Prince William has lured its first private-sector tenant to the county-owned Innovation@Prince William property, and officials say they're starting negotiations with a second company.
FM Technologies Inc., a 12-employee firm now operating out of George Mason University's Fairfax County campus, will build a 16,000-square-foot headquarters and laboratory on 2.8 acres the company purchased at Innovation, the 529-acre site just outside Manassas that the county envisions as a high-tech hub.
FM Technologies conducts research on microwave and particle beam generation, plasma physics and material science and engineering.
A second high-tech firm is looking to buy as many as nine acres at the site, said Martin J. Briley, the county's economic development director. Briley said he would not reveal the company's identity while negotiations are underway.
Briley said that along with the opening last year of George Mason's new campus and its neighbor, the American Type Culture Collection, this is a sign the development is well on its way to becoming a technology hub. The Freedom Center, a new aquatic and fitness center at George Mason, will open to the public next week. GMU, ATCC and the Freedom Center, however, are not actually located on Innovation property.
To attract FM Technologies, the county charged below-market prices for the land and agreed to fast-track the time-consuming approval process for site and building permits.
The company paid $134,720 for 2.8 acres and has on option to buy an additional 1.9 acres adjacent to the site. That's just more than half the land's $244,000 market value, Briley said.
"This is remarkable growth," Briley said, noting that one-third of about 70 companies looking to expand or relocate in Prince William have expressed interest in the Innovation site.
But two years after the county spent $8.5 million to buy the Innovation property, becoming a developer to ratchet up its efforts to lure businesses, the gold rush local officials predicted remains a dream.
The county has yet to attract a conference center or other major tenant that could be an anchor for Innovation. And business executives on a county-sponsored bus tour of the site last year were lukewarm about investing there.
Briley, however, noted that the county has aggressively built roads at the site and laid fiber-optic cable in an effort to lure high-tech firms.
"The infrastructure is in place. . . . Nothing fills up in a year," Briley said.
FM Technologies could not be reached for comment.