- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority opened an office yesterday in Silicon Valley, its first branch office in the country.

Leo Campbell, the director and only employee of the downtown Palo Alto, Calif., office, will network with Silicon Valley-based technology businesses that have government contracts and the potential to expand to Fairfax County, according to Jerry Gordon, president and chief executive of the economic development agency.

The agency promotes the county’s business assets to U.S. and international companies interested in expanding or establishing their business in the Washington area.

It already has satellite offices in Bangalore, India, and Frankfurt, Germany, as well as London, Seoul and Tel Aviv.

Mr. Gordon said the agency is the first in the area to open a satellite office in California. “We’ve looked and we can’t find any [others],” Mr. Gordon said.

A Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development spokeswoman said no Maryland counties or cities have such a location, although the state has a Los Angeles office. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership does not have a California office, nor do any Virginia states or counties, a spokeswoman for the state agency said.

According to Mr. Gordon, the Silicon Valley area has the most successful technology businesses with federal contracts, such as those in information technology, aviation, software or biotechnology.

And Palo Alto is “right smack in the middle of San Jose and San Francisco,” said Alan Fogg, communications director for the Fairfax agency, adding the office space was affordable, too. The city is home to employers such as Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and Roche Bioscience, according to the city’s Web site.

The agency researched locations in Boston and New York as well as Latin America before choosing California.

“Its market has enough businesses that look like high quality and have enough ability to expand,” Mr. Gordon said. “If we would have found the strongest market was represented in Latin America, then that’s where we would have gone.”

Latin America is potentially the agency’s next location, Mr. Gordon said. Business has been growing there, but not enough to recruit there yet.

County marketing teams have been visiting California for the past 20 years, Mr. Gordon said.

But with a permanent presence there, Fairfax County can compete better with other technology centers such as New York and Boston, said Tony Howard, senior vice president of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.

Business that the agency brings to Fairfax County also brings jobs and investment in the county’s school system, recreation facilities and other “quality of life” measures, he said.

“Their job is to market the county,” Mr. Howard said. “If you need to compete, you need to establish a profile and your assets. You need to get out there.”

Mr. Gordon said he is not aiming to relocate or move businesses from Silicon Valley. But that wouldn’t worry Frank Benest, city manager of Palo Alto.

“We’ll compete on our own merits,” he said “We’re not afraid of any competition. We’re glad they reason the heart of the technology world is Palo Alto. We’re also glad they’re going to fill some of the downtown office space.”

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