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  • Matt Moloney

Creating intentional economic development initiatives in Fairfax, VA

For many cities, economic development initiatives can develop in a variety of ways. Sometimes, they’re born from an immediate response to a crisis—other times they’re a result of week-long strategic planning sessions. With this major difference in strategy, it can be challenging to manage these initiatives. We spoke with the city of Fairfax, Virginia’s Economic Development team about how they are diving into intentional initiatives and the success they are seeing.

Fairfax, VA is a historic city in Northeast Virginia with a population of 24,146. With such a tight-knit community, they had a few business engagement initiatives that seemed relatively successful, but weren’t changing the community deeply. Or so they thought.

We spoke with Economic Development Director Christopher Bruno and Assistant Director of Finance & Operations Matthew Easley to learn how recent economic development initiatives have helped change the community for the better.

Chris and Matt - Fairfax Economic Development Initiatives

Restaurant week proves to be a wildly successful economic development initiative

One example was their Restaurant Week. Launched in 2018, Christopher Bruno, Director of Economic Development, looked more deeply into its economic impact and discovered it injected many millions of dollars into the local economy in just a two-week period.

Motivated by its impact, they leaned deeper into the program and turned it into a business retention program. Not only does it provide a boost to their local economy, but it supports their existing network of restaurants through what could be a potentially fatal slow season.

“We were really able to provide a really good program that actually builds up these small, locally-owned and independent restaurants, and allows them to grow within Fairfax.” Christopher Bruno, Director of Economic Development for City of Fairfax, VA

Partnering with a local university

Another initiative that had a deeper impact than realized was with their partnership with George Mason University. Their partnership agreement with George Mason University to support the Mason Enterprise Center was coming to an end.

Through deeper consideration, they realized this partnership actually contributes a significant amount of investment into the city and creates a center of attraction for other businesses to relocate near the existing businesses.

So, they doubled down. They signed a new 10-year commitment and moved the center into a Class A office space in the city, re-investing in the program.

“In doing so, we actually launched our largest business retention project that the city of Fairfax has ever had, keeping somewhere between 55 and 65 businesses in the city with the move.” Christopher Bruno, Director of Economic Development for City of Fairfax, VA

Leveraging a trusted GovTech partner to power their economic development initiatives

After finding success with a few of their strategies, Fairfax, VA is pivoting to a more thoughtful way when it comes to developing their local economy. With a small staff that has big ideas, they partnered with Bludot, a leading economic development software platform, to help with their project management. Bludot provides them with sophisticated project management specifically built for economic development.

With that tool, they can further organize their business development projects and track relationships, assign projects, track metrics and data and collaborate throughout the department. What was once an ad-hoc economic development plan, has become a codified strategy.

“It has allowed us to really step up our business investment game and our business attraction and retention program.” Christopher Bruno, Director of Economic Development for City of Fairfax, VA

Project Screen - Economic Development Initiatives

Furthermore, as their strategy and department grow, they will be able to allocate resources in a more thoughtful and methodical way. Because economic development initiatives can come to fruition quickly, having a platform that can keep up but still maintain organization is important.

“Bludot is a good tool in that way because maybe it's not slowing us down. It is allowing us to better organize and we're able to see that organization happen in real time.” Matthew Easley, Assistant Director of Finance & Operations for City of Fairfax, VA

Full App - Economic Development Initiatives

You can read more about Fairfax’s successes through the full interview.

And if your city is in the midst of managing a thoughtful and strategic economic development plan, book a call with Bludot today.


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