Reston Resident to Lead County Park Authority — Jai Cole, a Restonian, has been named the executive director of the Fairfax County Park Authority. Cole has more than two decades of leadership experience with recreation and park agencies. [Fairfax County Government]
Finland-based Company Choses Reston for North America Headquarters — Cloudpermit, a software company, has selected Reston as its North American headquarters. The company’s CEO says that Virginia was the right choice because of the “the highest concentration of tech talent in the U.S.” [PR Newswire]
Health Department to Improve COVID-19 Contact Interviews — The county’s health department is working on improving how to expedite contact with students who have been exposed to COVID-19 but haven’t been notified by health department staff. [Fairfax County Government]
TransUnion to Buy Reston-based Company — TransUnion will acquire most of Neustar Inc., an information services and technology company based in Reston. The company has agreed to sell its marketing, fraud and communications businesses for $3.1 billion in cash. But the deal excludes the its cybersecurity business. [Washington Business Journal]
Local Apartment Community Has New Owner — J Harbor Park at North Point, a 190-unit apartment community in Reston, was acquired by Jefferson Apartment Group, a multifamily developer and operator.The development is expected to undergo renovations in the coming months. [Commercial Observer]
Local Vaccine Clinic Today at Wiehle-Reston East — The county’s health department is hosting a vaccine clinic at the Wiehle-Reston Metro Station for most of the day today. Can’t make it today? Another clinic is planned for Thursday. Walk-ins and appointments are available. [Reston Association]
Deer Management Program Underway — The county’s annual deer management archery program is underway through Feb. 19. It’s part of a longstanding effort to reduce the white-tailed deer population in the county. The county notes that only approved members of the its program can hunt in designated parks. [Fairfax County Government]
Fairfax County Kids Return to School — “We are back, ready to experience all the great things that come with learning together, five days a week in person. We can’t wait to see our students arrive at school…Show off that first-day excitement by posting photos to your favorite social media site and tagging them with #FirstDayFairfax and #FCPSReturningStrong.” [FCPS]
MWAA Proposes New Tech on Dulles Toll Road — “The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority wants to add digital signs and closed-circuit monitoring technology along the Dulles Toll Road. The airports authority is looking for a contractor to build the infrastructure and install an intelligent transportation system — which would include six dynamic message signs and 15 closed-circuit television installations — along the widely-used commuter route.” [Washington Business Journal]
W&OD Trail Near Wiehle Reopens After Utility Work — The Washington & Old Dominion Trail has reopened east of Wiehle Avenue in Reston after closing earlier this summer so Dominion Energy could relocate overhead electric transmission lines. The utility work was necessary to prepare the site for construction on a pedestrian bridge over Wiehle that’s expected to begin next summer. [The W&OD Trail/Twitter]
Virginia Leads in Rent Relief Funding After Past Stumbles — “From January through May, Virginia distributed more dollars than any other state from the first round of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, according to U.S. Treasury figures. By the end of June, Virginia ranked second only to Texas…As of late July, Virginia has spent more than $335 million in rental relief funds and assisted more than 51,000 households, according to state figures.” [Associated Press/WTOP]
Flash Flood Watch in Effect — The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for Fairfax County and the rest of the D.C. area through 10 p.m. today (Wednesday). Multiple rounds of heavy showers and thunderstorms could drop up to one to two inches of rain per hour, leading to rapid rises in streams, creeks, and poor drainage areas. [NWS]
Transportation Mask Mandate Extended to Next Year — “The Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday that it will extend a federal mask mandate for airline, bus and train passengers into next year, requiring the face coverings until Jan. 18, 2022…While a CDC order imposing the transportation requirement has no end date, TSA enforcement rules had been set to expire Sept. 13.” [The Washington Post]
Fairfax County Sends Out Jury Questionnaires — Approximately 60,000 Fairfax County or City of Fairfax residents might soon receive a jury duty questionnaire in the mail. The survey is the start of a screening process to determine an individual’s eligibility, which could lead to a summons and a call to report for service. The Fairfax County Courthouse has started hosting more in-person proceedings but renewed its mask requirement earlier this month. [Fairfax County Government]
NOVA Partners with AT&T on IT Training — “AT&T has created an IT apprenticeship program with Northern Virginia Community College and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, the company announced Tuesday. The two-year program will offer students information technology training and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training in technical, soft skills, lab work and related skills…Those selected will work as part-time AT&T employees and train at NOVA’s Reston complex and AT&T’s Oakton facility.” [Virginia Business]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
The online metrics firm Similarweb is expanding into Reston.
