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Interviews

“FCEDA provides a wide array of services to guide businesses with their expansion to Fairfax County” –Juhi Naithani, Business Development Manager, FCEDA

Juhi Naithani, Business Development Manager, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority

While establishing its presence globally, every business needs to have a strategic plan for expansion, as well as to utilize all the resources available to them in the target market. The plan should include research, a budget, timeline, objectives, and monitoring process.

Fairfax County is considered one of the best business locations around the world. Businesses choose Fairfax County for several reasons—60% of the adult population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher, has a large technology presence and impeccable quality of life, having around 9,000 technology firms, to name a few.

We recently interviewed Juhi Naithani, International Business Development Manager, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA), to know why businesses choose to expand to Fairfax County, how FCEDA helps in doing so, crucial steps for global expansion and more.

1. Let’s begin with a brief introduction of Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA). What is the mission of the authority?

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) promotes Fairfax County, Virginia, USA as one of the world’s best business locations. Business growth helps Fairfax County fund public services such as a top-ranked public-school system, infrastructure, parks, and recreational facilities, that improve the quality of life. A seven-member board of Fairfax County business leaders oversees the work of the authority, which is funded by the Fairfax County government.

The FCEDA has three marketing divisions—National, International, and Business Diversity – that work with companies interested in starting, expanding and relocating businesses to Fairfax County. The FCEDA also has market intelligence, real estate services and communications divisions.

In addition to its headquarters in Tysons, Fairfax County’s largest business district, the FCEDA has permanent offices in Bangalore/Mumbai, London, Los Angeles, Berlin, Seoul and Tel Aviv to assist with the marketing effort and handle the increasing number of international companies interested in establishing operations on the east coast of the U.S. Of course, we want them to land in Fairfax County!

2. From starting a career in the paper industry to handling the international business development at FCEDA, please share a quick overview of your roles throughout your career.

My first job was in business development and marketing for a family-owned paper technology firm in India, working with principals from all over the world while catering to clients in India. That sparked my interest in marketing as well as international business. I then moved to the United States and completed an MBA program at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Earning the MBA solidified my interest in marketing and, following graduation, I began teaching marketing and business classes at Quinnipiac.

At the same time, I developed an interest in intercultural training. While teaching at Quinnipiac, I established my own practice, providing intercultural training and international business consulting to business leaders and government entities.

From my professional experience in India, working with international companies, as well as my personal experience from immigrating to the United States, I realized how important it is for business leaders to understand a culture and a workforce that is much different than their own when expanding to a foreign market. I enjoyed this work because it allowed me to work with clients across sectors and industries.

It was during this time that I moved from Connecticut to Northern Virginia (Fairfax County). After my move, I decided to begin exploring job opportunities within the area. I came across an opening at the FCEDA for an international business development manager for India and Canada, so I applied and have been with the FCEDA since then.

3. What inspired you to join FCEDA when you were owning your own international consulting firm?

I enjoyed working with individuals and businesses one-on-one all over the country, but because of Fairfax County’s heavy international focus and the FCEDA’s ongoing efforts to attract and retain international firms, I realized my skills could be of greater use in assisting those efforts right here where I live.

I find this job incredibly fulfilling because I am able to draw on my personal and professional experiences of what it is like to adapt to new culture, both professionally and personally.

4. Why do businesses choose to start, expand, or relocate to Fairfax County? How does FCEDA help businesses in this?

Fairfax County was the first U.S. county to establish a presence in India, and it has a long history of working with Indian businesses. We know the Indian market well, and know what Indian businesses are looking for when they decide to do business globally.

Businesses choose Fairfax County because of its highly educated workforce. It has one of the top-ranked school districts in America, and more than 60 percent of the adult population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. As part of the Washington, D.C., metro area, it has a convenient location along the eastern seaboard only a short distance from major cities such as Boston and New York. And it has a large technology presence and impeccable quality of life. The county has close to 9,000 technology firms, directly accounting for more than 149,000 employees.

5. What according to you are the key steps for successful global business expansion?

It is important for businesses to have a strategic plan for expansion as well as to utilize all the resources available to them in the market in which the company wants to expand.

