Return to stable footing: The U.S. economy grew by a bustling 3.1 percent in 2023, shaking off recession fears and offering an upbeat picture of consumers and businesses, The Washington Post reported. Growth slowed slightly in the last three months of 2023 — to an annual rate of 3.3 percent, down from a sweltering 4.9 percent in the previous quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said. The latest figures show the economy has returned to stable footing following a period of dramatic pandemic-fueled swings that marked 2020 through early 2022. “We are coming down to more sustainable levels, both in the economy and in the job market,” said Satyam Panday, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global Ratings. “We expect a controlled, steady slowdown, not a recession.”
January 25, 2024: Why Fairfax County is a Great Place for Iridium’s Headquarters: Interview with CEO Matt Desch + Weekly Business News Digest
Why Fairfax County is a Great Place for Iridium’s Headquarters: Interview with CEO Matt Desch
Tysons-based global telecommunications company Iridium’s location is ideal because of the proximity to their biggest customer – the Department of Defense, as well as the proliferation of other space-related companies in the region, according to Matt Desch, CEO, Iridium. In fact, Greater Washington is a “commercial space hub” in terms of the entire country, Desch noted in an interview with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority during Iridium’s recent 25th anniversary celebration, held in November at Capital One Center in Tysons.
With Iridium employees, the company’s original founders and early investors, partners, and distinguished guests gathered to mark the anniversary celebration, Desch said:
“We are excited to celebrate and reflect on the past 25 years while looking toward the future and leading new innovations in satellite communications. While our technology is still groundbreaking, it’s been the people in and around Iridium that have made the company the success that it is today.”
Originally located in Maryland, Desch said he decided to move Iridium’s headquarters to Tysons for several strategic business reasons.
“When I got here 16 years ago, Iridium was in Montgomery County, Maryland. As the company was going public, I wanted to move to what I believed to be the heart of the high-tech corridor, both for the growth that we would expect, the kind of employee capabilities that we would need, as well as all the partners that we could working with,” Desch explained.
“So, we moved the company over to Tysons just about the time we went public 13 years ago. We think this is a dynamic area. Our employees can get here from anywhere, whether they choose to live in major markets like D.C. or out in the country. We have great universities, we have high tech partners, and we have access to one of our largest customers here — the U.S. government,” Desch said. “So, it is a perfect nexus for our company, and many other space companies are in the area.”
With this proliferation of space and satellite communications companies, Greater Washington is a space communications hub, Desch said.
“Absolutely, it is. The rocket industry perhaps is more California-based and there are some governmental-type companies in California, But I would say D.C. is equally as strong an area. And a lot of that has to do with that the first and continuously largest investor in space is the U.S. government. So, it’ll always be a hub for the industry,” Desch said.
“But even though we’re primarily a commercial company, we benefit by being so close to the aerospace and defense industries that are in this area. Outside of these two areas, there’s some space hubs in Texas, and some places like Huntsville, Alabama, or the Space Coast in Florida,” he continued. “But I don’t know that there is as strong an area as D.C. is. I believe D.C. is possibly the Number One area for the satellite industry among other aspects of commercial space.”
And Greater Washington, D.C. is a good area for accessing talent for the company’s Northern Virginia locations, Desch emphasized.
“We don’t have a hard time attracting talent. We have grown quite a bit. We hired 200 people last year, and about 150 people as of today that have joined us this year. And for a company that has about 750 employees, around 50 percent located in the Greater D.C. area, that’s a major percentage of year-over-year growth,” he said.
“In Northern Virginia we get great employees who graduated from Virginia Tech, George Mason, American, Georgetown, or George Washington, among others. We are also getting a lot of other people with experience in the telecom industry and at high-tech companies.” Desch said.
Click here to find out about careers at Iridium.
“It is a growing, vibrant area. And people seem to want to move here if they’re not here already,” Desch said.
Click here to read a Q&A interview with Desch on his reflections on the satellite communications industry over the past 25 years, predictions for the future of telecommunications — and more.
