With the Federal Bureau of Investigation's search for a new headquarters location representing one of the region's biggest economic development prospects, Loudoun government leaders are gearing up to put the county at the top of the list for consideration.
Since the Request for Information was issued by the General Services Administration in December, the county’s economic development team has been working quietly with GSA to sell Loudoun as the best location for the FBI and a number of developers have been putting together their own proposals.
But supervisors this week said they want to see the effort taken a step further. The board’s Economic Development Committee, which includes five supervisors, suggested Economic Development Director Tom Flynn and Jim Herbert, who is representing Loudoun in the negotiations, put together a county government proposal to present to the FBI.
The proposal, supervisors said, should not advocate a specific property or properties that could accommodate the agency, which needs up to 2.1 million square feet of office space to house around 11,000 employees, but should clearly explain why Loudoun is the best option for the future of the FBI.
“The developers will put in a response that is germane to their property, but someone has to go in and preach the Loudoun story,” Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said. The county presentation would point out “all the discriminators that brings Loudoun to the table,” he said.
Among those, he said, were Metro’s extension, the access to fiber and technology and the access to its workforce. “I knocked on doors during the campaign. I have a lot of FBI employees living in the Ashburn districts. A lot,” Buona said.
To help Loudoun’s chances at landing the new FBI headquarters, the Department of Economic Development has reached out to 21 large landowners to gauge their interest in submitting a proposal. Herbert told supervisors he believed “a number” of Loudoun developers would be making submissions to GSA, but said details about who applies and their proposals would be “fairly closely held.”
Representatives of some of the properties showing interest in making FBI bids attended Wednesday's committee meeting. The list of likely options includes the Antigone and Dulles West properties near the future Rt. 606 Metro station on the northern edge of Dulles Airport; Moorefield Station around the Rt. 772 station; One Loudoun and Lexington 7, both along Rt. 7 in Ashburn; Kincora near the Rt. 7/Rt. 28 interchange; Oak Lawn near Leesburg; Arcola along Rt. 50; property owned by MWAA; and property owned by the United States Postal Service along Rt. 606.
That last option might be a perfect fit for the project, Herbert said, specifically because of a key aspect to the proposal—that the FBI would like to do a “land swap” with the existing J. Edgar Hoover FBI Headquarters in DC.
“With that as a possible play, it could be the best way for the government to get involved,” he said. “It could be a GSA to Post Office deal.”
That also could eliminate one concern raised by supervisors: whether the project would benefit Loudoun because the FBI property would be tax exempt. Herbert noted the post office property is tax exempt already, so the county would not be losing value from the county’s tax rolls.
Supervisors noted the “real advantage” to Loudoun would be the commercial uses that would locate around the FBI facility—ranging from employee services to other support agencies. “I think this brings in a massive cottage industry,” Buona said. “We have to look at the value of what is coming in behind.”
The inclusion of the J. Edgar Hoover Building adds a new twist to the RFI, and also highlights a big gap to the proposal: the lack of federal funding.
“There is no federal allocation at this point,” Flynn told supervisors. “To issue a [Request for Proposals] there is going to have to be some appropriation made for that to be taken seriously.”
Herbert said the FBI is “insisting” that the existing FBI building “will be equal in value to what they are purchasing and penciling their name. If it were simply a matter of having the federal government go buy land, they could put it where they felt the greatest economic development could be achieved. They are going to be making a business money decision.”
But even with the question marks, supervisors agreed that the potential for bringing the FBI to Loudoun was “too big to ignore.” To go along with the county and developer proposals, the board also likely will consider adopting a resolution of support for the FBI’s location in Loudoun and sending letters to the appropriate organizations and representatives.
All submissions for interest are due to the GSA by March 4.