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Virginia reels in Acentia from Maryland

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In the seemingly endless turf war between Virginia and Maryland, Virginia has scored another point.

The state has lured Acentia, an information technology contractor based in Silver Spring, to Fairview Park in Falls Church, also home to CSC, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, which only recently relocated from Los Angeles.

Todd Stottlemyer, Acentia’s chief executive for about a year, said the company had outgrown its Silver Spring location and was seeking a location with enough space to expand.

Falls Church, in particular, offered the company a chance to share space between its 60-person headquarters and the roughly 125 employees who work on a Defense Department medical and health account that will soon be based out of a new Pentagon facility at Fairview Park.

The company, which makes about 75 percent of its revenue from public sector sales, has moved the nearly 200 employees into a 46,000 square-foot space spanning two floors. Stottlemyer said Acentia now has more collaborative space as well as room to grow, as it plans to add employees and to consider acquisitions.

The company, which has about 400 of its 700 employees in the Washington region, has offices in Chantilly, Laurel, Lanham and in the Bailey’s Crossroads area of Fairfax.

Liz Povar, director of business development at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, said Acentia fits within a strategic sector Virginia is trying to attract.

“This IT sector — and particularly companies that deal both with the federal government as well as private industry — is a target business for us,” she said.

Though the state did not provide Acentia funding (which often comes in the form of incentive grants), the Virginia Jobs Investment Program will lend training and recruitment support, according to Povar.

Acentia’s move, while smaller in scope, follows several recent victories for Virginia, which has been overtly competing against Maryland to draw and retain companies. Defense contractor Northrop, which formally opened its doors last year, was one of the most high profile. Additionally, engineering, construction and project management firm Bechtel said last year it would relocate its global operations headquarters from Frederick County to Fairfax County, adding 625 jobs.

Stirring the pot further, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell hinted on a radio program last year that state officials had reached out to Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, after a dust-up between the company and Montgomery County officials.

Gerald L. Gordon, president and chief executive of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, said Acentia’s move, as well as other recent relocations, helps state and county officials attract others.

“Part of our business is reality — the reality of what we sell and good neighborhoods and good schools,” he said. “Part of it is also the perceptions that we create of those benefits and so when a company like Acentia comes down here, we are now able to say to their colleagues, ‘They came to Fairfax County because they could find the labor force and be supported there.’ ”

Steven A. Silverman, director of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, said the choice often comes down to price.

“In this marketplace, individual company decisions are being more and more driven by the cost of leased space than anything that has to do with the business climate,” he said. “You can’t minimize the amount of vacant space across the river.”

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