U.S-.India Strategic Partnerships for Technology Collaboration Spotlighted at FCEDA Event
PanIIT Alumni Association (PanIIT), in partnership with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and Arlington Economic Development hosted a business development event: “India Rising: Innovation for a Better World: Doing Business in Northern Virginia” on January 12, 2024. The forum, which attracted 140 attendees from India and the local business community executives, focused on topics such as U.S-.India strategic partnerships for technology collaboration, policy challenges with adoption of AI, smart city development, workforce development, Robotics, and data-privacy new technologies.
Hosted by JBG SMITH at JBG SMITH National Landing Center in Arlington, Va., speakers included U.S. and India government officials, business innovators, and chamber organizations.
In order of their presentations, the featured speakers were:
- Sid Chowdhary, PanIIT Conference Chair Chairman, Credence Management Solutions, LLC
- Michael Stiefvater , Director, Business Investment Group Arlington Economic Development
- Victor Hoskins, President and CEO, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority
- Vardahn Chaudhry, Vice President, Investments, Digital Infrastructure, JBG SMITH
- Scott Urbom, Foreign Service Officer, Director for India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Maldives Affairs at the U.S. Department of State
- Ambassador (ret.) Atul Keshap, President, United States India Business Council (USIBC)
- Dr. Vinod Bahade , Counsellor (Eco & HOC) Embassy of India, Washington, D.C.
- Poornima Shenoy, U.S. Representative, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) in the U.S.
- Atul Mathur, Conference Co-Chair Principal and CIO, Credence Management Solutions, LLC
PanIIT Alumni Association (PanIIT) is an umbrella organization representing alumni of all Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). PanIIT is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2006.
If you are affiliated with an Indian company interested in establishing or expanding your presence in Northern Virginia, please contact Asher Kotz, Assistant Director, International Business Investment Manager, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Anuj Sahay, Manager India Market, ASahay@fceda.org, to find out about the free services available to assist your company. Click here for more information on how to join the plethora of Indian companies with locations in Northern Virginia.
Seven Fairfax County-based Companies Participate in Virginia Leaders in Export Trade program
Three Fairfax County-based companies are among 16 companies from across the Commonwealth have graduated from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s (VEDP) most recent Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) program, according to an announcement by Governor Glenn Youngkin. Four additional Fairfax County-based companies have joined the next two-year program. VALET, which now has 391 graduated companies, assists Virginia exporters that have firmly established domestic operations and are committed to international exporting as a growth strategy.
The Fairfax County-based graduating companies are:
VALET is a two-year international business acceleration program that provides participating companies with international sales plan development services, assistance from a team of experienced international service providers, international business meetings with potential partners, educational events, and customized market research.
The companies joining the VALET program include:
- DZYNE Technologies (Annandale)
- Learning Tree International (Herndon)
- Parsons Government Services (Centreville)
- Vibrent Health (Fairfax)
Virginia exports over $51 billion in goods and services annually. Exports of the Commonwealth’s products and services are critical to economic growth, supporting more than 257,000 jobs and generating $2 billion in annual tax revenue. VEDP offers numerous programs to assist Virginia companies with selling into the global marketplace and has a network of international market research consultants covering 122 countries around the globe.
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1995 to encourage, stimulate, and support the development and expansion of the economy of the Commonwealth. To accomplish its objectives of promoting economic expansion within the Commonwealth, the Partnership focuses its efforts on business recruitment, expansion, and international trade development.
“International trade is a pillar of the Commonwealth’s economy, and the VALET program provides invaluable resources to guide Virginia businesses seeking growth into the global marketplace,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “We congratulate these companies that have grown their domestic sales and are taking the next steps toward international expansion, advancing Virginia’s economic growth in diverse regions of the Commonwealth.”
More information on the VALET Program is available here.