The company, which has its global headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, announced yesterday (Monday) that it is opening an office at the coworking site Spaces that launched in Reston Station (1900 Reston Metro Plaza) in December 2018.
Similarweb is adding around 10 employees and expects to keep hiring more here.
“Our office in Reston, VA is now open,” the company said on Twitter. “A big welcome to our amazing team members who will collaborate there.”
Despite the announcement, the office is scheduled to open Sept. 1, the company said in a statement to Reston Now.
Similarweb provides marketing and research data to businesses looking to measure the effectiveness of their websites and other digital platforms.
With economic development leaders seeking to make sure companies have the talent they need in the area, Similarweb’s hiring between local candidates and those outside the area will serve as yet another example for whether an employee pipeline is meeting needs.
The Reston office is the company’s fourth in the U.S. and its first opening since going public earlier this year. Donna Dror, Similarweb’s general manager for North America, says the technology industry’s growing presence in Reston made it an attractive location for expansion.
“We see the Dulles Tech Corridor as a great opportunity to bring in new talent, especially for our Marketing and Sales teams,” Dror said in the statement. “We’re excited to join the many great companies already based in Reston and surrounding areas.”
Dror told Technical.ly that the company has 200 open positions that are remote, and half of those will be based in the U.S. She said the company is still reviewing its return-to-work strategy and would like to see at least 25 roles filled locally, but the openings aren’t tied to the Reston area specifically.
“We are actively hiring and planning to add a number of new employees before the end of the year and beyond,” she told Reston Now. “In the U.S. alone, we have nearly 100 open roles today, and we hope that many of those can be based in Reston.”
The new office will be home for the company’s chief marketing officer, Kevin Spurway, along with other employees in the sales and marketing departments.
Similarweb launched its initial public offering in May and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Its clients have included DHL, Lego, and Lending Tree.
Photo via Web Summit/Flickr
The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority gave nearly $29,000 to 10 social media influencers over the past year to highlight its jobs portal and virtual career fairs.
The campaign primarily involved Instagram users posting about events with hashtags and links to drive traffic. Economic development officials said the effort was intended to develop its brand as well as the region’s job market and engage target audiences, specifically with millennials in mind.
“We felt like we needed to do some experimentation,” FCEDA President and CEO Victor Hoskins said.
The campaign drew 536 clicks to the authority’s Work in Northern Virginia jobs board and generated 276 views in online registration page traffic for technology and entry-level career fairs.
While Instagram advertising can average around $1.25 per click, the FCEDA said influencer marketing helps reach a highly targeted audience through sources that users trust. The campaign required the influencers to note that their social media posts were sponsored content.
The social media influencer contracts cost a total of $28,800 with individual agreements ranging from $800 to $7,000 and mainly required users to make Instagram posts and stories, according to agreements obtained by Reston Now. One agreement included an Instagram video, and some included blog post requirements.
The authority says third-party consultant New York City-based Development Counsellors International and each influencer negotiated rates.
“[What we’re] really ultimately trying to do is build awareness of northern Virginia as this location that has thousands and thousands of jobs, and it’s a great place to live,” said Alan Fogg, the authority’s vice president of communications.
Economic development officials say the campaign delivered $205,000 in earned media value, reached more than 332,000 Instagram users, and generated nearly 25,000 likes, comments, and shares.
