Marketing Firm Chosen

The Loudoun County Department of Economic Development has chosen the Stern Agency of Ellicott City to head up the second phase of Project Wow, a search for the most effective way to market the county to prospective companies, workers and visitors, according to Sandy Denham, the department's spokeswoman.

The selection must be approved by the county's department of management and financial services, Denham said.

If approved, the Stern Agency will develop a logo and tagline for the county to use in marketing campaigns.

In the first phase of Project Wow, Northstar Destination Strategies of Nashville surveyed about 400 county businesses, residents and community leaders and concluded that Loudoun was a "place of rich contrast," the economic development department said.

Loudoun was viewed by those surveyed as "suburban yet rural, high tech yet historic, horse country yet corporate headquarters, the home of the Appalachian Trail, yet home to 767 runways at Dulles [International] Airport," the department said.

The second phase of Project Wow, scheduled to begin this summer, will determine how Loudoun markets itself, Denham said. The county has budgeted $50,000 for the contract. Twenty-two firms bid for the contract, and nine were interviewed.

Stern's clients have included Loudoun Healthcare Inc., United Express Airlines, Maryland Public Television, Lansdowne Resort, Clyde's Restaurants, the Georgetown Park shopping mall and the Hyatt Regency, according to the advertising agency's Web site.

Serious Horsing Around

"Have you herd?" the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce asks on its Web site, trumpeting its latest fundraiser. "Wild horses are coming to Loudoun County. Wild and crazy and fabulously artistic."

The chamber has commissioned artists to decorate 32 almost-life-size sculptures of fantasy horses that will be displayed in public spaces across Loudoun in late July.

Each artist has received $1,000 to decorate a horse, partly made of fiberglass.

The chamber, in turn, is selling $5,000 "Horsing Around Loudoun" sponsorships to businesses interested in putting their names on a horse. Each horse sculpture will be auctioned in October.

Sponsors so far include the Town of Middleburg, Vaaler Real Estate, James Monroe Bank, Toth Financial Advisory Corp. and REHAU Inc., said Roxann Henze, a publicist for the chamber.

Dulles-based JK Moving & Storage has donated its services to "move, position and round up our herd during the entire length of the program," said Tom Simmons, who is co-chairman of the campaign.

For more information, visit www.horsingaroundloudoun.com.

A Call From NATO

NET Federal of Dulles said it has been awarded an extension to its contract with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The company has been upgrading NATO's global communications network and providing equipment to the organization since 1995.

NET Federal, a subsidiary of Network Equipment Technologies Inc., surely gets around.

Its clients have included the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United Nations and all branches of the U.S. armed services.

Pre-Flight Laughs

As reported here last week, Dulles-based Independence Air has rolled out a new batch of recorded, celebrity-narrated pre-flight safety announcements, which inject humor into the serious stuff required by the FAA.

Here's an excerpt from one of the announcements, featuring comedian Richard Lewis. After telling passengers that a flight attendant will gladly reseat them if they don't want to assume the responsibilities of sitting in an emergency-exit row, Lewis says:

"Personally, I don't ever sit in the emergency-exit row. That's entirely too much for me. Reading the directions. Finding the handle. Pulling the door. Pushing it out. Being decisive. Staying calm. What am I, General MacArthur? My plan in an emergency is to keep handing out 20s until I'm out of the plane."

-- BILL BRUBAKER

Have news about a business in Loudoun County? Send an e-mail to brubaker@washpost.com.