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‘A Critical Piece Of The Future’: Fairfax City Economic Development Head On Expansion Opportunities In The Region


This year, the NAIOP Research Foundation ranked Fairfax County, Virginia, first in the nation for having the best commercial real estate building permitting process based on transparency, accountability and consistency. 

The report highlighted the county’s commitment to providing applicants with flexible options, including modified processing, phased occupancy, expedited review, fast-track plan review or third-party inspections. Developers have taken notice, and the area has been experiencing a great deal of expansion, from the creation of a new Amazon-backed affordable housing development to a multibuilding mixed-use development proposed in Bailey's Crossroads. 

Meanwhile, Fairfax City has also seen significant growth and development, breaking away from national trends by experiencing a reduction in commercial vacancies across the board for 2023, offering even more nearby opportunities for companies looking to expand in the area. This is due in no small part to the efforts of Fairfax City Economic Development, which launched several programs geared toward attracting tenants, including the Lease Incentives for Fairfax Tenants program, which offers new or expanding Fairfax City businesses grants if they sign a new lease in a high-vacancy office building based on the square footage that they will occupy. 

Christopher Bruno, CEO and president of FCED, will be speaking at Bisnow’s Future of Fairfax County event on Dec. 5 on a panel titled Exploring Fairfax City and County’s Economic Growth, along with Fairfax County Economic Development Authority President and CEO Victor Hoskins, Tysons Community Alliance CEO Katie Cristol and more. Register here for the event

Bisnow recently spoke with Bruno to learn more about expansion in Fairfax City, the FCED's role and the plans it has for the future. 

Bisnow: What has growth looked like in Fairfax City in the past year? 

Bruno: There has been a considerable amount of growth and development interest in Fairfax City for the last year and, in fact, for the last several years. We currently have a mayor and city council that is very interested in supporting smart projects that improve the quality of life of our city residents and businesses but also supports the growth of the community and the creation of jobs and businesses. 

Bisnow: How has FCED’s office portfolio expanded? What assets are you particularly excited about?

Bruno: In 2016, we were an economic development office of one with a mostly inactive economic development authority board. Today, we are an office of five full-time employees focused on programs, operations, business investment, strategy, partnerships and public relations. We also have a new, fully developed economic development authority board that has provided resources through additional part-time employees for tourism management, board management and development support as needed. We have launched several new programs to support attracting businesses and investment that are fitting of a 2023 economic development agency, focusing on the knowledge and innovation economy. 

Critically, we have adopted our first-ever strategic work plan, which will guide our work for the next five years. FCED has expanded its support for business incubation with a renewed partnership with George Mason University to operate our city’s incubator, the Mason Enterprise Center-Fairfax, and we have relocated several business support programs to our new out-of-City Hall campus.  

Our presence is felt throughout small businesses in the community, by commercial property owners and, for the first time, far beyond our borders. We are an active participant and a founding member of the Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance and work to brand Northern Virginia as the best place to start, grow and invest in business.

Bisnow: What does this expansion mean for business in the area? 

Bruno: As FCED’s portfolio has expanded, so has the opportunity that exists for both existing city businesses and prospective businesses. Our focus on our existing programs continues while building new ones that provide valuable connections to all customers. Our Restaurant Week program has grown to become the fastest-growing in the region and one of the most successful, with more participants than some of our larger neighboring jurisdictions. Our business investment team has begun establishing valuable connections with commercial property owners to connect them and their brokers with valuable resources and information regarding supportive programs that FCED runs to help them identify new tenants. 

Similarly, we’re providing resources to firms looking to grow and expand in Fairfax City by connecting them with programs that support relocation and expansion, along with valuable connections to the region, research opportunities at George Mason University and integration into the NoVA EDA economy, a partnership with our neighboring jurisdictions. Our focus on relationships and connections to these programs has helped us realize a vacancy rate that is among the lowest relative to our friends in the region.

Bisnow: What inspired you to speak at Bisnow's Future of Fairfax County event?

Bruno: We believe that Fairfax City is a critical piece of that future. FCED can work with its partners to provide businesses with affordable spaces to work and for people to spend time while simultaneously offering connections to the larger regional network of governments, economic development agencies and business opportunities. Fairfax City is quite literally the center of Northern Virginia, and our location provides a strategic advantage to businesses looking to locate from outside of our region and needing to have access to the entire Northern Virginia and D.C. region.

This article was produced in collaboration between Fairfax City Economic Development and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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