Weekly Business News Digest
Something of an outlier: Unlike in many areas in the region and across the country, the office vacancy rate in Fairfax County’s Route 28 South submarket is relatively low, reported staff reporter Dan Brendel in the Washington Business Journal. Cushman & Wakefield, for example, has vacancy in Route 28 South at 13.8 percent, well below 21.5 percent for Northern Virginia as a whole. The Route 28 South area, which extends roughly from Reston to Centreville east of Washington Dulles International Airport, is something of an outlier, enjoying a unique type and amount of demand from the “national security apparatus,” according to Nate Edwards, a senior director of research at Cushman & Wakefield. Route 28 South enjoys an atypical confluence of government agencies and the contractors they attract. Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, said in a statement the county sees high demand for places that provide transit access and those amenities, “but one size does not fit all.” Some of the companies located in the county, he said, have their needs best met at locations like those along the Route 28 corridor.
Don’t stop believin’ in the AI journey: Herndon-based ManTech has established a new business unit dedicated to data and artificial intelligence, reported ExecutiveBiz. The Data Analytics and AI Solutions Practice will be headed by vice president Brandy Durham and will provide federal agencies with consulting, engineering services and technology accelerators in these areas. “At ManTech, we’ve assembled a diverse team of AI experts with deep understanding of client missions to create our foundation, ensuring we empower every client’s AI journey,” Durham said. The unit is designed to help customers evaluate the current state of their digital infrastructure and identify specific ways in which they can work toward their AI goals. This method is intended to familiarize users with digital systems so they can leverage the speed, performance results and cost efficiency of AI.
Aerospace innovation program: Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) launched its first innovation center in the U.S. in Herndon and the debut program within it – IAI CATALYST. IAI’s new innovation center and the IAI CATALYST program will foster cooperation between IAI and American startup companies while providing them the opportunity to develop technologies alongside experts and partners, according to IAI. Operated by Starburst Aerospace, IAI CATALYST is a unique 5-month business accelerator program, tailored to support emerging startups on their journey to success. The program will focus on several key sectors critical to the future of aerospace innovation including Trusted AI & Autonomy, Quantum Science, Sustainability and Energy Technology, and Space Technology. Selected companies will receive technical and business support and mentorship in addition to financial incentives to accelerate market entry and growth. NoCamels Israeli Innovation News and World Nation News have more.
Sweet story: McLean-based Mars, the massive food and pet care company, is opening up a new facility dedicated to the research and testing of new chocolate products, according to Washington Business Journal. The company opened a $42 million research and development hub at its Goose Island campus in Chicago, where the headquarters of its snacking business is located. The 44,000-square-foot facility will allow the candymaker to create and refine new products, and is seen as a key component of its efforts to double the revenue of its snacking business — which includes famous brands like M&M’s and Snickers — to $36 billion in the next decade.
High flying investments: Tysons-based Booz Allen Hamilton‘s venture capital arm chose Colorado-based remote-sensing startup Albedo as its first investment in a space company because of its potential to transform intelligence gathering, reported SpaceNews. Albedo announced it raised $35 million to build and launch a network of ultra-high resolution Earth imaging satellites. Booz Allen launched its corporate venture arm in 2022 and manages a fund of about $100 million.“We are focused on investments in data coming from space,” Chris Bogdan, executive vice president at Booz Allen and head of the firm’s space business, told SpaceNews.
Very long arc: Chantilly-based Arcfield secured contracts worth more than $1 billion combined from U.S. government customers during the last two quarters of fiscal year 2023 to support classified systems engineering, technical and integration work, GovConWire reported. Kevin Kelly, chairman and CEO of Arcfield, said the awards, including follow-on contracts, reflect the capability of the company’s workforce and efforts in supporting clients in their critical missions and ensuring national security. Arcfield operates through its 17 offices worldwide and has more than 1,500 employees supporting defense, intelligence and federal civilian agency customers across the areas of systems engineering and integration, cybersecurity, space and mission launch assurance and hypersonic missiles.
Protecting critical infrastructure networks: Centreville-based Parsons Corporation has launched Cyberzcape Tracker, an artificial intelligence and machine learning-powered cybersecurity offering meant to protect critical infrastructure networks by combining passive monitoring and active threat neutralization capabilities, reported ExecutiveBiz. Parsons said that Cyberzcape Tracker had been subjected to pilot testing by a pair of utility providers in the Midwest, during which the cybersecurity solution analyzed their network threat environments then identified and neutralized malicious activity. Commenting on the new offering, Parsons IPK Cyber and Power Division Director Robert Nawy said the necessity of defending critical infrastructure from cyberattacks, whose consequences “are serious to the health, safety, and stability of our global communities.”
