From the Director: New Strategic Investments in Economic Development

May 9, 2023 | By Ryan Touhill

Ryan Touhill

As uncertainty in the economy and challenges in the office market – including historically high office vacancy rates – continue, we in Arlington Economic Development identified several programs to drive economic growth.

I am excited to share that in response to our proposals, the Arlington County Board approved $1.25M in new funding for economic development as part of the County’s $1.55 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2024. This strategic and timely investment focuses on supporting Arlington’s entrepreneurs and small business owners with seed funding, tax relief, support programs and technical assistance that will accelerate their company’s growth into mature and more profitable enterprises.  

The newest initiative, which we will be formally unveiled in the coming months, is an exciting $1M Arlington Innovation Fund (AIF) designed to attract and invest in early-stage companies located in Arlington. This fund serves as a catalyst for entrepreneurial activity in target industry sectors and helps fill a gap in Arlington’s innovation ecosystem. The AIF is a logical next step in Arlington’s economic diversification strategy that will grow the tech ecosystem, and in time, help to combat office vacancy. 

Secondly, the budget also provides $250,000 to continue the award-winning ReLaunch small business assistance program and to add a new full-time small business counselor to AED’s team. ReLaunch is a unique partnership with Amazon Web Services and consultant Revby that has already helped nearly 250 Arlington small businesses with business consulting and technology services. The County Board’s commitment to continue this proven program is because of the small business community's importance to Arlington’s overall economic success. 

Finally, the budget updated the County’s existing Technology Zone incentive, which are partial offsets of the Business, Professional, Occupational License (BPOL) tax levied on business gross receipts for the prior year. Technology Zones are located in Arlington’s premier high-technology business corridors and dedicated to building a thriving innovation economy and welcoming tech sector businesses. While the existing incentives are not changing, the updates were necessary to allow for newer technology ventures.  

Aside from these new strategic investments in AED, the Board strengthened key economic development partnership organizations by continuing funding for the Ballston, National Landing and Rosslyn Business Improvement Districts and increasing funding for the Clarendon, Columbia Pike and Langston Boulevard neighborhood partnerships. And all of this is in addition to the Board’s actions to approve additional commercial uses as part of the Commercial Market Resiliency Initiative, which we have discussed previously in this column.  

I am excited and inspired by all of the positive, forward momentum that is taking place in Arlington to address a challenging economic environment. After all, the success of our business community is a key driver of our community’s overall success. 

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