The Capital Business 2010 Year in Review

Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush.
Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush. (Jeffrey MacMillan)
By Capital Business staff
Monday, December 20, 2010

In 2010, Washington-area business people demonstrated their resilience. Unlike the situation in 2009, which was dominated by layoffs, bankruptcies and business closures, the economy this year showed signs of getting back to normal. Private companies went public. Law firms resumed mergers, with international partners. Trendy restaurants sprouted throughout the area. A corporate giant made plans to move its headquarters here. And employers -- even in the private sector -- at long last accelerated expansion of their payrolls. This was also the year when the entrepreneurial spirit flourished, as the online coupon craze exploded and technology firms big and small put their heads in the clouds.

Singing hey, hey, you, you, get into the cloud

It has been the talk of tech circles for years, but the topic of cloud computing became more mainstream in 2010. From television commercials for consumer products to federal government directives, it's cropping up all over the place.

For those who have missed the headlines, cloud computing delivers information technology services and software via the Internet. Think Web-based e-mail versus the kind that was stored on your personal computer's hard drive.

Proponents tout the potential to reduce technology costs because many people can share the same infrastructure. But some see security risks in letting a third party manage sensitive data.

The Obama administration has called on federal agencies to each identify three services by early next year that can be moved to the cloud. Meanwhile, companies including Microsoft, Google and Amazon are all jockeying to produce products that meet government certification standards and gobble up the business.

The private sector has also paid attention. Smaller shops with less infrastructure may be more motivated to move in the short term than behemoth corporations with expensive data centers.

Nevertheless, many contend the shift is only a matter of time.

Virginia corralled Northrop

Northrop Grumman early in the year touched off a high-stakes bidding war between the District and state and county officials in Maryland and Virginia when the defense contractor announced plans to relocate corporate offices from Los Angeles to somewhere in the Washington area to be closer to its most important customer: the federal government.

Only a few hundred or so jobs would be brought to the region, but the jurisdictions were clamoring for the prestige and the millions of dollars in property taxes associated with snagging the Fortune 500 firm. All along the conventional wisdom was that Virginia was the front-runner, with Maryland and the District falling into second and third place, respectively. Still, the company entertained all offers.

The District was particularly aggressive, pushing $25 million in tax breaks and grants. But owners of small businesses protested the package as a bad idea given the city's looming budget gap, prompting several D.C. Council members to back away from it.

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