The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Fairfax County ready to support Korean companies expanding into US

By Jo He-rim

Published : April 27, 2023 - 16:58

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Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA)

Fairfax County of Virginia, one of the major business destinations in the US, is home to 8,800 tech companies, including nine listed on the Fortune 500. South Korea also has a sizeable business community consisting of some 80 companies -- the largest number among Asian countries -- including Dongwon Group, SK Signet, Golfzon and Korea Aerospace Industries.

Behind the successful attraction of the big names and multinational businesses stands Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, which services the firms with its strong digital recruitment platform and various support programs, Victor Hoskins, the agency’s president and chief executive officer said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.

"The challenges (of entering a new market) are generally the same for almost any country. Language is always an issue. And then understanding the dynamics of the markets and finding the right talent," Hoskins said upon his first visit to Seoul earlier this week.

"Fairfax County Economic Development Authority has served as a go-to resource for Korean companies interested in expanding into the US market since 2004."

Hoskins, who took office as the FCEDA chief in 2019, on this visit met a group of companies and startups to promote the county’s business potential.

Regardless of the size of the companies, finding the right people to work with is the most challenging, Hoskins said. Under his leadership, the FCEDA launched its digital recruitment platform in 2020 to connect the highly educated workforce in the region with companies.

"We have about 400,000 enrolled in the 60 universities throughout our region, and about 90,000 graduates come out every year. So there's this talent funnel just pumping out talent," Hoskins said.

"We call it a digital hub, because it's more than just jobs. It's also rescaling and upscaling all of the workforce," he added.

Fairfax County seeks to secure its reputation as the "Silicon Valley of the East" as its key business sectors are technology-based, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, information, technology, telecommunication, cloud computing and quantum.

The county is already an attractive region for foreign companies, with its proximity to Washington, DC, offering convenient access to the federal government, and having two international airports within a 30-minute drive.

For Korean companies, the big Korean community is also a selling point. Fairfax has the third-largest Korean community in the country.

During his tenure, Microsoft announced to build a 400,000-square-foot software R&D center with 1,500 employees, along with Google, Facebook, Amazon Web Services, Volkswagen, Group of America, Guidehouse, StarKist, Qualtrics and the global law firm of King & Spalding. In his previous job as the director of Arlington Economic Development in Arlington County, Virginia, Hoskins also successfully attracted big names such as Amazon and Nestle to boost the regional economy.

On the challenges Korean companies are facing from the US’ introduction of a series of protectionist policies, such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act, Hoskins said the companies should look at it in the long term.

“For more than 70 years, Korea and the US have worked through problems way bigger than this, like building the Korean economy in the beginning, the financial crises and the war,” he said.

Christy Youk, who is in charge of FCEDA's Asian investment, also said that while American policies are pushing Korean companies to build factories on US soil, it is also encouraging other smaller suppliers to tap into a new market with “huge opportunities.”

“I know it's posing some of the challenges immediately, at the same time, I feel like there are benefits as well," said Youk, a Korean American.

"Smaller Korean suppliers come and enter the US market, and they would not have thought of (expanding their businesses far) before.”