CNBC ranks Virginia as the best place in America to do business and Fairfax County plays prominent role

Today’s CNBC headline says it all:

“Amazon had it right: Virginia is America’s Top State for Business in 2019”

The story by Scott Cohn outlines the reasons why Virginia is the best place for business and why Amazon selected Virginia – specifically Northern Virginia – as its location for its new headquarters known as HQ2.

Victor Hoskins, this week named incoming president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, understands how attractive Virginia is as a place to do business and emphasized the region’s many assets in bringing Amazon to Arlington, where he has been director of economic development the last four-and-a-half years.

“Over the past decade Virginia has worked toward being a great place for all businesses to thrive,” Hoskins said. “The consistent local and state investment in education, the outstanding commitment of the state to workforce training, and the consistent corporate tax environment of the last 30-plus years has really created a very strong pro-business environment that is matched at the local level.

“One of the things that’s very unique about the state of Virginia is that there’s an extremely strong collaboration between the state, regional and local entities and I think that makes a huge difference.”

Virginia reestablished itself at the top of the CNBC chart thanks in part to No. 1 rankings in the categories of workforce and education, two areas to which Fairfax County has long been committed and has demonstrated excellence.

The Fairfax County EDA is making workforce attraction and retention a cornerstone of its marketing future, recently committing $1 million to fund a program that will begin in the fall. Hoskins noted the importance of “retaining talent, retraining talent, growing talent and attracting talent” to business growth and success in the county.

“Right now there are roughly 50,000 open technical positons in the Northern Virginia area,” Hoskins said. “We need to be doing those four things to help companies fill those positions. If we do it right, kids that are going through our educational system now and workers that are being retained by our companies are going to see how exciting it is to be in this environment – one of the most innovative environments in the country.”

This marks the fourth time in the 13 years of CNBC’s study that Virginia has topped the rankings, but the first time since 2011. Virginia was the first state to be ranked No. 1 back in 2007.

“I am proud to bring the title of America’s top state for business back to Virginia,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. “One of my primary goals has been to make Virginia the number one place to do business, and to do it in a way that benefits all Virginians and every region of the Commonwealth. This recognition underscores our work to build an inclusive and diversified economy, invest in our workforce, and create quality jobs – and is proof that companies of many different sizes and industries can find a home in Virginia.”

CNBC based its assessments on 64 metrics in 10 categories of competitiveness. Virginia scored 1,610 of a possible 2,500 points to oust Texas from the top spot. The Lone Star State ranked second this year, just ahead of North Carolina.

In ranking Virginia as its 2019 Top State for Business, the CNBC study took into account high grades for its:

  • World-class workforce, with nearly 38 percent of adults holding a bachelor’s degree or higher (that number is more than 60 percent in Fairfax County)
  • High-performing education system, which has produced the nation’s fourth-highest concentration of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) employees and tied with Massachusetts for the top rank in the nation
  • Business-friendly regulations including a bipartisan program to cut business regulations by 25 percent within three years, which helped Virginia leap from fifth to third in this category’s rankings.
  • Defense spending, which is the highest of any state and accounts for nearly 12 percent of Virginia’s economy.

Amazon chose Virginia for its new second headquarters based on many of the same factors,” writes Cohn, noting that other companies including Fairfax County-based Capital One Financial and General Dynamics choose to call Virginia home.

In fact, 10 Fortune 500 firms are headquartered in Fairfax County, which is also home to more than 100 Inc. 5000 companies, more than 400 foreign-owned companies and a large minority business community. Fairfax County also is the second-largest suburban office market in the nation, with more than 118 million square feet of office space.

“We were really excited by Virginia, what it had to offer,” Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president for public policy and part of its site selection team told CNBC. “Probably the most important thing was the attraction of this place to talent, and particularly tech talent.”

Virginia is CNBC's Top State for Business in 2019

Gov. Ralph Northam discusses Virginia being named CNBC’s Top State for Business in 2019