Every business needs support at some point in its development, especially financial. Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) steps in to offer the much-needed support by offering various services. One of their services include provision of valuable information through market intelligence groups.
We had a chance to interview Dr. Gordon and asked about their story, how they have made it to this far and the future of FCEDA.
Tell us your story. What brought you to FCEDA? Why have you remained with it for such a long period of time?
I came to the EDA at the very end of 1983, after working for a decade for Arlington County. At that time, development in Arlington was slowing down, while Fairfax County, which had a lot of land for development was becoming much more aggressive about attracting and retaining businesses and jobs, and generating wealth. I was able to join the EDA and become a small part of that growth over time. I have stayed for 34 years because of the people I have had the privilege to work with and because, although we are best known for attracting new employers, what we really do is help provide the county with the tax base from which h they provide the best public services available anywhere in the United States. That is an outcome in which one can take great pride.
How do the FCEDA support entrepreneurs and business owners?
The FCEDA has a wide variety of services designed to help businesses at every stage of development, from entrepreneurs to large established businesses. The more my office can help them grow and stay here, the more likely they are to succeed, hire more employees and build the county’s commercial tax base that the Board of Supervisors uses to fund high-quality public services. The FCEDA is funded by Fairfax County taxpayers, and all of our services are free and confidential.
Tell us about your specific services. How do you help clients?
As I said, we offer services for all businesses. For those thinking about starting one, we have our “Entrepreneurship 101” workshops. Nearly 5,000 people have attended one of those sessions. For those who want to grow their businesses, we have conducted workshops on government procurement, exporting and marketing communications. We have a Business Diversity division that works with small, minority-, woman-, and veteran-owned businesses and they find our workshops particularly helpful. We have a capital attraction program to help innovative technology businesses in Fairfax County find investors. For those who want to move into office space or find different space, our real estate services group can provide facility options in all parts of the county. Our market intelligence group provides lots of valuable economic and demographic information to help businesses understand opportunities here. We serve as liaisons between businesses and the county and state regulatory agencies. And, in various ways we help all new businesses make connections with local organizations that can link them with potential partners or customers, which is particularly useful for companies just entering this market from other parts of the country or the world.
What makes the FCEDA unique? What is your unique selling proposition (USP) – this may or may not be applicable.
Several things about the FCEDA are unique. For one thing, there is the breadth of services that I outlined above to help companies locate, expand and grow here. Another aspect is our emphasis on small, minority-, woman- and veteran-owned businesses. We are proud to have an incredibly diverse business community (and community at large) and have had a division focusing on diversity long before other local organizations did anything similar. And then there is our international focus. We have permanent representatives in five overseas technology hubs – Bangalore, Berlin, London, Seoul and Tel Aviv – and a permanent representative in California to work with companies interested in locating on the east coast to be near private sector or public sector clients. No other local economic grouphas representatives in that number of locations, and few states can match it either.
Where do you see the FCEDA in the next 3-5 years?
The county continues to grow in the number and diversity of its population. We will still need to attract jobs and wealth to the county, although our focus will continue to shift to the businesses of the future and to enabling new businesses get started and new ideas to be nurtured and commercialized.
Any advice you would give to entrepreneurs and business owners?
The growing economic base of Fairfax County- and off the entire region- means that anyone with an idea and drive- and, perhaps, a bit of timing and luck- can be successful. If that success does not come on the first try, try again. A good idea and a good business plan will be find supporters in this area. “Don’t give up!” and take advantage all available resources, is the best advice.
What is your favorite business quote and why?
I am strong advocate of planning- before taking off and after you are in process. Keep considering how an ever-changing environment will affect you and your business. The absence of planning can yield flaws in future operations. For that reason, my favorite quote (relevant, although you may not consider it a business quote, per se) comes from Alice in Wonderland, in which Alice asks the Mad Hatter which road she should take. When, asked where she wanted to go, she replied that she really did not know. The response was (an approximate quote): Well, if you don’t know where you want to go, take any road!
Anything else additional you want to tell our readers?
Start-ups- innovative or otherwise- require most of your time. Once you get your business on the right path and growing, get involved with your community. Just as others helped nurture you and your entrepreneurial efforts, you, too, can assist others coming behind you. One of the great things about this county is that there are ample opportunities to get involved.
What makes Fairfax County a great place to be an entrepreneur or business owner?
The EDA- and other organizations- provide numerous types of supports for companies, from start-ups to more established businesses. It is available in the form of assistance with business plans, particular issues with which you may need help, connections to potential buyers and potential employees, and more. Much of these services are free. Also, it’s a great place to grow a business because there is a strong economic base to provide demand for products and services. There is an excitement about business in Fairfax County. Take advantage of it and become part of it.