Business News from the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority – September 29

Fairfax County Economic Development Authority Talk of Tysons

Future Talent Pipeline Amplified: Think Big for Kids Launches Partnership in Fairfax County

In collaboration with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA), the national not-for-profit Think Big for Kids has officially expanded to the Greater Washington region, and their first area school district partner is Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).

“Fairfax County Economic Development Authority is honored to lead the launch of a Think Big for Kids chapter in the Greater Washington area introducing FCPS middle and high school students to the amazing careers our companies offer right here at home,” said Michael Batt, Vice President of Talent at the FCEDA. “Through Think Big for Kids and our employer volunteers, we’ll also help connect students with mentors, internships, scholarships, job readiness and placement,” Batt added. “Ultimately, we want our kids to stay here and thrive in their careers across many different industries regardless of their path to these opportunities, which could be via certifications, trade schools or other higher education programs like our more than 60 colleges and universities in this region.”

Think Big for Kids’ mission is to help break cycles of poverty by preparing students to excel in today’s workforce. With guidance from Think Big for Kids and FCPS, partner companies will introduce students to different careers, identify general interests and begin to shape individualized career tracks. With a focus on educational preparedness — whether students are heading straight to work, attending trade school or navigating college admissions — Think Big for Kids aims to help students learn about careers and find their own paths and direction.

The Ignite Partnership between FCPS and Think Big for Kids has now begun with career showcases in five FCPS middle schools. The schools selected for the 2023-24 academic year are Herndon, Holmes, Johnson, Key and Liberty middle schools. Multiple area businesses have signed on as showcase presenters including Audi, Bohler, Clark Construction, Dominion Energy, BloomCatch, Goodwin Living, GOROVE SLADE, Granicus, ICF, Microsoft, MetLife, Northern Virginia Community College, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Navy Federal Credit Union, Trilogy Sound Studio, and Virginia Tire and Auto.

FCEDA Talent Specialist Layla Mailoudi, a 2021 graduate of Old Dominion University, is coordinating the Think Big for Kids program as the host at Liberty Middle School, which she attended herself prior to Centreville High School.

“As a first-generation college graduate who grew up in a single parent household, I wish I had the opportunity to be a part of a program such as Think Big for Kids when I was in middle school,” Mailoudi said. “It is an amazing feeling to be able to go back to Liberty and help students identify their future career possibilities. Many times, they have not been exposed to the career and educational opportunities that are available to them. This is an excellent resource for the students, particularly for those who are underserved and underrepresented.”

If your business is interested in partnering with FCPS through the Think Big for Kids initiative, reach out to Layla Mailoudi, Talent Specialist, FCEDA at lmailoudi@fceda.org

More About the Ignite Partnership

The Ignite Partnership agreement was signed earlier this fall by Dr. Michelle Reid, Superintendent of FCPS, and Think Big for Kids Executive Director Amy Alley. Supporting the effort is Founder and Chair of Think Big for Kids Tony DiBenedetto, President and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) Victor Hoskins, and Vice President of Talent at the FCEDA Michael Batt. FCEDA was instrumental in supporting Think Big for Kids’ expansion to the region and continues to lead the local steering committee. For more information about the Ignite Partnerships, contact Jay Garant, Director of Business and Community Partnerships for FCPS at jpgarant@fcps.edu.

George Mason University Soars in National Rankings

Multiple national college rankings released in recent weeks have placed Fairfax-based George Mason University among America’s top 50 public universities, top 100 among all public and private institutions, and Virginia’s No. 1 public university for social mobility, according to an article by Preston Williams at George Mason University.

Released on September 18, U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges 2024 ranks Mason at  no. 51 among all public universities and no. 105 among all universities nationwide. Mason also remains a top 20 university nationwide for innovation and a top 50 ( no. 49) for veterans, according to these national rankings.

“The rankings are confirming what we here at Mason and Virginians have known for some time; based on our performance, George Mason University is one of America’s top 50 public universities,” Mason President Gregory Washington said. “Further, today’s rankings reflect the value and performance families are looking for from a college education, and Mason’s year-over-year enrollment increases and placement of our graduates confirm that we are now a destination for graduates from Virginia and beyond.”

Social mobility now factored

The most significant change in this year’s rankings is the addition of social mobility factors to ranking methodologies, in recognition of growing public demand for more affordable, inclusive, and accessible universities. Mason places no. 1 in Virginia for public universities across all rankings that measure social mobility. Among public universities nationwide, Mason ranks  no. 41 with the Wall Street Journal and no. 34 with Washington Monthly National University Rankings, both for social mobility, and  no. 19 in the New York Times Top U.S. Colleges with the Greatest Economic Diversity.

