Uniting to Boost Biotech

They may tease each other, and they are surely rivals. But the economic development directors of Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William counties are considering a plan to market Northern Virginia to the biotechnology industry.

"We're at the point where instead of marketing ourselves in competition, why don't we market ourselves jointly?" said Jerry Gordon, president and chief executive of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

The three directors say they hope to create a biotechnology cluster, persuading more of the industry's players to join Northern Virginia's biotech companies and research laboratories.

Fairfax already has a "BioAccelerator" program to help fledgling biotech companies. Next year, Loudoun will be home to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus. And in Prince William, construction of an Eli Lilly and Co. insulin plant is scheduled to begin later this year.

"We see unique assets in each of our counties that combined make us strong," said Martin J. Briley, director of the Prince William Department of Economic Development.

The county development departments may begin their partnership at the 2005 Mid-Atlantic Bio, which will be held Oct. 26 and 27 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in the District.

Although the three development leaders generally have worked together to attract companies to Northern Virginia, Briley said, they've never targeted a specific industry.

Biotech research is underway in Fairfax and Prince William through George Mason University and other higher education institutions and companies. But the industry is new to Loudoun.

"We didn't think that we would be playing in the biotech world at all until Hughes landed," said Larry Rosenstrauch, director of the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development.

Hughes's $500 million Janelia Farm Research Campus is scheduled to open in late 2006.

Here Come the Techies

Manekin LLC, a Columbia-based commercial real estate firm, has broken ground on University Center, a four-building, 80,000-square-foot office condominium project in Ashburn.

The brick buildings, whose suites will range from 1,800 to 27,000 square feet with 14-foot ceilings, are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

All four buildings have sold out.

Superlative Technologies Inc., an information technology engineering services firm, recently bought the largest building. Superlative will be moving from Tysons Corner.

The University Center's first tenant, however, was Kenrob Information Technology Solutions Inc., which also bought a building. Kenrob is a 23-year-old IT and management consulting services firm based in Leesburg.

The other two buildings were purchased by Buckeye Development LLC., a commercial and residential development firm based in Frederick.

"These companies were drawn to the [Ashburn] site due to its proximity to leading national technology firms, as well as George Washington University's Northern Virginia campus and Washington Dulles International Airport," Kevin Cawley, a senior Manekin developer, said in a news release.

Cawley also oversees Manekin's other project in Northern Virginia -- a three-building, 140,000-square-foot flex/industrial campus known as Manekin @ Dulles South.

Passenger Count Up

Flyi Inc., parent of Dulles-based low-cost carrier Independence Air, said its load factor -- the percentage of seats sold -- reached a company-record 79 percent in July. The 14-month-old airline had been selling less than half its seats last winter.

-- BILL BRUBAKER

and JENALIA MORENO

Have news about Loudoun and Fauquier county business to share? Send an e-mail to brubaker@washpost.com.