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Fairfax's Point Man in India

Fairfax County's recruiter in Bangalore stresses schools and transportation to lure businesses.
Fairfax County's recruiter in Bangalore stresses schools and transportation to lure businesses. (By Keshav Vitla For The Washington Post)
By S. Mitra Kalita
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 30, 2005

BANGALORE, India -- Most Indians have never heard of Fairfax County. Prasad Tagat aims to change that.

Calling himself a "brand ambassador" for Fairfax County, Tagat is in charge of luring technology companies from here -- India -- to there -- Northern Virginia. Hired in 2004, Tagat attends breakfast meetings and networking luncheons throughout India armed with glossy brochures and folders provided by the county. He recites statistics about the Fairfax school system and the number of Hindu temples in the county.

At a time when many U.S. workers worry about American jobs and companies relocating to India, Tagat's goal is simple and paradoxical: to woo Indian entrepreneurs ready to open U.S. offices to Fairfax.

His presence reflects a recognition by U.S. local governments that job creation and economic development now require crossing not just city, county and state lines, but international borders as well. Fairfax County boasts five offices overseas. And next month, the state of Maryland plans to open an India office, also in Bangalore. Whereas politicians once decried such overseas consultants as an unnecessary expense, now they deem them necessary to stay competitive.

But in this city informally known as India's technology headquarters, selling Washington's suburbs is not easy. Most tech companies here know Silicon Valley. But Fairfax County? The name draws blank stares, Tagat said.

Prasad Tagat, in recruiting Indian firms, says:
Prasad Tagat, in recruiting Indian firms, says: "Everyone should work in the United States once."
So he has mastered a spiel that even a county real estate agent would envy -- customized to Indians, of course.

"There's a variety of Asians living there," he'll say.

Then: "Bangalore is connected to Dulles every day with just one stop."

On tapping Silicon Valley's venture capitalists: "With Southwest and JetBlue, the cost of travel to California doesn't matter as much."

On landing contracts: "A lot of tech firms are catering to the government. It's a recession-proof economy."

He concludes with his most powerful ammunition: the high test scores, from Advanced Placement exams to the SATs, in the county's schools.

Indian entrepreneurs "worry about their kids," Tagat said in a recent interview in his office here. "Will they be able to do well there?"

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