“All students deserve access to a college education and experience that will deliver on a promise to transform their lives and set them up for lifelong success. Mason delivers in access, innovation, excellence, and opportunity. We are not just in the education business – we are in the success business,” added Washington.

National consensus about Mason

Mason is now a top 50 public university in the Wall Street Journal Best Colleges in the U.S. (no. 33, up from no. 95) and Forbes America’s Top Colleges (no. 40). In addition, U.S. News & World Report put Mason in a tie at no. 51 (up from no. 64) among public universities, and Washington Monthly ranked Mason 60th among public universities.

Among all universities, both public and private, Mason earns a tied ranking of 105th in U.S. News (up from no. 137), 95th with the Wall Street Journal (up from no. 179 in 2021), 93rd with Forbes, and 91st with Washington Monthly (up from no. 94).

A place to belong and succeed

These high-profile recognitions follow other recent rankings that highlight Mason for being one of America’s most inclusive and welcoming universities. FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, updated its rankings this month, naming Mason no. 8 in the nation for First Amendment observation, up from 17th last year.

Campus Pride also gave Mason its “Best of the Best” designation again for offering safe and welcoming campuses to the LGBTQ+ community, one of just 30 universities in the nation and the only university in Virginia to earn this distinction.

“The measurements of success are starting to change to favor institutions that are more inclusive and less exclusive,” Washington said. “That adjustment is long overdue. Mason is all about helping hard-working students reach their Point B, no matter where their Point A happens to be.”

The university’s total student enrollment has surpassed 40,000 this year, a first for the Commonwealth of Virginia, including the largest freshman class in school history with 4,500 students. Mason’s graduation rates are higher than the national average. In addition, 86 percent of recent graduates are employed in the greater Washington, D.C., area and 89 percent in positions related to their career goals.

Currently, about one in four Mason students is in the first generation of their family to attend college, and a slightly higher percentage of Mason students qualify for Federal Pell Grants, which are awarded to undergraduates with exceptional financial need.

This year, U.S. News also ranked several of Mason’s undergraduate programs in the top 100 nationally, including business, economics, psychology, computer science, and teaching.

Over the years, Mason has been recognized in numerous college rankings as Virginia’s top public university for diversity, innovation, cybersecurity, homeland security, service to military veterans, and service to students outside the traditional college ages.  Check out all of Mason’s updated rankings: gmu.edu/news/rankingsClick here to read more.

Combined capabilities

Splunk, the San Francisco, Calif.-based cybersecurity and data analytics firm that has an office in Tysons, has agreed to be acquired by San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco, which has a Herndon location, for $28 billion. Splunk has contracts with over a dozen cabinet-level agencies and the major branches of the military. “We’re excited to bring Cisco and Splunk together. Our combined capabilities will drive the next generation of AI-enabled security and observability,” said Chuck Robbins, chair and CEO of Cisco, in a statement about the deal. “From threat detection and response to threat prediction and prevention, we will help make organizations of all sizes more secure and resilient.” Washington Business Journal has more.

Next stage of corporate journey

Arlington Capital Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based private equity firm, has agreed to acquire Herndon-based Exostar from Thoma Bravo, a software investment firm. “Arlington’s focus on regulated industries including aerospace and defense, healthcare and life sciences, aligns directly with the markets we serve. This synergy makes them an ideal partner for us as we enter the next stage of our corporate journey. We look forward to leveraging Arlington’s expertise and connections to help us further strengthen our platform and exceed our ambitious growth targets,” said Richard Addi, Chief Executive Officer and President of Exostar. citybiz has more.

Campus cornering

New York City’s TF Cornerstone recently announced its purchase of the 1990’s era five-story, 250,000-square-foot office at 1881 Campus Commons Drive in Reston for $25.1 million, reported Washington Business Journal. The property sits adjacent to twin 1980s-era offices, each about 120,000 square feet, at 1900 and 1902 Campus Commons Drive, which TF Cornerstone picked up for $71.5 million in 2015. The company plans to “combine” the three office properties in a way that would “optimize the 18-acre urban campus with modern spaces and amenities that will energize forward-thinking companies in their workplaces,” according to a press release.

Snake malware snare

MITRE Engenuity, a technology foundation under the McLean, Va. And Bedford, Mass.-based not-for-profit organization MITRE, has published the results of emulated attacks by Russian cyber threat group Turla on 30 enterprise cybersecurity platforms, ExecutiveBiz reported. The threat group has targeted government, military and media organizations, research institutions and critical infrastructure entities in over 50 countries since the early 2000s. Its weapons include the Snake malware, a cyber espionage tool. Amy Robertson, cyber threat intelligence lead of MITRE’s ATT&CK Evaluations, said the goal of the program sought to help participating vendors enhance their products and give end-users insights into the capabilities of those offerings.

