Economic Chiefs Team Up

Northern Virginia economic development teams are considering jointly marketing the region to the biotechnology industry.

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

Officials from Prince William, Fairfax and Loudoun counties hope to create a biotechnology cluster in the region, luring more of the industry's players with their biotech companies and research laboratories.

Fairfax has its BioAccelerator to help fledgling companies. In Prince William, construction of an Eli Lilly and Co. insulin plant will begin later this year. Next year, Loudoun will be home to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus.

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

The first time the economic development groups might partner is Oct. 26-27 at the 2005 Mid-Atlantic Bio, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in the District.

Although leaders of the three counties have worked together to attract companies to the region, they have never targeted a specific industry, Briley said.

Biotechnology research has a foothold in Fairfax and Prince William through various companies, George Mason University and other higher education institutions, but the industry is relatively 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.

Marine Gets Bronze Star

Surrounded by Marines in camouflage fatigues, Master Sgt. Andreas "Top" Elesky received a Bronze Star from the U.S. Marine Corps last week for his leadership in Iraq.

The ceremony was held at General Dynamics Land Systems' Woodbridge technical center, where Elesky works as a senior logistics engineer.

Hispanic Firms Targeted

Occasionally speaking in English, 135 Hispanic entrepreneurs, mainstream business owners and politicians mingled at the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual Hispanic mixer last week at the Montclair Country Club.

Immigrant entrepreneurs from Bolivia, El Salvador and other Latin American nations talked about expanding their businesses. The chamber is trying to increase its membership by reaching out to the growing Hispanic business community with events such as the mixer and its Hispanic Business Council, with 85 members.

One of the founding members of the council, Carlos Castro, owner of Todos Hispanic Supermarket in Woodbridge and Alexandria, led the mixer.

"I think in this country, we have great opportunities that we can take advantage of," said Castro, who fled El Salvador during its civil war.

Rene Antonio Leon, El Salvador's ambassador to the United States, stopped by the mixer and told entrepreneurs that they could benefit from recent passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, known as CAFTA.

With Latinos representing 19 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanic-owned businesses are "becoming a bigger and bigger part of our economy," said Sean T. Connaughton (R), chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.

Hospital Achieves Goal

With a $100,000 pledge from developer KSI Services Inc., Potomac Hospital has reached its goal of raising $1 million cash for a four-story, 180,000 square-foot patient care building, scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2006.

The Woodbridge hospital raised $1.9 million in gifts and donations for the building. KSI's projects in Prince William County include Harbor Station, a mixed-use waterfront community on the Cherry Hill peninsula that will have a town center, $50 million luxury hotel, conference center and golf course.

-- JENALIA MORENO

E-mail news about Prince William County business to morenoj@washpost.com.

ELESKY