April 4, 2023 | By Ryan Touhill
Last month, I, along with Arlington County colleagues and local business leaders, spent several days touring the greater Seattle area to learn how economic development has impacted the community. It’s no secret that over the last 20 years, companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google (to name a few) have brought significant jobs and new investment to the Seattle region. The explosive growth has certainly brought numerous positive benefits to the region and its residents, but it also brings challenges — challenges that can be compounded by an economic downturn like we’re experiencing now.
After meeting business leaders, residents, workers and public officials, I left the Pacific Northwest even more convinced that strong partnerships between the public and private sectors are essential to ensuring that economic development wins result in long-term success for our community.
In Arlington, we take pride in the strong relationships that have been developed between the local community and the businesses that chose to locate and invest here. The workforce behind these companies call Arlington home; they are members of the community, and it makes sense that they want to be good corporate citizens and good neighbors.
We’ve worked with several of our larger companies, including Accenture, Amazon, Nestle and many others on community ventures and partnerships. These efforts have resulted in stronger relationships, greater trust and a deeper sense of shared responsibility for being good community stewards. This is good for businesses and the County, because after all, our businesses significantly contribute to the tax base that helps to fund county services.
Which brings us to last month’s announcement of the pause on Phase 2 of Amazon HQ2.
It’s important to remember that Amazon HQ2 has always been a multi-year, multi-phased project. While a pause is not ideal, it is understandable given recent economic shifts we have experienced in the past few years. That said, the company’s long-term plans are still very much on track; hiring is ahead of schedule, and the Metropolitan Park campus (Phase 1) is set to open on time this year.
At the same time, Amazon reaffirmed its commitment to the Arlington community like investments in affordable housing, a new community high school and a commitment to support locally owned businesses on its campus. That is a hallmark sign of a sound partnership, and we look forward to continuing our work together to fulfill the vision of Amazon HQ2.
In the meantime, AED will continue to focus on using our resources to create and uphold an environment where businesses can be successful. Arlington is an innovative community. We’ve faced challenges before, and we’re nimble in our approach to meet and overcome these types of challenges. It’s why the County passed regulatory flexibility in commercial corridors as part of the commercial market resiliency initiative. We’re leading the way with innovative new initiatives like the TALENT program to build a homegrown tech workforce. And we are developing plans to expand our support for Arlington-based startup companies in emerging sectors that are primed for growth.
At the same time, we’re continuing our wholistic approach to ensuring Arlington is a vibrant business destination, by cultivating our small business ventures, our hospitality businesses and our arts community. After all, a robust, diverse business community is a thriving one. That’s what we want for Arlington.