TYSONS CORNER,Va. – Cranes and bulldozers decorate the skyline,and a constant buzzing reverberates across concrete buildings. Construction workers hastily complete the steel structure,only to move on to another project.
Crowds of black blazers and business suits scurry off the Silver Line,making their way to mirrored towers that have sprouted along the new Metro rail line.
One man dressed in a light gray suit visits the suburban area for the first time,the steel landscape different from the green horizon in his hometown in Oregon.
Army Sgt. Maj. Matt Nemec,a senior logistics adviser now stationed in Richmond,Va.,is scheduled to leave the Army next year. He visited Tysons Corner for a weeklong job expo beginning Oct. 6.
The expo was held along the Silver Line to bring employees in from outside the area to fill the new office buildings.
“I just want to see what kind of opportunities come up within the same time frame that I’ll be leaving the Army. I want to make sure that I’m set up to go right into some kind of position after retirement,” he said.
Nemec has visited job expos in other areas,and he said his diverse career in the Army has made him flexible about what type of job he wants.
“Being so close to the Silver Line does play a factor in finding employment near it. Because of traffic,I want to be able to have an option to get to and from whatever job I get,” he said.
This is exactly what Tysons Corner promoters want to hear.
New transit,new development
Fairfax County has been undergoing revitalization and redevelopment,especially in Tysons and Reston,currently the last stop on the Silver Line that will eventually reach Dulles International Airport.
Another office building,MRP Tysons Overlook,is expected to be completed by November. Several hotels and office buildings will be built in 2017,leading to the completion of Capital One’s new headquarters in 2018.
As of March,the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Fairfax County had 576,368 jobs,the highest among the 12 largest counties in Virginia. The county’s unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in August,compared to 7.6 percent in D.C. and a national rate of 5.9 percent in September.
The numbers make Fairfax look like an ideal place to live,but there are still a lot of empty offices and apartments that need to be filled to make Tysons Corner thrive. The only way this can happen is to recruit new employees and to make the prospect of living in this suburb,15 miles from the White House,appealing.
Mark Rogoff,chairman of Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce,said that businesses new to Tysons Corner are all within walking distance of the Silver Line and need employees. He wants those employees to take advantage of this transportation for business and pleasure. That would include shopping at Tysons Corner Center,one of the top five shopping malls in the nation,with more than 300 stores in 2.4 million square feet.
TWD & Associates Inc.,a technology contractor that works with government agencies,moved its headquarters from nearby Arlington,Va.,to be closer to the new commercial and construction contractor clients. CVENT,an event management company previously based in McLean,Va.,next door to Tysons Corner,opened its corporate headquarters in Tysons,and Intelsat relocated from D.C. because of the direct influence of the Silver Line.
Jerry Gordon,president of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority,said workers can also live farther west and south of Tysons,where the cost of living is usually less,and take Metro to work.
“That’s part of the solution to getting these jobs filled,” he said. “There is a demand for people who are at the low end of the spectrum – people at the level who are young and just out of school.”
Living and working in edge city
At the job fair,Erika Lauth,senior recruiter at SAIC,a technology and engineering company,was looking for candidates to fill analyst and project manager jobs.
“We have one of our offices in this building,right off of the Metro,so it’s a great impact. We do have a lot of people that use the Silver Line that come in from all over,and it’s helping us grow our business,” Lauth said. “When we have meetings here,it’s great for people to get here from their hotels by using the Silver Line.”
Mike Chouri has lived in Tysons Corner for four years and has been the general manager of the Sheraton Tysons Hotel for a year.
“Two years ago,we knew that this area was going to grow,but now we know that two years from now,it’s going to be even bigger,” he said.
Chouri said the hotel will work with the community to encourage employees who live outside the county to use public transportation. He plans to provide a shuttle service to circulate from the four new Metro stops throughout the area to limit the traffic congestion and free space in the hotel’s parking garage.
