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18 April, 2011 - 20:13 By Staff Reporter

Fairfax County, a US economic hotspot

Exp-Reston-Skyline

US influencers plugged into Federal government in Washington have pledged to help Cambridge technology companies gain traction in Fairfax.

Web infrastructure software company, Autonomy Corporation – a world leader – and i2, which provides intelligence and investigation management software for law enforcement, defence, national security and private sector organisations, are among Cambridge-grown businesses blooming in Virginia’s Fairfax County.

And in an exclusive interview with Business Weekly, Jerry Gordon – President at Fairfax County Economic Development Authority – extended an open invitation to other exciting Cambridge technology companies.

The EDA put down roots in the Cambridge tech cluster by joining Cambridge Wireless but Gordon says that’s only the start of a long-term, two-way trade initiative.

Dr Soraya Jones, CEO of Cambridge Wireless, lauded the move: “Outfits like this help smaller companies to expand their business overseas when otherwise it would be so difficult for them to do so,” she said.

The FCEDA promotes Fairfax County, adjacent to Washington D.C., as one of the world's best business locations. More than 70 UK companies have established their US operations in Fairfax County and are among 6,000 technology and telecoms companies making up a dynamic, diverse and cosmopolitan business community there. Time magazine was moved to call Fairfax County “one of the great economic success stories of our time.”

Jerry Gordon said the time was ripe to forge a close alliance with Cambridge tech clusters – principally in wireless and biotech.

He said: “Fairfax county has for 30 years been the most aggressive and dynamic economic development agency on the East Coast, and possibly the whole of the US. Our proximity to Washington D.C. is a huge benefit to companies located here. They are able to tap into the technology and legislation that comes out of Federal Government.

“IT and telecoms entrepreneurs, particularly, want to have access to the source of information and policy that emanates from Washington. Every major aerospace and aviation company is based here just to be closed to Federal government.

“We understand the advantages of working with other synergistic clusters globally and identified Cambridge as exceptional. When we go around the world seeking trade partners we look at companies similar to the ones who thrive in Fairfax County who are interested in expanding into the US. Note, we say expanding - not relocating.

“We’re not about trying to steal another territory’s thunder but to foster the growth of Cambridge tech companies in a stimulating, connected environment. We are matchmakers to companies. We can find them office space, the right people to join their staff, contacts and collaborators – all the things you need to grow in an overseas economy.

“A lot of companies that come here and gain a foothold grow enough to be bought by large US companies. There are so many potential benefits to working together. When we scout around the globe we look to make connections with clusters that have achieved critical mass, with a lot of companies that have good products and drive and are ripe for expansion. We have been in and out of Cambridge for some time and never really engaged on a concerted scale.

“We figured it was time to get more deeply involved. Like Cambridge we have a top notch education sector. Our high schools have traditionally topped the league tables. “And the living environment for families is sensational. We also have an attractive tax regime for businesses and a multiculturally diverse population and workforce; 40 per cent of people in the county have one parent who wasn’t born in the US.

“So we have become a little like London and New York in respect of multi-cultural diversity – and with that comes a lot of talent and skill that is transferrable to companies that settle here. We have a lead in encouraging minorities in business, whether that be racially or gender-based, and we’re enormously proud of that.”

Biotech is the other Cambridge cluster that Fairfax County wants to be aligned to, Gordon revealed. “We’re talking biotechnology, not bioscience. Cambridge has great strengths in many fields of biotechnology as they impact healthcare and medicine. Genomic research, stem cell and regenerative medicine and personalised medicines interest us greatly and we think there is scope for an alliance with key players and companies in Cambridge in this field.”

The county is also developing some useful contacts in India which, in turn, is forging an increasing number of partnerships with Cambridge – so there is scope to create another virtuous circle with UK-Indus entrepreneurs.

• Entrepreneurs who would like to discuss how the FCEDA can help them start, expand or relocate their business in Fairfax County, are welcome to contact either Ross Clarke or David Wallen by telephone on 020 7930 5590, by e-mail to info [at] fairfaxcountyeda.co.uk or by writing to the Fairfax County Economic Development Office, 93 Jermyn Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6JE. Or visit the website.

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