Top 10 Employers Retain Ranks

Top 10 Employers Retain Ranks

As Loudoun continues to grow, the picture of the county's 10 largest employers from the mid-1990s to today looks the same.

The majority of the top employers remain in the airline industry and in technology, according to the 1995 and second quarter 2002 employer lists provided by the Department of Economic Development, the earliest and latest information available. In 1995, the department began tracking employer data for the county's Growth Summary.

"The interesting thing about Loudoun is we're small business. Our large business is stabilized," said Robyn Bailey, marketing manager for the Department of Economic Development. "While other areas see changes ... Loudoun has been fairly stabilized over the years, and I anticipate that to continue."

FIVE MAJOR employers in 1995 are included in the 2002 list, though in different rankings for number of employees. The employers include Atlantic Coast Airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), United Air Lines Inc., Lansdowne Conference Resort and Loudoun Hospital Center.

"A lot of them appear to be linked to Dulles Airport and the airline industry, which reinforces the point that the Dulles Airport continues to be a major economic engine for us," said Randy Collins, president of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, referring to the Washington Dulles International Airport that opened in Loudoun in 1962.

Companies such as MCI and America Online located headquarters functions in the county in the late 1990s. MCI, the new name for WorldCom Inc., opened in Ashburn in 1999 and America Online there in 1996.

"Technology has moved in. They're still here, and they're still major employers," Bailey said, adding that with the technology infrastructure in place, Loudoun has become a secure and stable location for technology businesses. "Unless unforeseen circumstances happen, we believe those businesses will be here."

"Loudoun was not hit as hard as some other areas with the IT [information technology] bubble bursting," Collins said. "It may have affected AOL, for instance. The main difference is, instead of being an independent company, they are part of a larger company."

Three of the top employers in 1995 fell out of the first 10 rankings by 2002, including the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority from sixth to 11th, Orbital Sciences Corporation from 10th to 11th and the National Association of Letter Carriers from seventh to 33rd. Two top employers in 1995 have since left Loudoun, Alcatel Data Networks and British Aerospace Inc.

LOUDOUN has a total of about 6,600 businesses, a number that remains stable as new businesses open and existing businesses merge or go out of business. "It wasn't until the 1980s or '90s where the number of businesses picked up," Collins said. "We were essentially for many years a bedroom community for the communities to the east. That has shifted a little bit. There are more companies coming here and building."

"Employees move further out for quality-of-life issues, and companies follow," Bailey said.

The majority of Loudoun's business community is small business, Collins said. "As far as the large employers go, we have fewer of them. Because of that, our community is more stable," he said. "We are a smaller community compared to our neighbors around the Beltway, so we don't have as many large businesses as Fairfax County, Arlington or Alexandria."