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Rejuvenating Loudoun

AOL workers, from left, Maggie McCanner, Art Prediger, Kim Rote, Nathan Lucas, Christy Abramson and Rudy Ormsby gather at Clyde's Willow Creek Farm. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
By Kendra Marr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 17, 2007

Loudoun County seems to have everything going for it. It is one of the fastest-growing counties in the United States, it has posted a dramatic increase in jobs, and it enjoys the nation's second-highest median household income, right behind Fairfax.

But to young-adult residents the county may have at least one glaring flaw: It looks slightly middle-aged.

About 69 percent of households in Loudoun County are family households, according to 2006 Census data, and 41 percent of its households have children under 18. Loudoun ties with Fairfax as the second-largest family population in Northern Virginia, after Prince William County.

Worried that the county could appear less than charming to a vital part of the workforce, Loudoun's Department of Economic Development has flagged the attraction of 20-somethings as an issue.

"This is the next generation of entrepreneurs," said Dorri O'Brien Morin, a department spokeswoman. "We want them to work in county."

The hope is that future mixed-use and town center projects will attract young people with their downtown-like atmospheres. Loudoun doesn't want to be known as a family suburb forever.

Bill Dean, chief executive of M.C. Dean, a Dulles engineering firm, said the company's suburban location has hurt its job pitch. Job-hunting college students just aren't interested in living in this family-oriented environment.

"You are going to find that most of our young people do the reverse commute," said Dean, who noticed that many of the company's young employees choose to live in Reston Town Center, Arlington and the District.

The statistics would argue there is little cause for concern.

Looking a little more deeply into Loudoun demographics shows that adults in their 20s make up about 13 percent of the population. That's up from 11 percent in the 2000 census.

Perhaps it's a problem of perception. Loudoun just appears old.

At Old Dominion Brewing Co. in Ashburn, three men are drinking beers at a table during happy hour.

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