The FCEDA is not unique in using social media personalities to reach potential audiences. Other governmental bodies have turned to social media influencers for tourism marketing as well as running COVID-19 messaging.
Fairfax County funds the economic development authority with around $9 million each year currently, and social media advertising is just one way economic development leaders are trying to market the region to help improve the jobs pipeline.
“The message we deliver to all the recruiters and chief human resources officers from all the companies here in Fairfax County is: You sell your organization, your company, and why [to] come work there, and we’re going to help complement you with selling the region,” Mike Batt, the director of the authority’s talent initiative program, said.
The FCEDA used Development Counsellors International to identify and vet the influencers, set goals for the number of posts, and ensure posting requirements were met, Fogg said in a statement. FCEDA staff selected the influencers presented to them.
Batt said Development Counsellors International received a competitively awarded contract from the EDA. The consultant also developed the jobs hub, which the authority recently lauded.
The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority spearheaded the jobs posting site, but it’s connected to nine other economic development groups and localities in Northern Virginia.
“Economic development is not the business it was five years ago,” Hoskins said. “It really takes a lot of innovation.”
Photo via Solen Feyissa/Unsplash
Some Fairfax County student athletes won’t be headed to courts or fields this winter, but instead, to computer labs, as the 10th largest school district in the country prepares to launch an esports program.
The Fairfax County Public Schools athletic director detailed the new initiative to Tysons Reporter, saying the new program will connect students in high schools through a popular, soccer-like game — in which players drive futuristic cars — called Rocket League.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for our students,” said Bill Curran, director of the FCPS Office of Student Activities and Athletics, noting how students will have another way to fit in. “I think we’re going to have 25 highly competitive schools in the esports realm.”
While concerns about students’ screen time have persisted, even as the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to adopt virtual learning, competitive online gaming has become increasingly popular, with both high schools and colleges getting in on the esports action.
The market research firm Newzoo reported in March that esports viewership increased from nearly 398 million people globally in 2019 to nearly 436 million in 2020 and could potentially reach 474 million this year.
The NCAA governing board voted in April 2019 against bringing esports under its purview, even as the association noted the rapid growth of esports on NCAA campuses.
“You’re going to see this ball roll faster and faster,” Curran said.
ESPN launched a new initiative to cover esports in 2016, though it shut the division down last year. In 2018, it became the first TV network to air a professional gaming contest in prime time for the cartoon-style multiplayer online battle game League of Legends.
YouTube and Twitch have also streamed content that’s worth billions of dollars and expected to grow annually, though that’s just a small slice of the video game industry.
The Virginia High School League, which governs sports, activities, and competitions in public schools throughout the Commonwealth, introduced esports as a pilot program in 2019 before approving it as an “emerging activity” for the 2020-2021 school year that could become sanctioned as an official VHSL activity.
Fairfax County Public Schools is currently looking for coaches to participate in its esports program, which has been in the works for more than two years and will operate under its Activities and Athletics office. Some teachers have already shown interest in helping, according to Curran.
Students will have to pay a $64 fee each season through a startup company PlayVS, which provides computer games and requires students to maintain eligibility through grades and attendance. FCPS is looking at ways to prevent the fee from becoming a barrier to participation.
With schools expected to open for in-person learning five days a week this fall, FCPS plans to have students participate in existing computer labs, rather than remotely. Like a traditional sports team, Curran says Fairfax County’s esports teams will likely have jerseys.
“Our kids, you know, they’re already playing the games,” Curran said. “They’re ready to go, and they’re eager for us to start this.”