Regardless of your company’s size, you should always have a plan for expansion. This plan should include research, a budget, timeline, objectives, and monitoring processes. To make the expansion a success, make sure you explore and use every available resource. Do your homework—many state and local governments have organizations with dedicated resources to assist with international expansion. For example, the FCEDA provides a wide array of services such as one-on-one business counseling sessions and helping to identify possible real estate locations, to guide businesses with their expansion, every step of the way.

6. Many Indian companies are going global, including OYO and Ola. Are there any companies from India that have expanded to Fairfax County?

Yes, there are about 30 Indian companies with a presence in Fairfax County, and I have been fortunate to work with many of them during their expansion process into the area. Examples of such companies include the Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical company Granules India, which established its Fairfax County presence in 2014 and announced a $35 million investment in 2017, which includes expanding their manufacturing and research and development facility in Fairfax County.

Another company is Mumbai-based Tata Communications, which established its Fairfax County presence in 2004 and holds an annual anticipated growth of 15 percent.

7. Please throw some light on the need for intercultural training or cross-cultural training for corporates. How important is it for companies expanding globally?

Intercultural training is extremely important for business leaders to understand the norms and mores of the workforce they are employing. Difference between individuals can be a combination of cultural, ethnic, generational and national. There is an added layer of complexity from functional culture differences, for example marketing versus finance versus engineering departments of a company.

When expanding globally, the host culture can hold a completely different view on the importance and meaning of business-related issues than those held by the expanding business. For example: deadlines. The meaning, emphasis and implication of meeting or not meeting a deadline can vary across cultures. For a business to be successful in the host market, it must understand all these differences and how to navigate them.

8. In 2015, Site Selection magazine named FCEDA as one of the top 10 economic development groups in North America. Please brief us about this achievement.

The FCEDA prides itself on its many pioneering initiatives over the years: creating an international division to market overseas and creating offices in important technology markets overseas such as Bangalore and Mumbai, for example. Our global initiatives have increased the number of foreign-owned firms here to more than 430 and diversify our economic base. The FCEDA was honored in 2005 to be named one of the top 10 economic development groups by Site Selection magazine.

Site Selection, published by Conway Data, Inc., is a leading publication written for corporate executives who make decisions about business locations. Award winners were selected according to their overall performance in these categories: Total capital investment; jobs created; investment per capita; jobs per capita; overall economic vitality; depth and breadth of economic strength; diversity of industry; ability to generate breakthrough deals; and the overall quality of the group’s nomination package, including verifiable documentation.

9. You are also a member of the Board of Directors of The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE) DC chapter. Can you please tell us about TiE and your role there?

TiE is an organization with chapters worldwide, but it was originally conceived in Silicon Valley. The organization’s members are mostly Indian American businesspersons who want to help entrepreneurs recognize and realize their goals. While the membership largely consists of business executives of Indian origin in the Washington DC metro area, TiE DC is open to anyone with an interest in entrepreneurship.

I serve on the board for the D.C. chapter of TiE, where I help mentor startups and promote entrepreneurship by providing opportunities for members to learn from experts, connect with potential investors, and share ideas. Along with other board members, I also help organize events related to technology, generating awareness about TiE within the Washington area – including Fairfax County – and finding opportunities for startups to best use their skillset, scale up and go to market.

10. Give us a strategy that you always use to take your decisions in personal or professional life.

Ask questions. When in doubt, get advice from someone who knows more than you about the particular topic. Ideally, reach out to multiple people and their different perspectives combined can help you develop your own approach on how you can best handle your unique situation. No one expects you to have all the answers, so never hesitate to tap into your resources for support.

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11. What’s new in the roadmap for FCEDA in the financial year 2019?

The FCEDA will appoint a new president and CEO in 2019 after the retirement of Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D., who led the organization for more than 30 years until he retired at the end of 2018.

In the meantime, the FCEDA continues to focus on attracting and retaining companies – from the U.S. and from overseas, Fortune 500 companies and startups – that are in the industries that are a good fit for the Fairfax County economy. These companies often are doing business in our traditional strengths in IT, software development, aerospace and defense, financial services and corporate headquarters operations. Now we also are seeing a lot of activity in emerging sectors such as cloud computing, data analytics, blockchain, artificial intelligence and personalized medicine.

These companies are spurring innovation and job creation and bringing even more energy to our business community and economy, and we look forward to promoting Fairfax County as a diverse, dynamic and forward-looking community this year.

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