Not long after I arrived at the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority in 1983, Mobil Corp. announced its headquarters relocation from New York City to the Merrifield area of Fairfax County. It was an enormous shot in the arm for the county, as much for the renown it brought as for the number of jobs and the tax base impacts. It created exponential changes in our economic development efforts. It put the county on the map as a business location and especially a location for corporate headquarters.
Exxon merged with Mobil in 1999 and the new company located its “downstream” — refining and marketing — headquarters in Merrifield, with just more than 2,000 high-paying, highly skilled jobs. It has been one of our largest employers, and its presence has given us prominence in what is for us a “nontraditional” industry.
I have now observed the company’s entire life cycle in Fairfax County. On June 6 ExxonMobil announced that it will pull out all of its Merrifield-based employees and relocate them to Houston in 2014 and 2015. On behalf of Fairfax County, I have this to say to ExxonMobil: Thank you for all you have done for this community.
We have been extremely fortunate to have had Mobil and then ExxonMobil in this community for all these years. The corporation has been an exceptional corporate citizen, contributing to all manner of community activities and organizations. And it did so not just in terms of dollars of support, but in human resources as well.
Mobil and ExxonMobil employees have participated in — and funded — many organizations around Fairfax County and the Washington area. The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority Commission, to cite one example I know well, has benefitted over time from having four senior Mobil and then ExxonMobil employees as members, including our current chairman, who retired from the company just a few years ago. We thank the company for its contributions to the county economy and quality of life. We are absolutely sorry to see it go, but feel most fortunate for having had it in our community while we did.
Today, its departure is regrettable, and it comes as many Fairfax County companies wonder how they — and their payrolls — might be affected by federal budget cuts. But ExxonMobil’s departure will be hardly as devastating as such a loss would have been all those years ago. By different counts, Fairfax County is today home to between 600,000 and 620,000 jobs. We will lose 2,000 jobs — not good, but something that this community and economy can withstand.
Yes, the ExxonMobil facility is large — the two buildings have more than 1.3 million square feet of space and sit on 117 acres. There could be a number of good uses — corporate, government and institutional — for the site and we will work to find another excellent employer for the location.
We wish ExxonMobil and those employees who leave the best in Houston and thank them for calling Fairfax County home for 30 years.
Gerald L. Gordon is president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.