Boeing’s move to Arlington pushes ‘tech hub’ vision closer to reality

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When Amazon introduced it could be bringing its second headquarters to Arlington, native officers wasted no time pitching it as an opportunity to construct one thing a lot greater: This nook of Northern Virginia, they mentioned, might rework right into a dense, city know-how hub — a sort of jap outpost for Silicon Valley.

More than three years later, that imaginative and prescient looks as if it’s now not simply an concept.

For boosters of the realm now dubbed “National Landing,” the leaked announcement final week that Boeing could be transferring its personal headquarters to Arlington exhibits {that a} neighborhood as soon as recognized solely as the house of the Pentagon is nicely on its method to turning into a regional “innovation district.”

And for financial growth specialists, the aerospace big’s transfer from Chicago additionally underscores the success of Virginia’s financial growth technique, which has centered on luring corporations by rising and diversifying the state’s tech workforce.

But if Boeing’s resolution alerts that extra corporations might quickly be coming to the realm, they are saying, it’s additionally a warning signal: All the ache factors related to explosive progress in Seattle or the San Francisco Bay space — sky-high housing costs, chronically congested roads, a widening rift between the wealthy and the poor — might turn out to be much more acute in a rich county that already suffers from related woes.

Boeing to maneuver headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Va.

Boeing’s transfer to Arlington “puts an even greater premium on the work the region has been trying to do to build its digital talent pipeline,” mentioned Amy Liu, a vice chairman on the Brookings Institution and director of its Metropolitan Policy Program.

“But we have to be very intentional about the people who will benefit from this growth,” Liu added. “Otherwise, we are going to further widen inequities in this region.”

Besides Amazon’s new places of work, the “National Landing” hall is anchored round a graduate engineering campus that Virginia Tech is constructing in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood. The 3.5-acre facility is being funded partially by $545 million from Virginia state coffers, along with $50 million from Boeing.

The weapons and jet producer already has a 400-person workplace in Arlington’s Crystal City neighborhood, and it mentioned it has no instant plans to increase its footprint or shift over workers from Chicago apart from a couple of prime executives.

Boeing’s transfer to Virginia will imply few new jobs in D.C. area

Terry Clower, a public coverage professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and the director of its Center for Regional Analysis, mentioned that Boeing’s resolution nonetheless provides National Landing a superb set of “bragging rights.”

Boeing has additionally mentioned it is going to construct a analysis and know-how hub to concentrate on innovating in cybersecurity, quantum sciences and different fields, although it has thus far provided few particulars on the place that hub will go or what it’d seem like.

“If you put that [Boeing] on top of the Amazon HQ2 announcement and the presence of other significant tech sector employers, it casts the message that this place is great for tech businesses,” Clower mentioned. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

As native officers search to compete with different business facilities across the D.C. area, in addition to different “innovation districts” within the Northeast, similar to Philadelphia’s University City or Kendall Square in Cambridge, Mass., that message is completely in tune with the booming imaginative and prescient they’re pushing for National Landing.

According to a market affect research revealed in April, the realm has 8 million sq. toes of latest workplace area within the pipeline, with 9,000 new jobs along with these being created by Amazon. AT&T has rolled out plans to construct out a 5G community meant to flip the neighborhood right into a “smart city-at scale.”

What that means for the region as a whole, though, depends largely on whom you ask.

Amazon jerseys on Boeing Field

While Boeing has had a presence in Arlington since it picked up military contracts during World War I, the company moved its defense operations to Crystal City just as the county was facing a kind of existential crisis.

Upon the 2005 recommendation of a federal panel, 17,000 military and defense contractors began moving out of the area. By about a decade later, the process known as Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) had emptied out about one-fifth of the office space in the neighborhood.

Boeing’s arrival at its current offices on Long Bridge Drive in 2016, then, served as a kind of counterpoint to that exodus.

“They have been a pretty steadfast partner in Crystal City during a very challenging time for the area,” mentioned Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol (D). “We were really concerned about Crystal City being hollowed out, but Boeing was willing to make an investment.”

Unlike many of its more suburban neighbors, Arlington depends on commercial properties for about half of its tax revenue. Keeping office workers around was and still is essential to supporting county services without significantly raising taxes on homeowners.

