April 7 E-Bird newsletter: NoVa dominates regional ‘Best Places to Work’ list; StarKist opens Reston HQ

Best workplace chart-toppers: 47 Northern Virginia-based companies, including 28 in Fairfax County, ranked on the Washington Business Journal’s 16th annual list of “Best Places to Work in Greater Washington.” In the small company category (10-24 employees), 11 Northern Virginia companies placed on the list, including Main Digital (Tysons) and Matrix Consulting (Reston). Eleven medium-sized companies (25-49 employees) made the ranking, including Tellius (Reston) and Trustar Bank (Great Falls). For large companies (50-249 employees), 20 companies made the list, including BTI360 (Herndon) and M2 Strategy (Tysons); and for extra-large companies (more than 250 employees) Salesforce (Reston) and Wondrium (Chantilly) were among the placing companies. According to the Journal, the selected companies scored highest among the hundreds of employers that participated in Quantum Workplace’s employee engagement survey. Based on survey responses from employees, each company on the list was scored highly by workers for leadership, culture, benefits and more. Click here to see the entire list of companies.

Welcome to Fairfax County, Charlie: StarKist opened its corporate and administrative headquarters on Tuesday in Reston, at 1875 Explorer Street, with room for more than 70 employees. This followed the announcement in June 2021 that StarKist would invest $3.6 million to relocate its corporate and administrative headquarters operations from Pittsburgh to Fairfax County. Founded in 1917, StarKist is best known for its tuna products and its mascot, Charlie the Tuna. The company also sells salmon and chicken products, and healthy, ready-to-eat meals. “StarKist is proud to make Reston our official global headquarters,” said Andrew Choe, president and CEO of StarKist Co. “I believe the move to Virginia will provide an outstanding work environment for our employees, as well as an opportunity to expand the StarKist business in the years ahead.” citybiz picked up a company release.

Mars to McLean: we want to grow here: After nearly 40 years in downtown McLean, Mars filed plans to expand and modernize that global headquarters site to accommodate growing demand, Washington Business Journal reported. The company, whose products range from candy to food brands to pet care, acquired the neighboring parcel, also home to an office building, for $7.6 million in 2020. Now the company plans to knock down the latter building in order to expand the former, resulting in a net addition of nearly 31,000 square feet, according to a Fairfax County rezoning application, the Business Journal reports. Mars is the region’s largest private company, with 133,000 employees worldwide and 2020 revenue of $40 billion, more than double the runner-up in the region. The company is strongly focused on global sustainability initiatives. Click here to see a recent FCEDA interview with Mars VP of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Andy Pharoah.

HBCU in Northern Virginia: The Northern Virginia Regional Commission is making efforts to bring a satellite campus of one of the state’s historically Black universities to the region. According to the Virginia Mercury, representatives from the NVRC have received interest from administrators at Norfolk State University and Virginia State University about potentially building a campus location in Northern Virginia. The two public universities may pair up on a joint campus, according to the report. The NVRC, a council of 13 county, city and town governments in Northern Virginia, is working to find locations for a satellite campus and those discussions have so far focused on Alexandria and Falls Church, according to the report. VSU, NSU and the NVRC are expected to meet next week to continue discussions, according to the Washington Business Journal.

Operational and informational advantage: Falls Church area-based Northrop Grumman and Dallas-based AT&T entered into a collaboration agreement to research and develop a digital battle network, powered by AT&T 5G and Northrop Grumman’s advanced mission systems, to support the U.S. Department of Defense, Intelligence Community News reported. The companies plan to deliver a cost-effective, scalable, open architecture solution that will help the DoD connect distributed sensors, shooters and data from all domains, terrains and forces – similar to how smart devices connect and share data in our everyday lives. “Our 5G capabilities can help the Department of Defense achieve operational and information advantage when it matters most – protecting our country and freedoms around the globe,” said Lance Spencer, client executive vice president-defense, AT&T Public Sector and FirstNet.

