January 5, 2023, E-News: In Focus: Fairfax County’s Transformation into a Tech Epicenter + Weekly Business News Digest

In Focus: Fairfax County’s Transformation into a Tech Epicenter

Silicon Valley has long been synonymous with tech startups. While other tech hubs have popped up in Boston, Texas, and North Carolina, Fairfax County has established itself as a tech government contracting epicenter, according to Virginia Business in a feature article. While government contracting has been a boon for the region, Fairfax County has also grown to attract commercial technology companies. In the county alone, there are 44,000 open jobs, about 30 percent of which are in the tech industry.

“People are realizing that Silicon Valley is not the only place that tech talent resides, and it’s not the only place where tech companies thrive,” said FCEDA President and CEO Victor Hoskins.

With 8,700 technology companies, Fairfax County is an epicenter for many of the state’s technology companies. Nine Fortune 500 companies are based in Fairfax County, including defense contractors General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman. George Mason University, one of the most diverse colleges in the country, is also based in the county.

“Because Virginia is very business-friendly and because the federal government is the largest purchaser of tech products and services, it’s attracting the key pieces of the tech ecosystem,” said Jennifer Taylor, CEO of Northern Virginia Technology Council in the article. “Over 30 years, the area has just really flourished. All you have to do is take a look at the skyline and our infrastructure to see the growth.”

Entry-level tech workers in Fairfax County can expect starting salaries ranging from $80,000 to $150,000, Hoskins says, with compensation skyrocketing from there. Tech workers who have a few years of experience and a master’s degree can earn between $200,000 and $350,000 per year in the county.

“This area provides almost inexhaustible talent for tech businesses, whether it’s security or just tech in general,” said Yanek Korff, co-founder and chief of staff of Herndon-based Expel in the article. It also has “a diverse talent [pool], which I really like,” he adds. “The D.C. area is a bit of a melting pot, as it’s often a transitory area for people.”

Fairfax County and the surrounding Washington, D.C., region also have a lower cost of living when compared with other tech hubs and major metropolitan areas, according to the FCEDA, the article stated. San Francisco outpaces Northern Virginia in terms of tech compensation — but not by much. Tech workers in Northern Virginia make 97 percent of their counterparts’ salaries in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and San Jose, California, according to data from Carta, a San Francisco-based software firm specializing in tech industry equity management.

Click here to read more about Fairfax County’s vibrant tech business ecosystem and robust tech talent pipeline.

Weekly Business News Digest

Advancing conservation: Tysons-based Iridium Communications created a first-of-its-kind program in support of the Smithsonian Institution’s Movement of Life Initiative, which advances conservation through the science of animal tracking, SpaceRef reported. Through this program, Iridium satellite connections are enabling Smithsonian scientists to overcome the challenge of tracking wildlife in remote areas, enabling better understanding of threats to the survival of terrestrial, avian, and marine life. “The Movement of Life’s global animal conservation efforts are incredibly important for the protection of threatened and endangered species, and Iridium is uniquely qualified to help with on-the-ground efforts in an impactful way,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch. “This partnership was a natural fit, and we’re happy to join the Smithsonian in this important work and to play a part in better understanding the migrations of these animals and ecological impacts on their well-being.”

More Iridium news: Tysons-based Iridium Communications said it’s signed an agreement with an undisclosed company to put its satellite communications technology into smartphones, the Washington Business Journal reported. The deal comes on the heels of Apple’s deal with satellite communications firm Globalstar to use the latter’s services in enabling some emergency messaging for the iPhone 14. While Iridium hasn’t named the service provider with which it inked this deal, a South Korean news outlet reported in November that Samsung was planning to work with Iridium to add satellite communications technology to its Galaxy S23 phones.

Wave up to hail your taxi! Chantilly-based ANRA, an airspace service provider; and Tysons-based AURA, a command, control and  communication service provider, were among the companies that participated in a series of NASA tabletop discussions throughout 2022 to determine how electric air taxis could be safely integrated into the national airspace, paving the way for passengers to eventually be able to travel quickly between cities via aerial highways, Devdiscourse reported. Read more in NASA.gov.

