Alexandria, VA

Though Alexandria is now an independent city, it was at one point a part of Washington D.C. The city is less than 10 miles from the District of Colombia and its economy is closely connected with the federal government in Washington, and it will continue to be in the future. The largest employers in Alexandria are federal government operations such as the Defense Department. Many of the private sector operations in the city also cater to government needs. Ultimately, activities of the federal government drive the economy of Alexandria, much like they drive the economies of other cities surrounding the District. As a result, the economic future of Alexandria will largely depend on how much the federal government grows in the coming years. Economists in the Washington D.C. area have stressed the importance of developing greater economic diversity in the region. In particular, the focus should be on developing streams of revenue that extend outside of the area. The reasoning is that the current economy in the Washington metro is heavily dependent on federal spending which can be inconsistent and irregular as the 2013 government shutdown demonstrated. Economic development specialists in the region are working on attracting and retaining companies in advanced industries with high research and development requirements. The Washington region as a whole has the human strengths necessary to maintain a high-tech STEM industry. In fact, there are signs that a new tech industry is slowly taking root in the District itself. The city of Alexandria, itself, will find it difficult to replicate the success of Washington D.C. Currently, the cost of living in Alexandria is far higher than both the national and state averages. The largest reason for this is real estate, though both transportation and food costs are higher than average. The high costs of the area combined with the lack of a high-tech cluster in Alexandria will make it difficult for the city to attract advanced industry to the city. Generally speaking, the private sector in Alexandria is not that large relative to other cities. The private companies that do operate in the city tend to be in the professional services, catering to the needs of the federal government. It is possible that Alexandria will be able to diversify through businesses that spillover from Washington D.C. However, until then there is not a compelling business reason to choose Alexandria over other cities at this time. Ultimately, Alexandria will likely continue being a prosperous city that benefits from its proximity to Washington D.C. It has a great deal of culture, and the people that make up the city come from diverse backgrounds. The city was not terribly affected by the Great Recession and its unemployment rate has fallen to 3.6%. As long as the government maintains its current levels of activity, Alexandria will remain an appealing city for professionals seeking high-quality jobs that cater to the federal government.

Reston, VA

Like Alexandria, VA, Reston is both part of the larger economic, cultural, professional, and recreational Washington, DC metropolitan scene. But also like Alexandria, it is also its own vibrant community where people live, work, go to school and recreate. It has its own charm and personality, and more importantly, part of its upscale desirability is that it sits astride the Dulles Technology Corridor and is home to some of the most forward leaning technology firms in the nation, region, and local area. According to Wikipedia, Reston is a census-designated place (CDP) in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States, within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The population was 58,404 at the 2010 census. Originally, an internationally known planned community founded in 1964, it was built with the goal of revolutionizing post–World War II concepts of land use and residential/corporate development in suburban America. The Reston Town Center is home to many businesses, with high-rise and low-rise commercial buildings that are home to shops, restaurants, offices, a cinema, and a hotel. It comprises over 1,000,000 square feet of office space. In 2012, Reston was ranked 7th in the Best Place to Live in America by CNNMoney Magazine. Reston is one of those red-hot places to live, work, and play favored by the upwardly mobile. As mentioned, the city stands alone, yet it is an integral part of the Washington, DC metropolitan area. This has the effect of localizing a highly professional workforce, but of attracting firms and employees from all over the region.

Richmond, VA

Sitting astride the James River, Richmond, VA is a charming amalgamation of old world charm and a modern vibrant economy linking many different industries with any of a national, regional, or local focus. Located approximately 100 miles south of Washington, DC, Richmond and Washington anchor the southern end of the mid-Atlantic megalopolis stretching from Richmond in the south to Boston in the north. Viewed this way, although Richmond is a strong, stand-along market in its own right, a part of its appeal is relationship to other regional and national businesses in multiple industries. Not all of the press is good, however, and recently, Wells Fargo Bank, headquartered in the Richmond area, faced a lot of public and regulatory scrutiny over unscrupulous account manipulation. Aside from banking, Richmond is home to Tobacco industry market leader Phillip Morris. Thinking about history and stability, according to Wikipedia, Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the Greater Richmond Region. It was incorporated in 1742, and has been an independent city since 1871. As of the 2010 census, the Richmond Metropolitan Area has a population of 1,260,029, making it the third-most populous metro in the state. Richmond’s economy is primarily driven by law, finance, and government, with federal, state, and local governmental agencies, as well as notable legal and banking firms, located in the downtown area. The city is home to both the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, one of 13 United States courts of appeals, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, one of 12 Federal Reserve Banks. Dominion Resources and WestRock, Several Fortune 500 companies, are headquartered in the city, with others in the metropolitan area.