January 6 E-Bird newsletter: Virginia named best business climate — again; Northrop-built Webb telescope is ready for out-of-this-world discoveries

We’re number 1: Business Facilities magazine named Virginia first in the nation for its overall business climate. The national publication for corporate site selectors and economic development professionals said Virginia earned the honor because of the steps many economic development councils in the commonwealth, both local and statewide, are taking to make the state more attractive. It cited the Commonwealth’s workforce of 4.1 million people as well as successful workforce programs, including the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, a collaboration between the Virginia Community College System and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership that provides on-site work training, and Fast Forward Virginia, a Virginia Community College System program that provides industry credentials after a training program that typically takes between six and 12 weeks. And of course, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors funds the Work in Northern Virginia talent initiative that highlights our region as a great place to live, work, play and learn. Business Facilities also awarded the best state honor for 2018. In July 2021, CNBC named Virginia the No. 1 state for business for the second time in a row and five times in all.

Boldly going where no telescope has gone before: The James Webb Space Telescope, built by an industry team led by Falls Church area-based Northrop Grumman, lifted off Christmas Day aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from the European Space Agency’s spaceport in French Guiana. The telescope separated from the rocket about 30 minutes after launch to mark the start of a two-week deployment process to prepare for its arrival at Lagrange Point 2, Northrop said. That’s 930,000 miles above the earth. ExecutiveBiz has more. The telescope is an international partnership with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, with NASA headquarters overseeing the mission. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages Webb for the agency and oversees work on the mission performed by the Space Telescope Science Institute, Northrop Grumman, and other mission partners. The telescope’s revolutionary technology will explore every phase of cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe. Kathy Warden, chairman, president and CEO of Northrop, said the Webb telescope will turn into a scientific tool to begin a “new era in human discovery.”

And more success in space: U.K.-based satellite communications company OneWeb, which has its North American headquarters in Tysons, announced last week that its 36 digital communications satellites have reached low-Earth orbit (LEO) following their recent launch onboard an Arianespace rocket. This is its ninth launch in 12 months, bringing its planned 648-satellite LEO constellation for high-speed and low-latency global connectivity to more than 60 percent complete. With 394 satellites already in orbit, the company plans to offer its global service by the end of 2022 to address the connectivity demands from telecommunications providers, aviation and maritime industries, internet service providers and governments, according to ExecutiveBiz.

Innovative pathways: Herndon-based Hawkeye 360 extended its Series D funding round to $150 million with a $5 million investment from Reston-based Leidos. Hawkeye 360 announced in November that it raised $145 million for its radio frequency (RF) data reconnaissance business in Series D. Paul Engola, Leidos national security space executive vice president, said in a statement:, “We’re confident this investment will strengthen our robust capabilities in the National Security Space arena. This will also create innovative pathways to deliver bold solutions to our customers as they work to safeguard U.S. and allied interests.” SpaceNews has more.

It’s urgent, so urgent: Tysons-based Urgently, a provider of digital roadside and mobility assistance services, secured up to $75 million in debt financing from funds managed by Highbridge Capital Management, Onex Credit and Whitebox Advisors, that will help the company advance its mission to transform the legacy roadside assistance market and to develop and define the new market for connected mobility assistance services for automotive, insurance, fleet, logistics, new mobility and technology transportation companies. In addition, Structural Capital refinanced and increased its existing debt facility with Urgently to $17.5 million, citybiz reported.

Growth move: Neovera, a Reston information technology firm, will relocate its global headquarters near Reston Station to an office at RTC West. The new site will also encompass the company’s security operations center, which is currently in Ashburn, Reston Now reported. “We’re moving into the office because it gives us better access to the Reston market and the Reston Town Center,” said Ryan Child, the company’s president, noting the shift will allow the company to retain and add new employees. “Our expectation is to definitely grow because our staffing requirements are increasing,” Child said.

Where the offices will be: Tysons Corner Center is ready to embark on a new stage of development, but it will look a little different from what was previously envisioned. Property owner Macerich submitted development plans to Fairfax County that expand its anticipated Phase 2 for the mall to include an overhaul of the old Lord & Taylor store, which has been used as a mass COVID-19 vaccination site for much of the past year. Under the proposal, the department store will be replaced by a 330-foot tower with 540,000 square feet of office space or a 400-foot tower with a mix of office and residential space. Both options include 50,000 square feet of retail centered around a plaza, according to Tysons Reporter.

Taking shape: Plans for Rivana at Innovation Station are starting to take shape, with the expansive project near the future Innovation Center Metro Station inching closer to earning some key entitlements. Planned for 103 acres straddling Loudoun and Fairfax counties and including the former Center for Innovative Technology site, the initial 3.5 million-square-foot redevelopment effort is still being reviewed by planners in both jurisdictions. Its backers are confident that it remains on track, and hope to start work by late 2022, according to Washington Business Journal.

