The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering investing up to $1 million in the Tysons Partnership, which plans to rebrand the area while establishing a “sustainable business and funding model” for the nonprofit association.
The funding could get allocated toward placemaking events, branding efforts, sponsorship and media outreach Joe LaHait, the debt manager for the Department of Management and Budget, said during a Budget Committee meeting Tuesday (Sept. 17).
Any funds granted by the Board of Supervisors would also be matched, LaHait said.
Tysons Partnership is aiming for the rebranding study to be completed by the end of the year or early 2020 and has already brought on a global design firm at a cost up to $250,000 to help develop the place-branding strategy for Tysons, LaHait said.
Several of the board members said that the funding could benefit the county by revitalizing Tysons.
Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth said she’s hopeful that Tysons Partnership will learn from past mistakes for the new rebranding effort.
“I remember the first rebranding exercise in Tysons where we had the banners on the streetlight that faded and fell apart and we had all of those negotiations with Dominion that were very painful,” she said at the meeting.
Smyth said she wants some of the money to go toward looking at the partnership’s business and financial model, along with regular reports on the rebranding progress and how the money is getting spent.
“I would like to see some latitude in this so that it could be used for that exploration of different financial and business models along the way because that’s actually part of this,” Smyth said. “You can’t just brand. You have to have a body that’s going to maintain it.”
Sol Glasner, the president of Tysons Partnership, agreed with Smyth’s assessment that the partnership needs a new business model, calling the current members dues-based model “not sustainable.”
“It’s gotten us to this point but it will not carry us for the years to come,” Glasner said. “So we are exploring a variety of options and our plan is to transition to a different business and financial model by the middle of 2021.”
Glasner said that Tysons Partnership is working with Gensler.
“This is a one-to-one match from our own membership and the idea is to jumpstart the implementation of a far more sophisticated branding campaign than banners and shrink wrap,” he said. “That was something done in the early stages of the partnership.”
Jeff McKay, the representative for the Lee District, said that the rebranding effort in Tysons can serve as a role model for other areas in the county.
“Not only is this good for Tysons, which is good for the county, but it’s also good for us as other groups pursue similar structures to learn from what you have evaluated, what you’re already doing because there are other parts of the county that are ripe for a partnership-type entity,” McKay said.
The county staff recommends that the Board of Supervisors OK the funds.
“We view this as an opportunity to get them off the ground and provide them with the seed money,” LaHait said.
“It’s a million, which looks like a lot on this chart, but in the context of what our return on our investment is, it’s a very small investment in the future of Tysons,” McKay said.