Boeing’s move to Arlington pushes ‘tech hub’ vision closer to reality

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When Amazon announced it would be bringing its second headquarters to Arlington, local officials wasted no time pitching it as a chance to build something much bigger: This corner of Northern Virginia, they said, could transform into a dense, urban technology hub — a kind of eastern outpost for Silicon Valley.

More than three years later, that vision seems like it’s no longer just an idea.

For boosters of the area now dubbed “National Landing,” the leaked announcement last week that Boeing would be moving its own headquarters to Arlington shows that a neighborhood once known solely as the home of the Pentagon is well on its way to becoming a regional “innovation district.”

And for economic development experts, the aerospace giant’s move from Chicago also underscores the success of Virginia’s economic development strategy, which has focused on luring companies by growing and diversifying the state’s tech workforce.

But if Boeing’s decision signals that more companies could soon be coming to the area, they say, it’s also a warning sign: All the pain points associated with explosive growth in Seattle or the San Francisco Bay area — sky-high housing prices, chronically congested roads, a widening rift between the rich and the poor — may become even more acute in a wealthy county that already suffers from similar woes.

Boeing to move headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Va.

Boeing’s move to Arlington “puts an even greater premium on the work the region has been trying to do to build its digital talent pipeline,” said Amy Liu, a vice president at the Brookings Institution and director of its Metropolitan Policy Program.

“But we have to be very intentional about the people who will benefit from this growth,” Liu added. “Otherwise, we are going to further widen inequities in this region.”

Besides Amazon’s new offices, the “National Landing” corridor is anchored around a graduate engineering campus that Virginia Tech is building in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood. The 3.5-acre facility is being funded in part by $545 million from Virginia state coffers, in addition to $50 million from Boeing.

The weapons and jet manufacturer already has a 400-person office in Arlington’s Crystal City neighborhood, and it said it has no immediate plans to expand its footprint or shift over employees from Chicago aside from a few top executives.

Boeing’s move to Virginia will mean few new jobs in D.C. region

Terry Clower, a public policy professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and the director of its Center for Regional Analysis, said that Boeing’s decision nonetheless gives National Landing a good set of “bragging rights.”

Boeing has also said it will build a research and technology hub to focus on innovating in cybersecurity, quantum sciences and other fields, though it has so far offered few details on where that hub will go or what it might look like.

“If you put that [Boeing] on top of the Amazon HQ2 announcement and the presence

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