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Cover Story


Head cheerleader


Fairfax County has boomed during Gordon’s tenure at its economic development authority


Gerald L. “Jerry” Gordon has been president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority since 1987.


Growth mode Thus began the ascension of


Gordon as the county’s chief marketer and salesman. During his tenure, employment in Fairfax has grown from 243,000 to more than 600,000. Today, the county’s roster of major employ- ers includes Inova Health System, George Mason University and the U.S. Department of Defense, plus the headquarters of nine Fortune 500 com- panies, such as Capital One, Northrop Grumman, Hilton Worldwide, Volks- wagen Group of America and General Dynamics. According to Gordon, the county


by Jack Cooksey C


onsidering the big question of the year — where will Amazon locate its highly coveted second


headquarters? — many oddsmakers put Northern Virginia at the top of the list.


If that prediction comes true, it


might crown the legacy of one man in particular: Gerald L. “Jerry” Gordon, the president and CEO of the Fairfax County Econo mic Development Authority (FCEDA). In effect, landing Amazon’s HQ2 — which is expected to employ 50,000 people — would serve as a walk-off home run for the man who has led the FCEDA through the bulk of its existence. Gordon, who turns 68 on Nov. 3,


plans to retire at year’s end. He declines to answer any questions about Amazon, which in January included Northern Virginia on a short list of 20 regions it was considering for the headquarters


32 NOVEMBER 2018


site. A decision is expected by the end of the year. “The story of Jerry Gordon has


been the story of Fairfax County’s growth and development,” says Sharon Bulova, chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors. Gordon joined the authority in


1983 and rose to its top executive posi- tion in 1987. Bulova recalls that she was elected to the board a year later when antigrowth sentiment was high among voters. “Fairfax residents thought we were growing too fast and that the growth was not managed well,” she says. “Those were tumultuous times.” The county board’s chairman at the


time, Audrey Moore, advocated tourism as a solution — but the early 1990s brought a brief recession and bigger problems. “Then, it was about: ‘How do we get Fairfax back in business?’” Bulova says.


contains more office space than any other locality in the Greater Washing- ton area — 117 million square feet, to be exact — amounting to 35 percent of all the office space in Virginia. In 1983, when he came on board, Fairfax had just 32 million square feet. “We have more space filled than [the rest of] Northern Virginia has space,” he says. Gordon notes that the FCEDA


was quicker than many nearby localities to assess the risk of leaning too heavily on federal contracting as an anchor of the local economy. So, in the late 1990s, Gordon and his team began to diversify their targets and, in time, turned Fairfax into a mosaic of industries. The result is a local economy that can withstand, some- what, stormy weather in any industry. The year 2009 saw a flurry of high-


profile relocations to Fairfax: CSC (now DXC Technology) pulled up stakes from El Segundo, Calif.; Hilton left Beverly Hills; and Volkswagen moved from Michigan. When asked about his most dif-


ficult deal, Gordon answers simply: “All deals are difficult in different ways.”


Photo by Stephen Gosling


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