Supporting space monitoring activities

Reston-based Science Applications International Corp. and Menlo Park, Calif.-based LeoLabs, which has offices in Chantilly, have agreed to design and develop a software prototype meant to support national security and government civilian agencies in their space monitoring activities, SpaceNews reported. Matthew Hungerford, chief technology officer of SAIC’s space business, said the companies expect to have minimum viable product by the end of 2023 and expects the space-tracking software to back “unique government use cases and data access requirements while leveraging LeoLabs’ commercial technology capabilities.” According to the report, the U.S. Space Force’s space-tracking units and the Department of Commerce’s space traffic management office are among the potential customers of the prototype system.

Splitting in two

Westminster, Colo.-based Maxar Technologies, which maintains Chantilly and Herndon locations, has separated into two separate businesses, one focused on spacecraft manufacturing and the other on satellite imagery, SpaceNews reported. The reorganization came four months after private equity firm Advent International closed its acquisition of Maxar in an all-cash transaction worth approximately $6.4 billion. The deal was first announced in December 2022. Dan Jablonsky, president and CEO of Maxar Technologies, will serve as interim chief executive of Maxar Intelligence. Chris Johnson, who oversees Maxar’s satellite manufacturing operations, will oversee Maxar Space Infrastructure as CEO.

Unlocking insights

Herndon-based HawkEye 360 has unveiled RFIQ, a new product offering that could enable users to survey radio frequency activity and examine signal characteristics in regions of interest using unprocessed in-phase and quadrature data, reported ExecutiveBiz. RFIQ is designed to allow users to detect and geolocate new signals and emitters across several frequencies by providing them access to spectral data sets. “Our RFIQ product, combined with new collection modes and commercially available analytics tools, unlocks valuable insights into the RF spectrum across a country-wide footprint, giving our customers the ability to analyze a wide range of signals important to their mission,” said Alex Fox, chief growth officer at HawkEye 360.

Speeding up satellite communications

Tysons-based global satellite fleet operator Intelsat announced an agreement with Livermore, Calif.-based Aalyria Technologies aimed to dramatically speed up satellite communications, SpaceNews reported. As a first step, Intelsat and Aalyria plan to establish a bi-directional optical ground and space network in 2024 to transfer data at speeds of hundreds of gigabits per second. The network will rely on Tightbeam, Aalyria’s optical communications technology initially developed at Google parent company, Alphabet, and Spacetime, Aalyria network orchestration technology.

Sealing the deal

Columbia, Md.-based Sealing Technologies agreed to be acquired by Centreville-based Parsons Corp. in a transaction valued at up to $200 million, including $175 million in cash at closing, according to citybiz. SealingTech focuses on protecting and defending their customers’ networks and systems through cutting edge research, products, engineering, and integration services for the Internet of Things (IoT), edge combat operations, AI and ML, and cloud industries. Carey SmithParsons’ Chair, President & CEO said: “The addition of SealingTech is a natural extension of our growth strategy, adding critical, mission-ready solutions for our Department of Defense and Intelligence Community customers.”

Databricks investment

Tysons-based Capital One’s venture capital arm Capital One Ventures has made an investment in San Francisco-based Databricks in a deal that values the data analytics software firm at $43 billion, according to Washington Business Journal. In a funding round led by existing investor T. Rowe Price and with participation from Capital One Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Baillie Gifford, Fidelity, Morgan Stanley’s Counterpoint Global, Tiger Global and chipmaker Nvidia, Databricks raised more than $500 million, the firm disclosed. Capital One said it uses Databricks’ AI-based technology for fraud detection, though this is the first time its venture arm has invested in the 10-year-old company.

Supporting veterans

Herndon-based Akima has received an award from the American Legion for its support in aiding veterans in their transition to civilian life, ExecutiveBiz reported. The federal contractor secured the “Employer of the Year” title in the large business category during an awards ceremony held on Aug. 30.  Akima’s efforts include implementing veteran-specific placement programs, partnering with organizations like Hire Heroes and GI Jobs as well as using email blasts, webinars, virtual job fairs and online platforms to attract potential candidates.


About the Fairfax County
Economic Development Authority

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) promotes Fairfax County, Virginia, as a business and technology center. The FCEDA offers site location and business development assistance, and connections with county and state government agencies, to help companies locate and expand in Fairfax County.

Want to know more about the services of the FCEDA, or how economic development helps Fairfax County? Visit the FCEDA website or e-mail  info@fceda.org.

Fairfax County: “One of the great economic success stories of our time” — TIME