Higher octave: Reston-based Octo, an IT modernization provider for the federal government, acquired Herndon-based B3 Group, which provides IT services to federal healthcare customers. “We are ecstatic B3 is joining the Octo family,” said Octo CEO Mehul Sanghani. “Octo’s differentiation lies in its ability to provide pure-play modernization capabilities and proven past performance at a scale and breadth that is unmatched.” MarketScreener picked up the release.

Bit bonanza: Tysons-based MicroStrategy purchased another 1,914 bitcoins in the final weeks of 2021 for $94.2 million in cash, according to its December 30 federal filing. It’s just the latest buy for MicroStrategy, whose CEO Michael Saylor has become an ardent fan of cryptocurrencies and which has been buying bitcoin in significant amounts since August 2020. This purchase brings MicroStrategy’s year-end tally up to 124,391 bitcoins at a total price tag of $3.75 billion, or an average of $30,159 per bitcoin, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the Washington Business Journal reported.

Vroom vroom: Reston-based Leidos will sponsor driver Bubba Wallace on Michael Jordan’s NASCAR racing team for the 2022 season, the Washington Business Journal reported. The company and the racing organization said Tuesday that Leidos will be a primary partner of 23XI Racing, a race team launched by Jordan and past Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin in 2020. Wallace is the only full-time Black driver participating in NASCAR races, and has used his platform to advocate for Black Lives Matter and call for increased diversity in the sport of racing. “Bubba’s efforts have paved the way for real change, pushing for a culture of inclusion and diversity not only in NASCAR, but throughout the world,” Leidos CEO Roger Krone said. “We see this as much more than a sponsorship — we see an opportunity to fight for our shared values.”

Time for a face lift: After 60 years without major repair work, the scenic George Washington Parkway is due a $161 million renovation. The National Park Service awarded a $161 million contract in a multiyear repair project that promises a new roadway — and traffic when construction begins in about a year. The work will span 7.6 miles from Interstate 495 in the McLean area to Spout Run in Arlington County, a stretch that about 70,000 vehicles travel daily, the Washington Post reported.

Dishing it out: Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week kicks off January 17–23, featuring $25 brunch and lunch deals and $40 or $55 prix-fixe menus at restaurants all over the Washington area. Participating restaurants in Northern Virginia include: 2941 Restaurant, Agora Tysons, Alta Strada Mosaic, Ambar Clarendon, American Prime, Bastille Brasserie & Bar, Blend 111, The Capital Grille Fairfax, The Capital Grille Tysons Corner, Crystal City Sports Pub, Epic Smokehouse, Hamrock’s Restaurant, La Cote d’Or Cafe, Maple Ave Restaurant, The Melting Pot Arlington, The Melting Pot Reston, Osteria da Nino, Osteria Marzano, PassionFish, SER Restaurant, Spice Craft Indian Bistro, TTT Clarendon, and Wildfire Tysons Galleria. The City of Alexandria, a fellow Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance jurisdiction, is hosting its own restaurant week January 21-30. Forbes served up the lists.

Contract wins by firms in Fairfax County

A Bechtel subsidiary will continue to manufacture naval nuclear propulsion components for the Navy under a pair of contract modifications worth $872 million combined. GovConWire

Northrop Grumman secured a $353.6 million contract modification to provide manufacture three E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft for the French navy as part of a foreign military sales deal. GovConWire

Peraton obtained a $343 million task order to provide a range of information technology services to the Transportation Security Administration. GovConWire

Leidos received a $44.4 million task order modification from the Air Force to continue installing, fielding and supporting an automated command, control and emergency management system in Reston for two more years. ExecutiveBiz

Featured business events

January 11 — Entrepreneurship 101: Starting a Business in Fairfax County. Presented by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority in partnership with the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, the Community Business Partnership and the U.S. Small Business Administration, this webinar will provide the business fundamentals needed to successfully start a business. The Entrepreneurial Spotlight this session will feature Pallabi Saboo, CEO of Tysons-based Harmonia Holdings Group (and the newest member of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority Commission, by the way). Click here to register.

January 11 — Lunch with Leaders. The Asian-American Chamber of Commerce presents its monthly business networking luncheon. The featured speaker this month is Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the FCEDA. Click here to register.

January 12 — Healthy Living Habits as We Age: Tips From the Latest Research. The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce presents a virtual webinar featuring Ben Donnelly, volunteer and program manager, The Alzheimer’s Association. This session is part of the chamber’s Business Education Series that the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority sponsors. Click here to register.

January 15 — MLK Economic Empowerment Brunch. Join the Fairfax NAACP for a morning focused on Black economic empowerment with inspiring speakers, delicious food and great music. The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority is a sponsor of this event, featuring keynote speaker Richard Fowler, the nationally syndicated radio host of The Richard Fowler Show, a Fox News Channel contributor, and a millennial messaging expert. Click here to register.

January 27 –Cyber/Cloud Virtual Career Fair. Hosted by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, more than 50 leading companies in Northern Virginia will be actively hiring for thousands of IT and cybersecurity roles at this virtual event. Participating companies include Amazon, Microsoft, CACI, Leidos, SpaceLink—and many more. 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.