Arlington County Board Chair Says County Must Decrease Office Vacancy

Published on June 22, 2016

  • Delivers State of the County address at Chamber of Commerce event

  • Lauds County's efforts to attract new businesses to Arlington

  • Working with other regional jurisdictions

Arlington must continue to work to bring down its 20.2 percent office vacancy rate, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said.

"Arlington's tax rate is greatly affected by its business vacancy rate," Garvey said. "Each 1 percent  in our vacancy rate is $3.4 million in annual tax revenue."  Garvey made her remarks Tuesday at the "State of the County" annual open forum hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.

Garvey noted that the County's vacancy rate is down 1 percent from a year ago. "That's not much, and likely there will be some more ups and downs, but we've halted the steep increase in our commercial vacancy rate," she said.

The County's approach to lowering the vacancy rate "is completely different from when I first came to the Board just four years ago," Garvey said. "We have an expanded business development team and we are implementing a national and international marketing program targeting growing tech companies in cyber-security, education tech, healthcare IT and big data. In a word, we are hustling."

The County is working with cooperating with other regional jurisdictions in seeking to attract international businesses to the area, Garvey said. "We are promoting our region because that is how people outside our area see us, and because we can pool our resources for conferences and receptions," she said.

Working differently as a Board and a County

County government has made strides in "making government more transparent, responsive and inclusive," Garvey said. She cited a number of initiatives, including the County's expansion of live streaming and broadcasting of County Board meetings to include Board work sessions, which has opened up the decision-making process to the public; adding a Resident Ombudsman to improve service  to the public, and launching the MyArlington app to provide information on permits, alerts, street repairs and more. The County also is improving and expanding its Open Data portal to make more data sets available to the public, Garvey said.. "We're working to be more responsive to business and citizens," Garvey said.

Citing the experiences of a small business owner, Rob Krupicka,  who struggled to meet County permitting requirements to open his doughnut shop on Columbia Pike, Garvey said "we still have a long way to go. We have many improvements to make in how our processes work, and we are going to make those improvements. We will continue to improve our responsiveness to businesses large and small, and our residents."