Straight up knowledge grab: Reston-based Babel Street, a developer of a platform that uses AI and data analytics to identity risks and intelligence for its clients, said it has acquired Ohio-based Vertical Knowledge, the developer of a tool designed to find critical insights from publicly available information. Babel Street said the move “significantly expands” its data sourcing, enrichment and analysis capabilities. It marks the company’s first acquisition since buying the Rosette AI-powered text analytics platform from BasisTech at the end of 2022. Potomac Tech Wired carried the release.
Listen WAY up! Peter Platzer, founder and CEO of Tysons-based Spire Global was interviewed about leadership by Chief Executive’s Don Yaeger in a Corporate Competitor podcast episode. One of the leadership questions he was asked is on how to turn a group of individuals into a high performing team. Platzer’s answer showed that even someone working in a futuristic industry, one which deploys tiny “nanosatellites” to gather information on weather, maritime and aviation patterns, can still rely on good old-fashioned teamwork. “I always say we are one company and we have one set of values,” said Platzer. “We express them through a common language we use when we recruit, evaluate and promote. Our culture is based on a growth mindset that says when you change you grow, when you grow you change.” Click here to listen to the podcast.
Growing global demand: Herndon-based BlackSky Technology won a multi-year contract supporting the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Indonesia to provide immediate access to subscription-based real-time, high-frequency imagery and analytics services. “Meeting the growing global demand for real-time monitoring solutions, BlackSky has the unique ability to activate instant access to high-cadence imagery and AI-driven analytics for our customers,” said Brian E. O’Toole, BlackSky CEO. “The Indonesian MoD has made a bold and innovative step towards defense modernization as an early adopter of space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance on-demand.” SpaceWatch.Global has more.
Supporting our Veterans: The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to create a Veterans and Military Families Commission that will focus on the needs of veterans and military families in the county, Burke Patch reported. Fairfax County is home to more than 45,000 active-duty military, selected reserve members, and an estimated 65,000 veterans. More than 14,500 Fairfax County Public School students are connected to the military, and 18 Fairfax County Schools are recognized Purple Star Schools.
In the spotlight: Beautiful Reston, Virginia is featured in a Southern Living article: “12 Best Things to Do in Reston, Virginia.” Reston was one of the first planned communities in the country and was designed as a place to work, play, learn, shop, and get involved. Today, it’s noted for its open-air town center, green spaces, arts and culture, and walking and biking trails that make it easy to get around Reston. Check out the article to find out some of the best things to do in Reston!
Iron Bow Technologies (Herndon) secured a $2 billion contract from the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue supporting the VA Office of Connected Care with services across four functional areas: connected care technology software and mobile medical application design, development, enhancement and remediation; infrastructure and architecture support; help desk support; as well as product ordering and inventory and asset management. Yahoo Finance
General Dynamics Mission Systems (Fairfax) won a three-year, $335 million contract from the Navy to develop, modernize and maintain the Strategic Weapon System Fire Control Subsystem to support the U.S. and U.K. ballistic missile submarines as well as guided missile submarine fleets. GovConWire
HII Mission Technologies (Tysons) secured a five-year, $197 million recompete task order to help the Joint Chiefs of Staff J7 directorate develop joint training capabilities for the Department of Defense. GovConWire
FCEDA Hosted and Sponsored Event
January 31, 2024 — Virtual Tech & Cyber Networking and Hiring Fair (FREE). Attend this FCEDA-hosted virtual career fair to network with dozens of companies hiring for thousands of mission-driven jobs ranging from defense and aerospace to healthcare and renewable energy. Click here for more information and to register.
FCEDA is Here to Help Your Business Thrive
Fairfax County EDA is here to connect businesses of all kinds to resources and information. For direct assistance, email the FCEDA at email@example.com, or call 703-790-0600.