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Citing diversity needs, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority looks to expand board

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority will soon add two new seats to its seven-member commission, which has remained the same size since it was created in 1964.

Virginia legislators and the governor approved a measure earlier this year allowing the change, which takes effect July 1 and will help meet diversity needs, officials say.

Charged with helping the county attract, retain, and support businesses, the FCEDA commission consists of local business and community leaders appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

FCEDA Chair Cathy Lange says the expanded board will help the authority bring different viewpoints to the table after the county has changed and grown over the past 57 years.

“We need a richness of perspectives to help the FCEDA understand why companies start here, grow here and stay here,” Lange said by email. “This diversity of needs also is directly tied to our understanding and support of talent attraction and retention. The companies want and need a broad and diverse talent pool, and we have to connect the talent to the companies.”

According to Lange, the EDA board hopes to further diversify representation of emerging and growing business sectors, such as financial services, cyber, cloud, and data analytics, as well as entrepreneurs and small business leaders “building the next base” of companies.

“At the same time, we can identify leaders who are reflective of the growing diversity in our county and its business community,” Lange wrote.

In its legislative agenda for the General Assembly’s 2021 session, Fairfax County noted the authority was created by state law in 1964, allowing the county to appoint seven board members.

“That number has not changed in the 50 years since the FCEDA was created, though Fairfax County has changed substantially during that time,” Fairfax County officials said in the report, which was adopted on Dec. 1.

In the legislative agenda, officials noted that the county’s increasing diversity extends to its economy:

The County has experienced tremendous growth, as has the local economy — the number and size of companies has increased, and businesses have expanded into new and diverse industry sectors. Increasing the size of the FCEDA board could further diversify participation from the County’s business community, while maintaining focus on the County’s traditional business base (including government contracting and IT services).

Among its services, the authority helps businesses find office space in the county, assists with special tax-exempt bonds for companies and nonprofits, and aids international firms seeking office space in Fairfax County.

While headquartered in Tysons, the authority has offices around the country and the world, including in Germany, India, Israel, South Korea, and the U.K. as well as Los Angeles.

Lange said in the email that Fairfax County is an amazing success story, and expanding the commission will help to ensure that continues.

“Understanding what different companies need to succeed here helps us to inform county leaders on what policies and programs need to be implemented to continue our success,” Lange wrote. “This also will help us understand how to market the county to businesses that want opportunities to grow and success, and how to market the region to talent.”

FCEDA vice president of communications Alan Fogg said by email that he expects there will be movement around appointments starting next month.

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