Specialized satellite services: Tysons-based Iridium’s satellite broadband communications services is of increasing interest to the U.S. Space Force, especially as the military services move to advance Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2), the Department of Defense’s concept to connect sensors from all of the military services into a single network, according to senior company officials, Breaking Defense reported. “Right now, the most exciting thing they’re looking at is our broadband services. With that, we’re able to provide broadband on the move, and they’re a big adopter of that, obviously, for things like JADC2,” Scott Scheimreif, Iridium’s executive vice president for government programs. Scheimreif said his firm is “not trying to compete” in general-purpose broadband, but is offering “very specialized services” that could be of use to Space Force.

Unique insights: A new set of Herndon-based HawkEye 360 geolocation satellites reached space and established communications with ground-based systems after launching aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, ExecutiveBiz reported. The three Cluster 4 satellites carry a radio frequency payload each and expand HawkEye 360’s existing constellation of nine satellites, the company said April 1, the same day as the launch. The new satellites bring modernized antenna functions made to boost flexibility in signal detection and geolocation across multiple frequencies. “Each capacity increase and technological advancement to our constellation opens new possibilities for delivering timely, unique insights to our government, commercial and humanitarian clients,” said John Serafini, CEO of HawkEye 360. Click here to see a FCEDA interview with Serafini.

Big sale: New York’s Turnbridge Equities is looking to sell five Northern Virginia office properties totaling over 860,000 square feet, all of which are leased up with big-name defense contracting firms. The properties — together dubbed the NoVa Cybersecurity and Defense Infrastructure Portfolio — comprise six buildings at five locations, including three buildings in Fairfax County that are leased to Boeing (Herndon); General Dynamics Information Technology (Chantilly); and General Dynamics Missions Systems (Fair Lakes), according to the Washington Business Journal.

Next chapter: Washington Dulles International Airport officials this week announced plans for a new 14-gate concourse that would replace an existing concourse used primarily for commuter and regional flights, the Washington Post reported. Airport officials estimate the new concourse will cost between $500 million to $800 million. The project would be the most significant upgrade at Dulles in more than a decade. “The timing is right,” said Thomas Beatty, vice president of engineering at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates the airport. “We’re open for business and we’re looking toward the next chapter.”

New office: Winmar Construction plans to open offices at 2100 Reston Parkway. A company representative said that the office space is expected to be ready for occupancy by June 1, FFXnow reported. The company already has offices in the District, Baltimore and Miami. Winmar is behind a number of projects across the country, including Founding Farmers’ 13,400-square-foot-restaurant at Comstock’s Reston Station development at the door of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.

Big jump: Riverbend Capital, a Great Falls-based venture capital firm focused on tech-focused companies, said it plans to significantly expand its investment activity, aiming to deploy $100 million with more than 100 additional companies over the next three years. It marks a big jump for the firm, which invested about $7 million all of last year and $14 million since its inception in 2016. “We’re rapidly accelerating the growth of our expansive network and adding new venture partners on a regular basis, with investment opportunities coming from all corners of the United States,” said Mark Dumas, founder and general partner of Riverbend Capital. Potomac Tech Wire picked up the release.

Seed funding: Zephyr AI, a Tysons-based healthcare technology company, raised $18.5 million in seed funding. The round was led by Lerner Group Investments and M-Cor Holdings. The company intends to use the funds to expand operations and its business reach. Zephyr AI is a healthcare technology company, which is committed to innovating traditional approaches to drug discovery and precision medicine, citybiz reported.

Series A: Tysons-based Corsha, a cybersecurity company, raised $12 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Ten Eleven Ventures and Razor’s Edge Ventures, with participation from 1843 Capital. Corsha,  co-founded by CEO Chris Simkins and CTO Anusha Iyer, helps companies prevent cyber attacks against machine-to-machine connections by securing APIs. Its platform is used by both government and commercial customers, TechCrunch reported.

