Editor’s Note: The following opinion piece was written by Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette. It originally appeared in ARLbiz, our weekly Arlington business e-newsletter. You can subscribe to ARLbiz here.
On New Year’s Day, I announced that my focus this year as Arlington County Board Chairman will be on sustainability – the ability to prosper through change. A key element of that focus for me will be laying the groundwork for Arlington to become a hub for the innovation economy.
Everything we do should be judged by how it advances our goal of building a community that will sustain Arlingtonians for generations to come. We have such a strong foundation on which to build.
When I moved to Arlington in 1983 — 31 years ago — it was a somewhat sleepy place with an uncertain future. Arlington had made the commitment to transit as our prime engine of redevelopment but we were not sure how far it could take us. Today, 40 percent of all transit trips in the state — in the entire state — begin or end in Arlington. After years of persistence, patience and sound investment, the unprecedented prosperity that has resulted is clear.
Today, other localities are learning from us and making smarter planning decisions themselves. We face a rapidly changing economy and increased competition as the Silver Line brings rail transit to Tyson’s and beyond and DC creates new office markets. To tackle these challenges, the County Manager, accompanied by Board Members, went on a listening tour in the business community. What we heard on that tour helped me formulate my action plan. Owners of businesses both small and large love this community and value the business opportunities here, but we heard thoughtful suggestions from them on how we can make Arlington an even better place to do business.
We know that Arlington has amazing assets that will continue to be a fundamental part of our economic strength. Our location is not going to change. National Airport and the Pentagon are not going anywhere. Our outstanding transportation system, smart growth policies and great schools will be protected and enhanced. Did you know that today’s Arlington has the nation’s highest concentration of 25 to 34-year-olds — and is the home of the region’s “creative class?”
In the coming months, as part of my six-point plan, we will be presenting ideas for accelerating the growth of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor’s science, technology, art, research and education eco-system; strengthening communications and partnerships between County government, businesses, entrepreneurs and residents; updating our Retail Action Plan; and strategically marketing Arlington to businesses and developers nationally.
These initiatives will help ensure that Arlington is a leader in the innovation economy — the 21st-century economy of flexible, creative enterprises and high-tech products and services.
It is an ambitious agenda — but this is an ambitious community. We lean forward and are good at turning challenges into opportunities. Arlington’s future is bright. Together, we will continue to build a community that is a model of sustainability, diversity and civic engagement – a place that other communities look to for inspiration.