Job opportunities abound: Tysons-based Aeyon is continuing a trajectory of growth and expansion with new work with NASA and hopes to open the door to work with other agencies, DCInno reported. Aeyon’s latest win is through MM Technologies, a joint venture between Aeyon subsidiary Manufacturing Technical Solutions and Tysons-based MDW Associates. It landed a $516.9 million contract with NASA to provide accounting, quality assurance, travel, and conference administrative support, financial management, business information services, and special financial analysis and create consistency across multiple space centers when it comes managing financial budget data. “As we continue to grow, our mission is across the board, across wherever we can to help the government, we want to be there. We don’t have one civic area we’re trying to grow in. We’re trying to grow in almost all areas,” Aeyon CEO Sunny Singh said. “There’s a lot of time and effort that goes into this. There’s a lot of people we’re going to need to hire for this contract and that’s not always easy.”

Weather and aviation solutions: SpaceX launched 114 satellites aboard Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 3, including six craft that will be operated by Tysons-based space analytics company Spire GlobalSpace.com reported. The satellites will demonstrate advancements and new capabilities for the company’s weather and aviation solutions. “Satellites and payloads are continuing to get smaller and more powerful,” said Jeroen Cappaert, Spire CTO and co-founder. “We’re capitalizing on this rapid pace of innovation and miniaturization to continue to enhance our constellation with cutting-edge technology that drives new applications of satellite data. The applications we’re demonstrating for aviation tracking and precipitation data will play a crucial role in solving some of the greatest challenges we face on Earth, such as overcoming climate change with more accurate weather forecasting and bringing transparency to the supply chain.” satnews has more.

New role: Reston-based Leidos transformed a luxury business jet into the world’s most sophisticated spy plane, wrote Michael Verdon in a Robb Report feature article. The Bombardier Challenger 650’s interior was outfitted with routers, computers and IT equipment to monitor the Ukraine border. It’s the one of many business jets entering America’s spy services, according to the article. “These [planes] can see very far when operating at 40,000 feet,” said Mike Chagnon, Deputy Group President of Leidos Defense Group to Defenseone.com. Military+Space Electronics has more.

Ship tracking: Earth observation satellite imagery is playing a key role in tracking sea piracy, dark vessels and other illicit activities that cause ecological imbalances, posing a threat to oceanic sustainability. Herndon-based HawkEye 360 is noted in a Geospatial World article for innovating Automatic Identification System (AIS) technologies that track ships at sea. “Utilizing an RF (radio frequency)-first approach in addition to standard AIS signal monitoring offers improved maritime domain awareness. National maritime authorities can rely on these results for strategic response and remediation tactics,” said Adam Bennett, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HawkEye 360.

3’s a charm: Three Fairfax County-based companies: Avenu Insights & Analytics (Centreville), Cardinality.ai (Tysons); and Maximus (Reston) were named to the GovTech 100 list for 2022. According to Government Technology: “The GovTech 100 is an annual list compiled and published by Government Technology as a compendium of 100 companies focused on, making a difference in, and selling to state and local government agencies across the United States.”

Virginia Climate Center: Fairfax-based George Mason University is expected to open the Virginia Climate Center in late January, reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Led by James Kinter, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences at GMU, the VCC will work with local communities across the state, listening to what they need and providing information to help them develop strategies to manage their risks from a warming climate.

Sudan pediatric oncology study: Tysons-based Hafezi Capital International Consulting developed a Feasibility Study for Sudan Children’s Cancer Organization in Khartoum, Sudan. The research further examined the potential of increasing the current 16 percent survival rate of pediatric cancer patients to the baseline of 83 percent within five years, as has been proven by other similar programs throughout developing countries. “The study was designed to be a thorough analysis of the Sudanese need for pediatric oncology and how Sudan Children’s Cancer Organization can have a strong impact in Khartoum. Based on our analysis, at minimum, the organization can save over 2,000 children with their program in the coming decade and increase survivability to above 80 percent,” said Babak Hafezi, CEO of Hafezi Capital International Consulting. 

