It’s no secret that the commercial real estate market in Fairfax County is struggling. Office vacancy rates throughout the region are at their highest since 1991. Historically, our region has relied on federal contracting and corporate relocations as major drivers of economic development. However, this is no longer a sustainable economic strategy.
In order to identify channels through which we can diversify our local economy, the Board of Supervisors, along with Fairfax County’s Economic Commission and county staff, have developed a strategic plan for economic success. The plan was devised to work toward creating the environment and infrastructure necessary to encourage sustainable economic growth and development. This includes policies to support and foster small business growth and opportunity.
As a part of the strategic plan for economic success, a working group has been created to tackle one of the major issues facing the future of our region’s economy: office vacancy. Chairman Bulova and I serve as members of the group, along with some of the area’s top business leaders. In order to achieve our goal of decreased office vacancy, our workgroup will focus on finding new and innovative ways to repurpose existing, obsolete properties.
As the workgroup continues to meet, we will focus on answering a number of questions, including the scope of opportunities throughout Fairfax, such as the number and location of potential properties, as well as what role the county can play in assisting the private sector in these redevelopment efforts. We will also tackle public policy that may be standing in the way of continued redevelopment efforts, such as land use, zoning and tax policies. In addition, we will review process and code improvements necessary to facilitate and support redevelopment. In short, everything is on the table.
In order to remain competitive in a changing market, we need to be willing to change and adapt to current economic realities. It will require reforms to public policies and a willingness to take what we already have and put it back to work. The workgroup is just the first step, but it is a necessary step toward getting the region’s economy heading in the right direction today and into the future.
John Cook represents the Braddock District on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.