Training a world-class tech workforce: Herndon-based Deltek, a provider of enterprise solutions for project-based businesses, created a scholarship for computer science students at George Mason University. The firm donated $100,000 to establish the Deltek Scholars Program, which will provide scholarship support to up to eight graduate students pursuing a master’s degree in software engineering. “We are honored that Deltek has chosen to invest in Mason students, and are eager to put these funds to use to advance our mutual goal of training a world-class tech workforce here in Northern Virginia,” said Gregory Washington, president of George Mason University. With an eye towards encouraging a more diverse tech workforce, the scholarship is targeted at students who are the first generation in their family to attend college, Consulting.us reported.

Merrily we roll along: The autonomous electric Relay shuttle in Merrifield will stay in operation at least through the end of this year, according to FFXnow.  Fairfax County accepted additional funding from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation last week to extend its pilot project through December 2022, as it hopes the recent decline in COVID-19 cases will boost the shuttle’s ridership. “Ridership levels have still been relatively low due to omicron and winter weather, but we are expecting an increase during the summer,” said Robin Geiger, head of communications for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

Early bird nested: Tysons-based satellite operator Intelsat donated the launch backup of the first commercial communications satellite in geosynchronous orbit to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Virginia Business reported. The company donated the ground spare of the Intelsat 1 satellite, also known as Early Bird. Intelsat 1 was launched on April 6, 1965, and is now inactive but remains in a geosynchronous orbit, meaning an orbit that matches Earth’s orbit and rotation speed to stay in the same position over the Earth. The second, identical satellite had been on display at Intelsat’s U.S. headquarters.

Hungry yet? World-renowned Malaysian Chef Rashidin Abdul Rashid, better known as Chef Mamu, is planning to open his first U.S. restaurant in Tysons later this year. Rashid, backed by the same group of investors behind Michelin-starred Chef Pepe Moncayo’s Cranes, has inked a deal for about 10,000 square feet at Tysons Galleria. He’ll be operating from space on the second floor of the former Macy’s department store that mall owner Brookfield has redeveloped for new tenants, according to the Washington Business Journal.

Contract wins by firms in Fairfax County

General Dynamics Information Technology won a $121.8 million contract to develop a system for the Department of Education to determine the eligibility of student applicants for federal aid. GovConWire

Oceus secured an $84 million contract to design and build a mobile cellular network for the Department of Defense. GovConWire

Featured business events

April 20 — Titans of the Toll Road: Data in the Dulles Corridor. With the Fairfax County Economic Development as a sponsor, the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce presents an event featuring leaders from Blacksky, Hawkeye 360, Maxar and Spacelink, who will share how they leverage their satellite infrastructure to develop significant opportunities through data aggregation and analytics. They will discuss the industry’s impact on our local economy. We will also hear their thoughts on the current state of our workforce, including workplace challenges, hiring trends, and other insights on navigating this challenging skilled labor market. Click here to register.

April 25 — Fairfax County welcomes delegation of German information technology companies. The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and the Northern Virginia Technology Council will co-host a German information technology delegation in Tysons. SIBB, the Digital Business Association of Berlin-Brandenburg, is bringing a delegation of 11 German companies to visit Virginia to explore collaboration and investments in the local economy. This networking event will focus on building partnerships between the visiting delegation and members of NVTC. There will be an opportunity for one-on-one meetings to explore partnerships between the German and Virginia companies. Click here to register.

May 3 — Entrepreneurship 101: Starting A Business in Fairfax County. Presented by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, join our panel of small business experts for an interactive webinar on how to start your business. We will provide you with informative step-by-step information sessions that will cover registering your business, permitting requirements, business feasibility and business plan basics, business certifications, financing options and government resources. In addition, the Entrepreneur Spotlight will feature Amy Dagliano and Kate Janich, co-founders of Rowan Tree, a Herndon co-working space primarily for women entrepreneurs. Click here to register.

How the Fairfax County EDA can help

The FCEDA is here to connect businesses of all kinds to resources and information. For direct assistance, email the FCEDA at info@fceda.org, or call 703-790-0600 to leave a voice message for our staff. And click here for resources available in the other nine jurisdictions that make up the Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance.