sk Eric Adolphe what drove him to relocate his high-tech company from Silver Spring, Md., to McLean, Va., and he'll give you a one-word answer: traffic.
Though the site selection process was a bit more complicated than that, the Optimus Corp. founder and CEO readily admits that shorter drive times for company employees and clients sealed the selection of Fairfax County in Northern Virginia.
"Silver Spring was revitalized and with that came traffic," says Adolphe, whose information technology firm provides services to the Pentagon and defense contractors like Northrop Grumman. "We would have meetings with clients, vendors and partners, and it would take people an hour and a half to two hours just to drive to a 30-minute meeting, and then it would take them another 90 minutes to two hours to get back."
Knowing that his 13-year-old company was primed for accelerated growth, Adolphe says he could not allow traffic congestion to slow his firm down.
After conducting a comprehensive search throughout the Greater Washington, D.C., market, Optimus settled upon a 17,000-sq.-ft. (1,579-sq.-m.) headquarters facility in McLean. The project represents a capital investment of $1.15 million and brings 234 high-tech, high-wage jobs to Fairfax County.
Adolphe says he seriously considered moving his firm to another location in suburban Maryland, but he couldn't navigate past the traffic problem.
"The American Legion Bridge was causing most of the hangups," says Adolphe, who three years ago was named the Maryland High-Tech Council's Entrepreneur of the Year. "We were poised for significant growth, but our customers and partners were complaining about the long commute. It has been a couple of weeks since we've been here in our new location in McLean, and we've already had more visits from customers and partners because of the shorter drive."
What a difference a year makes. In June 2004, Optimus received a visit at its then-Maryland headquarters from Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich.
"As a growing Silver Spring-based company, Optimus Corp. applauds Gov. Ehrlich's leadership and vision for helping businesses grow in Maryland," Adolphe said at the time. "In particular, Optimus looks forward to action on the governor's initiatives to ensure the expansion of the small business sector and to promote the benefits of the state working with emerging growth companies like Optimus."
Fifteen months later, Adolphe was singing the praises of a different governor. "Optimus Corp. is pleased to have the opportunity to make an economic impact in such a pivotal state as Virginia, and we thank Gov. (Mark) Warner for his warm welcome," Adolphe said in a press release making the relocation announcement official. "Our new location, in one of the nation's most thriving counties, will enable us to better serve our customers while building the foundation for our next phase of growth."
Adolphe says that people should not think that his company is abandoning Maryland or that his firm is somehow unhappy with that state's level of support. "In fact, we have maintained a fairly major call center in Maryland. That remains in Montgomery County," he says. "This move has very little to do with politics. This was strictly a business move to position the company for the future. We still maintain a good relationship with the governor and lieutenant governor of Maryland."
In fact, things swing both ways in the region surrounding the nation's capital. In early October, Get Well Network, a provider of interactive patient-care solutions to hospitals, made the move from Virginia to Bethesda, Md.
But many high-tech firms have made the same Virginia choice as Optimus. Some 4,700 technology companies employing 120,000 high-tech workers now call Fairfax County home.
According to a study released Sept. 16 by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Fairfax County ranks second among eight of the nation's major high-tech hubs for its low cost of doing business. The study took into account various costs of doing business, including housing and electricity prices, as well as traffic congestion, state taxes, unemployment insurance and medical insurance rates.
Fairfax County significantly added to its tally of high-tech jobs this year, as 62 companies announced the creation of 6,300 tech jobs through Aug. 10.
The largest second-quarter announcement came from Inova Health System, which created 671 jobs in the county. Other large job generators included BAE Systems, Omniplex World Services, Ciber and ActioNet.
Announcements like these propelled Virginia to No. 5 in the nation in high-tech employment, with 244,200 technology-related jobs. High-tech firms employ 88 of every 1,000 private-sector workers in Virginia, ranking second in the U.S.
Tech workers earn an average annual salary of $74,600 in Virginia, ranking sixth in the U.S., or 96 percent more than the average private-sector wage. Today, Virginia's annual high-tech payroll approaches $20 billion.
In 2004, Fairfax County worked with 144 expanding companies and brought more than 11,000 jobs to the county, helping the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority earn the designation as one of the top 10 economic development organizations in North America by Site Selection.
©2005 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. SiteNet data is from many sources and not warranted to be accurate or current.