Location, location, location: Bethesda-based Combined Properties bought Avalon Park Crest, an apartment community in Tysons, from AvalonBay Communities, a real estate investment trust headquartered in Arlington. The deal was executed Nov. 22, according to public records. The property is within walking distance from two Metro stations, Tysons and Greensboro, on the just-expanded Silver Line, with new access to Washington Dulles International Airport. “The proximity to Metro, I-495 Beltway, the Dulles Toll Road, major employers, and quality retailers are all key advantages” of the Avalon Park Crest property, according to Aisha Hill, Combined’s senior vice president of development and transactions. The Washington Business Journal has more.

Air quality monitoring: Denver Public Schools (Colorado) has installed Tysons-based Attune sensors to monitor air quality in schools in real time, Denver 7 ABC News reported. The district dedicated $1.5 million from its federal funding to the program. The sensors monitor carbon dioxide levels, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, ozone, formaldehyde and more. “Additionally, our IoT platform enables us to capture energy and HVAC performance data to help property managers improve indoor air quality without sacrificing sustainability,” said Serene Al-Momen, CEO and co-founder of Attune.

Vertical farm in Herndon: Beanstalk Farms, the brainchild of Alexandria brothers Mike and Jack Ross, opened at what was an abandoned data center in downtown Herndon, according to Northern Virginia Magazine. The farm utilizes a new method of high-density, highly automated indoor agriculture that yields hyper-fresh, nutritious produce that can be delivered within 24 hours of harvest. As an indoor vertical farm, Beanstalk grows crops in rows of shallow trays to allow for more efficient use of the facility’s dimensions. The operation is 200 times more productive than traditional farms. Beanstalk can grow more than 100 acres worth of produce on just a half-acre of land while using 90 percent less water, according to Mike Ross.

New company: Sanjay Sardar, former senior vice president for digital at Reston-headquartered Science Applications International Corp. joined ASRC Federal, which is co-headquartered in Reston and Beltsville, Md., to serve as president of an operating group that provides support to civilian and health agencies, GovConWire reported. In his recent capacity, Sardar oversaw SAIC’s strategy for the delivery of digital transformation and information technology modernization offerings to the federal government. The FCEDA interviewed Sanjay in a recent article and video about why Fairfax County is the ideal location for SAIC. Click here to check it out.

Continuing education kudos: Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), age 72, is pursuing a master’s degree in machine learning at Fairfax-based George Mason University, the Washington Post reported in an article for subscribers. Beyer — a science wonk, economist and former car salesman — has been taking one class per semester in a slow but steady march toward the degree, with hopes of one day applying his artificial-intelligence knowledge to his legislative work as the technology evolves further. Beyer said that as he’s considered how he would want to use his AI background, he’s found himself zeroing in on one area that has already been a long-standing priority of his: suicide prevention.

Contract Wins

Carahsoft Technology (Reston) received a $432 million contract from the U.S. Army for the delivery of ServiceNow products  GovConWire

Peraton (Herndon) obtained a $174.6 million contract to help the U.S. Customs Border and Protection manage an airborne detection and monitoring system used in air, maritime and ground surveillance. GovConWire

CACI International (Reston) received a $68.8 million contract modification from the U.S. Army for the continued assistance in fielding and sustainment of an online human resources system that manages personnel and pay procedures. ExecutiveBiz

Leidos (Reston) will conduct studies in support of the development and demonstration of electro-optic sensing defensive electronic warfare prototype under a four-year, $39.18 million contract from the U.S. Air Force. ExecutiveBiz

Inverness Technologies (Annandale) won a $20.8 million contract for support services for the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance ProgramClearance Jobs

General Dynamics Information Technology (Falls Church) secured a $17.8 million contract modification to continue supporting the development and maintenance of the U.S. Air Force’s Distributed Common Ground System network weapon system. ExecutiveBiz

FCEDA Hosted and Sponsored Events

January 31 (in-person) & February 1 (virtual) — Tech & Cyber Hybrid Networking & Hiring Event. Build a meaningful career in Northern Virginia’s tech & cyber industry – where employers are building tech that matters. From satellites that fuel space exploration to code that keeps our government’s data safe, you can make a difference in your local and global community through a tech career here. Network with hiring companies in the IT sector ranging from defense and aerospace to healthcare and renewable energy at this free in-person and virtual event. Click here 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 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.