Fairfax County E-Bird newsletter for October 6, 2020

(Photo courtesy of Mars)

Focusing on forests: McLean-based Mars, the maker of Snickers and Dove candy, is trimming the ranks of its palm-oil suppliers and says it has now eliminated working with those that won’t commit to preventing deforestation. The company said that it has reached the point where its palm-oil use is no longer contributing to the clearing of tropical forests — a practice that’s a major contributor to global warming. With fewer suppliers, Mars said it’s easier to verify that the providers are meeting environmental and ethical goals. Mars is using satellite mapping to monitor land use and third-party validation, and says it has asked its suppliers to apply the same rules to all production, including for other buyers, according to Bloomberg.

Hungry yet anyone? OmMade Peanut Butter, a woman- and minority-owned company, will invest nearly $300,000 to establish an all-natural, gourmet peanut butter manufacturing operation in Fairfax County, according to an announcement by Gov. Ralph Northam. With the specific location not yet determined, the new facility is planned to feature a storefront to complement its production activities. Owner Radhika Murari, of Reston, who sells her products online and at area Whole Foods grocery stores, plans to source 30,000 pounds of peanuts from Virginia farmers over the next three years. The business will receive a $25,000 grant from the governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund, which is administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Fairfax County will match the grant, according to InsideNoVa.

Attracting talent, tourism: Fairfax County leaders are finding new ways to attract talent to its business sector and to encourage tourism during the pandemic. Thousands of jobs – about half in the technology sector – are available in Northern Virginia, even during the public-health crisis. On Thursday, Oct. 8 the FCEDA will hold a “Hiring and Reskilling Virtual Career Fair” featuring 20 companies and organizations, including major names such as Amazon, Walmart and Wegmans. Find out more about the FCEDA’s and Visit Fairfax’s initiatives to promote the county in InsideNoVa.

Building up Tysons: The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 29 unanimously approved a proposal to raze the existing J.R.’s Stockyards Inn in Tysons and erect a 270-foot-tall, 26-story, mixed-use building with 244 residential units, a small amount of ground-floor retail and underground parking. The 1.1-acre site, located between International Drive and Watson Street, has been occupied by the steakhouse since the late 1970s. “It is nice to see, while we’re losing a nostalgic landmark for a lot of us, it is nice to see the evolution in Tysons and some of the original owners who have seen a lot of the changes around them happen [are] able to participate in that,” Board Chair Jeff McKay said, according to InsideNoVa.

A big deal: Reston-headquartered General Dynamics’ land systems division won a five-year, $1.22 billion contract to manufacture and test systems that are designed to prevent low-altitude aerial threats. General Dynamics has a global workforce of more than 100,000 employees and generated $39.4 billion in 2019 revenue, reported Virginia Business.

Spacecraft launch: A Northrop Grumman cargo spacecraft launched Friday evening from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to bring almost 8,000 pounds of cargo for a 14th resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Cygnus vehicle, nicknamed S.S. Kalpana Chawla, was lifted by an Antares rocket. According to Northrop, which is based in the Falls Church area, the spacecraft deployed to orbit nine minutes after liftoff. S.S. Kalpana Chawla is named for the first Indian-born woman to go into space, ExecutiveBiz reported.

Keeping students safe: Fairfax-based George Mason University was lauded in a Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial for fighting the spread of COVID-19. The university’s data dashboard shows that from Aug. 17 to Sept. 24, 7,286 students were tested and only 45 were positive. Among 765 employees tested, only 15 had contracted the virus. Reasons for this low rate may include that a sizable population of Mason’s students are attending online classes. The university also pursues aggressive testing and a 14-day self-quarantine requirement before students can return to campus. Uniquely, however, the university is using robots to make contactless deliveries from on-campus eateries.

Driving in style: Fairfax County and Dominion Energy began testing a 13-foot autonomous, electric shuttle this summer, a first step toward driverless public transit between Metro stations. Nicknamed “Relay,” the shuttle is expected to hit the road this fall between the Dunn Loring Metrorail station and the county’s Mosaic District, in a pilot program. The aim is to make public transit easier and more convenient by adding shuttle service between bus stops and Metro stations, as well as nearby businesses, said Rachel O’Dwyer Flynn, Fairfax County’s deputy county executive. Virginia Business drove in the update on the story.

Plastic, not paper: Tysons-headquartered Executive 1 Holding Co. is set to acquire San Francisco-based Plasticity, an artificial intelligence and natural language processing software company, in efforts to expand the former company’s technology capability offerings. After the transaction in October, Plasticity will remain an independent company and become a wholly-owned subsidiary of EX1. Plasticity’s team will be actively involved in supporting customers, reported WashingtonExec.