“We’re seeing a lot of major groups that normally go to D.C. to host conventions go outside that area to the suburbs,like here. If they do a meeting in D.C. and pay twice as much money to cater to a group that they can find in another area by means of the Metro,why not?” Chouri said.
After 22 years in the banking industry and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources,Linwood Cox was laid off from the banking company he founded because it was facing financial struggles.
Now unemployed and living in Richmond,Cox stood tall in his light gray suit as he looked at tables at the job expo.
“I moved here for employment. I saw that the rates were low,and I think that’s something everyone looks for,” Cox said. “Taking the train here was something different,though. I have my own car,but it might be hard to get here with it.”
Like Nemec,Cox said he believes the Silver Line will help him when he finds a job in Tysons Corner or Fairfax County.
However,the Silver Line made a longtime D.C. resident decide Tysons isn’t for her.
Lolita Jones,45,who was laid off Aug. 1 from her job as a photo editor for the McClatchy Tribune Information Services,known as MCT,had been in journalism for 15 years. She lost her job when MCT was sold to the Tribune Co.,which moved its operations to Chicago.
She was looking for journalism jobs at the job fair,but left feeling that reinventing herself might be a better option.
“I didn’t know which companies were going to be here,but nothing here really related to photo or photojournalism. There is some marketing,so I guess that is something I could lean towards,since we did social media with tweeting and promoting the product,” Jones said.
From Metro’s Potomac Avenue station to Tysons Corner took her 45 minutes. With her 8-year-old daughter in school and aftercare,Jones said she would feel uncomfortable with a job so far from D.C.
“I don’t know if I would do this. Aftercare closes at 6 p.m.,so that would really be pushing it if I got off from work here at 5 o’clock. Then I would have to put her into before-care to get out here in time,” she said. “Most of the positions for photo are out of state,anyway. I’m debating whether to continue photojournalism or totally switch careers.”
From 2007 to 2009,the U.S. lost 8.7 million jobs due to the Great Recession,which led to high unemployment. After October 2009,unemployment began to drop,from 10 percent to 5.9 percent as of September.
Tysons Corner is among the areas taking advantage of the economy’s slow bounce back. Tysons now has 26.8 million square feet of office space and expects to add 46 million square feet of office and residential space by 2030,totaling to 72.8 million square feet.
Steven Fuller,director of regional analysis at George Mason University,said that Tysons became a second employment center for the Washington area and praised the Silver Line.
“It is the best transportation access in the region – connected well to Maryland,Virginia and the D.C. area,” he said. “It is an edge city,which is the new form of a suburban city that is emerging with focal points for investments and development.”
The U.S. Census Bureau said there were 19,627 residents in Tysons Corner in 2010. The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority said that there were 131,669 jobs in 2010. By 2050,Tysons expects to have 100,000 residents and 200,000 jobs.
So far this year,construction of office properties has gone up 25.7 percent nationally over 2013,creating 86 million square feet of office space. CoStar Analytics said this was highest level of development since the Great Recession.
“Tysons benefits from the economic vitality and the growing importance of Loudoun County,” Fuller said.
Loudoun is another low-unemployment,fast-growing county adjacent to Fairfax.
Fuller said in the case of D.C.,even though it has a high unemployment rate,70 percent of those working in the District live in the suburbs.
“You find this in other cities with mismatched groupings – St. Louis,Detroit and Cleveland – where the poor people get trapped. You can find this anywhere,but primarily in D.C.,” Fuller said.
Those who are unemployed in the District,he said,may be able to find opportunities in Tysons Corner after they are retrained with the help of programs in Prince George’s County, Md.,and elsewhere,and with convenient transportation for the first time.
“The education,Washington Dulles Airport and the workforce makes businesses want to relocate here. It’s more than just a local story,it is a steadily growing region,” Fuller said.
Correction: This story previously reported there were 39,193 jobs in Fairfax County,Va.,in 2010. That number has since been corrected to 131,669.
Reach reporter Lorain Watters at [email protected] or 202-408-1494. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.