IS STAFFORD THE NEXT LOUDOUN?
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Arlington may be worried about losing defense contractors due to Base Realignment Commission proposals, but 40 miles south of DC in Stafford County there's mirror image optimism. "We have three million square feet of new commercial space in the planning process," says Sperry Van Ness adviser Wendy Surman. "BRAC has spurred a tremendous amount of growth in Class A office space."
It begs a comparison to the last 10 years of development between Dulles and Leesburg as tech firms, lower priced housing, and an appealing suburban lifestyle converged to send people its way. "Our population growth has mirrored Loudoun's, and now our commercial is catching up. In fact, it's exploding," says Surman, who also serves on the board of the Stafford County Economic Development Authority.
As a prime example in the county of 130,000 population, she cites a million new square feet planned by the Silver Companies at Quantico Corporate Center, named for the adjoining Marine Corps base and expected to cater to defense and homeland security contractors. Already contractors like Northrop are located south of the base at Aquia Town Center. She sees the business interest mushrooming into extended stay hotels and restaurants and all the rest. The subregion, known as Boswell's Corner, has also been attracting the attention of DC area developers like Guardian Realty and the Ward Corporation.
Of course, a little boosterism may be at work here. We checked with our friend Steve Fuller, the George Mason quote machine on local demographics. "It would be hard to find another Loudoun—next to Fairfax and bracketed by Routes 50, 7, 28, and 15. I wouldn’t put Stafford in that category, but it will certainly be under a lot of development pressure due to BRAC between now and 2015."
For the DC-centric, Stafford County abuts its better-known neighbors Fauquier and Prince William. Prince William County separates Stafford from Fairfax County.
Even before development, the way of life down there was luring people, Surman herself being an example. Only five years ago, she and her husband moved from LA. Their jobs were not pulling them in any particular direction, so they were willing to go anywhere as long as it was good for the family. After a thorough study of the entire United States, they chose Stafford. "It’s an amazing place to raise my kids. I just absolutely love it here. I think it’s the greatest place in the world."
"We’re trying to promote companies to come to Stafford because the workforce is here. We have a highly educated workforce and they want to live here and work here," says Surman. Studies show that people would be willing to take a 5- to 10-thousand dollar pay cut to work in the area, an area that "fortunately has such an excellent school system that you don’t need to pay for private school," preaches Surman. "It’s a place that’s small, but not too small. You run into your child’s teacher at the grocery store."
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