Getting a piece of mind: MBO Partners, a Herndon-based network of independent consultants and contractors, has agreed to acquire North Carolina-based MindSumo, a crowdsourcing platform that allows businesses to post online business challenges to be solved by users. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. “Savvy enterprises are rethinking the way work gets done, increasingly shifting from purchasing services to purchasing results,” said Miles Everson, CEO of MBO Partners. “Similarly, savvy individuals are eager to share their expertise and realize immediate benefits. MindSumo makes this seamless.” Potomac Tech Wire carried the release.

Touchdowns for the USO: Chantilly-based Perspecta was named by The Military Bowl Foundation as the presenting sponsor for the next three years of its college football post-season bowl game that will benefit USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore. “Nearly 20 percent of our nationwide workforce is comprised of veterans and reservists, so we could not be more excited for Perspecta to sponsor the Military Bowl and foster the incredible mission of the Military Bowl Foundation, which benefits USO-Metro and Patriot Point,” said Mac Curtis, chairman and CEO of Perspecta. GovConWire ran with the story.

Building an a-train: Centreville-based Parsons said it has been selected by Bay Area Rapid Transit District in San Francisco to support the implementation of a new communications-based train control system. The system, to be the largest in North America, will be designed to improve passenger carrying capacity, keep the system in a good state of repair and improve safety and efficiency. Potomac Tech Wire picked up the release.

Dining by tent: The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering a move to allow closed or partially-closed tents for outdoor dining in Fairfax County as temperatures continue to dip in the coming weeks. At a board meeting, Board Chairman Jeff McKay proposed an emergency ordinance that would allow restaurants and fitness businesses to set up the tents. “This is an important step we can take to safely help our local restaurants through this difficult time,” McKay wrote. A public hearing on the matter is set for Oct. 20, according to Tysons Reporter.

Capital connect condos: Construction has finished on new condo complex The Bexley Condominiums, located at 1761 Old Meadow Road in Tysons. The development is located just south of the McLean Metro station and Capital One headquarters. The road in front is being realigned to be better connected to the Capital One facilities. The project is part of a slate of new developments aimed at transforming Tysons East into a fully-fledged community, according to Tysons Reporter.

Cheers to Virginia wine! October is Virginia Wine Month, as declared by the Commonwealth each year, and 2020 marks the unofficial half-century mark of wine production in the state. Virginia is currently home to 312 wineries, making it the sixth-largest wine region in the U.S. The Virginia wine industry generates an estimated $1.37 billion in annual economic impact, and the state’s vineyards and wineries employ more than 8,200 people, reported WTOP. To see Visit Fairfax’s list of wineries in the county and region, click here.

Notable contract wins by firms in Fairfax County

Northrop Grumman won a $690 million contract by the General Services Administration’s Federal Systems Integration and Management Center to develop a suite of data systems for the Defense Intelligence Agency. GovConWire

General Dynamics’ information technology business received a five-year, $306 million contract to help the Department of Veterans Affairs convert military veteran records to digital format and automate processing of data. ExecutiveBiz

Alion Science and Technology won a five-year, $142 million contract to provide enhancements for the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, Ground Vehicle Systems Center. GovConWire

Cognosante scored a five-year, $100 million contract to support the Department of Labor’s National Contact Center. GovConWire

LMI booked a $50 million contract from the Department of Defense to help manage various elements of logistics operation associated with both commercial and federal supply chains. Virginia Business

ICF received a five-year, $25 million contract to help design and engineer a cloud-based system for the Department of Health and Human Services’ child welfare component. ExecutiveBiz

Sevatec won a $22.5 million contract from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to develop a modern authentication and identity proofing platform for mission delivery. Virginia Business

Featured business events

October 8 — Virtual Career Fair. The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority presents a free The Hiring + Reskilling Virtual Career Fair for job-seekers of all backgrounds, especially those unemployed due to COVID-19. Participants will have the opportunity to interview with 15+ companies with thousands of positions and browse reskilling and upgrading educational programs. Click here to register.

October 15 — 2020 Staying Strong. The annual NAIOP Northern Virginia commercial real estate bus tour goes virtual with a focus on “outside the Beltway” markets in Fairfax and Loudoun counties such as Tysons, Merrifield, Reston, Herndon and Route 28. Click here to register.

Fairfax Leader

The latest issue of the Fairfax Leader is now online. Check it out to read recent news about the Fairfax County EDA’s activities, including quarterly jobs announcements, commercial real estate statistics, and profiles of two Fairfax County companies. Click here to read the 3rd Quarter edition of the Fairfax Leader.

How the Fairfax County EDA can help

Forward Virginia Phase 3 reopening guidelines: Fairfax County began the third phase of re-opening businesses on July 1. The Forward Virginia plan provides guidelines that all businesses must follow. Residents are still advised that they are “safer at home.” Click here to find out the updated guidelines.

Get business assistance: The FCEDA is here to connect businesses of all kinds to resources and information. Visit the FCEDA’s Covid-19 Business Resource Hub for up-to-date 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.