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Tony Castrilli,
Director of Public Affairs

Innovation Districts Will Grow Fairfax County's Economy

News Highlights

  • Fairfax leaders are working to create innovation districts in the county.
  • Innovation hubs produce new jobs, businesses and economic activity. Each new tech job creates five additional jobs in the local economy, according to economic research.

Silicon Valley, Boston, and Research Triangle Park—these are examples of innovation hubs where tech, biotech, research-and-development labs and other cutting-edge companies cluster.

These innovation districts stimulate the growth of new businesses, new jobs and new economic growth.

In its efforts to diversify and expand the economy, Fairfax officials want to create these districts across the county. This is key action under the county’s strategic Economic Success Plan. Under the plan, Fairfax also seeks to help create and expand world-class research and development in the county.

“Innovation districts are an opportunity to create unique places throughout the county where innovation, which is directly correlated to diversifying our economy, can take place,” said Fairfax County Deputy County Executive Rob Stalzer.

What are Innovation Hubs?

These hubs are defined as dense, city-like, transit-accessible places that offer mixed use housing, offices, and retail, according to the Brookings Institution which is studying these centers.

“Innovation districts represent the new geography of research in the United States,” says Scott Andes, a senior policy analyst at Brookings. “They’re dense cores where there’s an unusual amount of activity, both residential, real estate, commercial activity, but then also research occurring inside transit-accessible areas that are connected with broadband and other amenities.”

Within Fairfax County, places like Tysons, Reston, Merrifield and Seven Corners may be candidates for these districts because they offer transit accessible, mixed use, urban geographies, say officials.

Innovation districts create distinct economic benefits

  • They help to create a tipping point that draws even greater numbers of innovative startups and entrepreneurs to the area. They make the ecosystem more attractive to cutting-edge companies that want to be surround by other similar firms. In economy that’s moving towards “open innovation,” geographic clustering helps companies share new ideas to power new innovations that grow the economy and new businesses.

 

  • They help to produce more jobs. Every new high-tech job creates five additional jobs in the local economy. Enrico Moretti, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, made this finding after studying data on nine million workers in 320 U.S. metropolitan areas in the U.S. These new jobs are both professional—and nonprofessional, like construction workers, waiters, and taxi drivers.

 

  • They help to boost social equity and inclusion, generating jobs for people with vocational or technical skills. Brookings finds that half of all science, technology, engineering and math jobs are open to workers without a college degree. These jobs also pay $53,000 on average—10 percent higher than jobs with similar educational requirements. Economist Moretti also found that jurisdictions with innovation hubs produce higher paying jobs for high school graduates. Austin and Raleigh grads had salaries that were lower than the national average before these cities became innovation hubs. After their transformation, wages climbed 45 percent higher for these workers.

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