Yet, Cristol also pointed out that the aerospace giant’s contributions have gone beyond its taxes. In 2019, for instance, the company donated $10 million to the county to finance the construction and operation of a new aquatics center up the street, also fronting access fees for active duty military and their families.

In change, county officers named a few of the park area in between the 2 constructions after the aerospace firm.

Boeing Fields

at Long Bridge


Boeing Fields

at Long Bridge


Boeing Fields

at Long Bridge Park

Today, the Boeing Fields at Long Bridge Park are a hub for after-school exercise. On one latest Tuesday night, youth journey soccer groups ran drills on the turf as mother and father watched their toddlers on futuristic, rubber-floored areas to the aspect.

Noemi Vargas, 49, had introduced her sons to scooter round on the sidewalk as she scrolled by means of her cellphone, sitting on a bench throughout the road from Boeing’s glass-and-steel places of work.

The household had been making the brief stroll over from Pentagon City for years, however Vargas mentioned she had no concept that the park was partially named after the corporate.

“If it’s expensive now, it’s going to be impossible with Boeing,” Vargas, a stay-at-home mother, mentioned in Spanish. “Not everyone is going to be able to stay in this area … But I guess it’s a good thing if they do bring jobs.”

A couple of yards away, Sebastian Edmunds stood on the sidelines of the soccer turf, chatting in a circle of fogeys as their daughters’ journey workforce dribbled balls up and down a pitch named after Boeing. One half of the workforce wore grey jerseys emblazoned on the again with Amazon logos.

As an actual property agent, the Falls Church resident mentioned he’s already seen how the presence of the e-retail big has led to skyrocketing house values throughout Northern Virginia within the area’s white-hot actual property market. As a father or mother, he added, the presence of those tech corporations represents larger alternative for his youngsters.

“When you have Amazon here, it’s very easy for a child to imagine going into tech,” Edmunds mentioned, searching on the scrimmage. “My daughter can say, ‘I’ll go to college and then come back and work for Boeing.’ ”

A ‘clustering effect’

Ask any financial growth official in Northern Virginia, and they’re certain to share Edmunds’s conviction. Their plans to develop and develop a pipeline of younger, numerous tech staff are deeply intertwined with their push to draw corporations to National Landing and switch it right into a tech hub.

“You can’t have a technology company right now without talent,” mentioned Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, govt director of the National Landing Business Improvement District. “The labor market is very tight, it’s fiercely competitive. Having the proximity of that tech talent is essential to operations.”

When Amazon introduced a nationwide seek for a second North America headquarters, states like New York and Maryland have been lambasted for providing billions in tax breaks and direct grants to the tech big, which earned about $33.4 billion final yr.

But Virginia guess on the concept that investing in pc science graduates — and constructing the pipeline essential to maintain it — could be more practical in luring Amazon and different main company heavyweights.

And it seems to have labored: While Amazon stands to obtain $550 million from state coffers, extra of Virginia’s {dollars} are going towards the state’s $1 billion Tech Talent Investment Program. That initiative has set a objective of manufacturing an extra 25,000 new graduates in pc science and associated fields over 20 years, lots of them at Virginia Tech’s Alexandria campus.

Boeing spokesman Connor Greenwood mentioned that Boeing is taking no “economic incentives” from Virginia. Becca Glover, a spokeswoman for Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), mentioned it’s attainable that the state will finally present the corporate with some monetary incentives however that they might not be “significant.”

Enrico Moretti, an economist on the University of California, Berkeley who has studied the place and why corporations find their operations, mentioned that choices by each Amazon and Boeing to construct headquarters in Arlington bodes nicely for such an education-centered strategy.

While Boeing has in a roundabout way addressed why it determined to maneuver its headquarters to Arlington, the D.C. tech labor market is already giant, well-educated, and provides all kinds of specializations, he mentioned. Any effort to widen that pool can solely assist produce what Moretti says seems to be a “clustering effect” at work with Boeing’s transfer.

“If you attract a company like Amazon, the labor market becomes more attractive for future companies and future workers,” he mentioned.

Ian Duncan and Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.

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