason University campus. We are also in the center of the highly educated work force of Northern Virginia and locating here substantially reduces commute time for most workers.

While we have excellent access to downtown and the airports about 30 minutes away it may surprise you to know that we really don't have internal traffic congestion unless you are on the Interstates during rush hour.

Q: What incentives does Prince William County offer companies so that they open offices in the community?

A: We have several. We guarantee a 30-day approval process for targeted companies… . In other parts of the country that process may take nine or six months sometimes …

We also work as a team with the companies, and we have lower costs. The Board of Supervisors slashed taxes by reducing the computer tax by 67 percent, and the board is considering reducing the real estate tax rate in the immediate future.

These successes also gave the market significant confirmation that Prince William County wants businesses to locate here, and that our elected officials, particularly the Board of Supervisors, work very hard to maintain and, at every opportunity, accelerate a pro-business environment.

Consequently, our momentum is quite strong and will only get stronger.

Q: Has real estate development changed in the past few years in Prince William County, since Disney pulled out on its offer for Disney America?

A: The Disney project was over five years ago and predates my arrival to this community. I don't see any impact in today's market.

The development and real estate community continue to be very involved with the successes here in Prince William County, and a significant portion of development momentum is now driven by the demand from the technology industry.

Q: Is Prince William County trying to capitalize on Fairfax County's success and how?

A: Prince William County is fortunate to be located in the dynamic marketplace of Washington metro and to be a part of the vibrant Northern Virginia technology corridor.

All of us in each community want, and need, the entire area to be successful. In fact, as neighbors and colleagues, we work together to promote the region and we cheer each others successes recognizing all will ultimately benefit. We also work together to address multiple issues and concerns. From the eyes of a private sector corporation, we are really one big community with successes and concerns freely spilling across municipal lines.

Sure, we all put our best foot forward for each opportunity but, in the end, our competition is not each other it's Atlanta, Boston, Austin, Denver, San Jose, Charlotte, and in some cases the U.K., India or Canada to name a few.

The competition to attract business is global, well funded and it is fierce. So it is imperative that we continue to work together it's the only way to maintain a competitive business climate and ensure our businesses throughout the area have every opportunity to succeed.

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