Charting Fairfax County’s post-pandemic economic recovery

Fairfax County is taking bold steps to help businesses and non-profit organizations that have been hard-hit by the devastating economic impact of the pandemic.

During this unprecedented time, the county has established programs that have been instrumental in supporting the local community, especially woman-, minority- and veteran-owned small businesses. The county has issued $52.5 million in Fairfax Rise grants to small businesses and assisted more than 21,000 businesses in accessing Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds.

In the next phase of the County’s pandemic response, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Economic Initiatives Committee (EIC) met on March 16 to deliberate on the implementation of the Fairfax County Economic Recovery Framework, a comprehensive economic recovery strategy plan. Commissioned by Fairfax County and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) from HR&A, a real estate and economic development consulting firm, the plan outlines pre-pandemic conditions in the county and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recommendations for the implementation of an economic recovery strategy are detailed in the report.

“Fairfax County is one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to complete a recovery plan and start to implement it,” said Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the FCEDA. “This groundbreaking plan of action designed through a collaboration with the county Board of Supervisors leaders, Fairfax County Executive, community leaders, FCEDA, private sector leaders, and the Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives staff will help businesses and non-profits that have been harmed by the economic impact of the pandemic. With this plan in place, the recovery measures will help businesses to continue to operate and to thrive in the post-pandemic economy.”

“This [plan] is very well thought out, very well-targeted and very much captures a lot of the concerns that all of us are hearing from businesses in our own districts. It targets the most heavily hit areas in the pandemic quite well,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay at the EIC meeting.

The Economic Recovery Framework’s recommended actions span across the following five categories: business recovery and resilience; regulatory action; workforce and talent support; support for workers and families; and physical and community planning. Detailed descriptions for each action, including the existing county response, description, funding sources, potential partners, and metrics relevant for each suggested recommendation are included in the full report that is available online.

Recommendations Summary

Note: “First moves,” the highest priority initiatives with potential to be deployed rapidly, are indicated with an *.

  1. Business Recovery and Resilience

  • Launch targeted small business recovery and resilience programs focused on delivering technical support to small businesses in the industries and communities most impacted by the pandemic.*
  • Roll out a dynamic “buy local” campaign for small businesses throughout the county, focused on goods Made in Fairfax and elevating minority-owned businesses.*
  • Identify strategies to reduce small and local business costs, including through engagement with private-sector landlords and lenders.
  1. Regulatory Action

  • Continue to improve the online permitting process, particularly for commercial users making pandemic-related improvements.
  • Continue advocating for legislation that prioritizes: i) local purchasing, and ii) procurement from minority-owned businesses.
  1. Workforce and Talent Support

  • Leverage county resources to link job seekers with employment opportunities by: 1. Hiring local workers to support pandemic recovery efforts; 2. Strengthening job training and placement programs, focusing on individuals and communities impacted by the pandemic. *
  • Coordinate improvements to certification and skills-based job training and reskilling programs and bring these opportunities to low-income communities and communities of color.
  • Pilot a neighborhood job and entrepreneur center, building toward a long-term investment strategy to be deployed throughout the county. 
  1. Support for Workers and Families

  • Expand access to affordable childcare to enable more parents, particularly women, to take part in the workforce.
  • Partner with internet service providers to ensure that all Fairfax County residents can access affordable internet service and expand reach of county digital literacy programs, a key to accessing economic opportunities.
  • Create efficient and integrated client-facing access to Fairfax County and partner-provided health, housing and human services.
  • Commitment to and implementation of affordable housing production goals. 
  1. Physical and Community Planning

  • Support corridor-level recovery by establishing “boots on the ground” corridor teams to provide day-to-day support to businesses. Strategically employ a Health in All Policies approach to community development.

Discussion at the March 16 EIC meeting included presentations by the Department of Economic Initiatives (DEI) Director Rebecca Moudry and Economic Innovation Coordinator Eta Nahapetian. With the initial process of formulating the plan started back last July, this meeting was a follow up to an EIC meeting on November 18, during which the Board of Supervisors gave direction to staff and the consultants in order to finalize the report.

Full funding for the development of the Economic Recovery Strategy was provided by the FCEDA, including an expanded scope for community engagement. In addition, the FCEDA’s role in this initiative included identifying key areas of industry impact and relevant business community stakeholders for focus groups and interviews. The FCEDA collaborated with the DEI and consultants to develop and refine recommendations.

In terms of financing, Supervisor John Foust, the EIC Chair, explained at the EIC meeting that on February 9 the Board of Supervisors directed staff to consider using the up to $15 million from the county’s Economic Opportunity Reserve to fund full implementation of recommendations from the framework.

“Very recently, Congress passed and the President signed the American Rescue Plan. It appears that county will receive significant funding from that federal program and that this Board may have the option to direct a portion of those funds to our economic recovery efforts,” Supervisor Foust added.

Rebecca Moudry’s presentation at the EIC meeting proposed programs to implement recommendations from the Economic Recovery Framework, including support for the most impacted sectors and businesses. “The recommendation here is that we begin and we build out this program now, but prepare to use federal funds if they arrive and if they’re allowed to be used for these uses,” said Moudry at the EIC meeting.

Click here to view the Fairfax County Economic Recovery Framework.

March 25, 2021