Photo via Alex Haney/Unsplash
Man Faces Additional Charge in Herndon Sexual Battery Case — After receiving more reports from victims, the Herndon Police Department has filed an additional charge of aggravated sexual battery in a case involving a local massage therapist. Zachary Nelson Guzman Orellana of Leesburg was arrested on June 30 and is being held at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center without bond. [Herndon Police Department/Twitter]
Dulles Airport to Get UV Disinfecting Tech — “The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority wants to install ultraviolet disinfection technology at Reagan National and Dulles International airports to disinfect the air in high-traffic areas…The agency is currently searching for a contractor to design and build the project, scheduled to be mostly complete by Nov. 15.” [Washington Business Journal]
Route 7 Access to Reopen in Great Falls Next Week — As part of the ongoing Route 7 widening project, drivers on westbound Leesburg Pike will encounter a line shift to the north between Baron Cameron Avenue and Great Passage Boulevard in Great Falls. Riva Ridge Drive will also regain access to Route 7. The changes will take effect on or around next Tuesday (July 13). [VDOT]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Reston Association leadership agreed Thursday (June 24) to let its board continue to meet virtually and permit meetings to be recorded.
The virtual option allows RA to continue having entire meetings on Zoom or another video-conferencing platform, a setup that board members say has enabled more participation.
Previously, an emergency order from Gov. Ralph Northam provided more flexibility for virtual meetings amid COVID-19. While the governor is expected to let the order expire on June 30, he signed legislation in March giving property owners’ associations the ability to continue holding meetings electronically.
“This spring, 2021, the General Assembly made permanent the option of having all virtual meetings, whether or not it’s an emergency period,” association vice president John Mooney said, noting that the RA board still needed to make changes to its own policies to accommodate that.
The approved resolution also introduced language saying that RA will provide login information, such as a password, so members and other authorized persons can access meetings.
RA attorney Anthony Champ said the new law describes such language, which is why it was added, but board members cited concerns about Zoom bombers.
During the pandemic, though, RA has been providing meeting links and passwords through its website and encouraging people to attend the meetings. Director Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza noted that they wouldn’t ask people to display identification at in-person meetings and act as a security bouncer.
“For all practical purposes, as we’ve been operating virtually, who has been authorized to attend?” Director Timothy Dowling said. “It’s basically been the public.”
Under the new rules, RA will be required to provide an alternative for people who don’t have the desire or capability to attend a meeting virtually.
The board also discussed whether meetings could be conducted in virtual and in-person hybrid formats — and also talked about possibly recording all committee meetings — but expressed concerns over technology, costs, and the legal implications.
Director Jennifer Jushchuk made a motion to allow the board conduct hybrid meetings with recordings without any budgetary cost increase.
But the motion failed 3-5, with Jushchuk, Selvaraj-D’Souza, and Director Bob Petrine voting in favor of it. Director Mike Collins was not present.
Mooney said he liked the idea but noted the concerns raised. He added that the proposal could be raised again later.
Reston Man Among Suspects in Maryland Murder — Reston resident William Rivera-Martinez, 20, is among five people who have been arrested and face charges in the April murder of a 15-year-old Nelson Ramos. As of Thursday morning (June 24), Rivera-Martinez was in Fairfax County custody and awaiting extradition to Prince George’s County. [The Washington Post]
Threat of Mass Evictions Looms with Moratorium Set to End — Fairfax County officials say there’s “plenty of emergency rental assistance” to help residents at risk of eviction, but with Virginia expected to let its eviction moratorium expire when the COVID-19 state of emergency ends on June 30, they worry it will take too long to get the money to landlords to stave off evictions. [Inside NoVA]
Herndon Startup Chosen for Amazon Program — The data analytics company HawkEye 360 has been chosen by Amazon Web Services for a four-week business accelerator focused on the space industry. The 10 companies selected for the program will get business advice and support in their efforts to collect data from satellites for cloud computing. [Axios]
Reston Trucking Software Company Acquired — “Trucker Tools LLC, a Reston outfit that offers a digital freight management platform, has been acquired by ASG, a California company backed by private equity firm Alpine Investors that specializes in purchasing and building software-as-a-service companies.” [Washington Business Journal]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
With federal money that gives low-income households a discount on internet service set to run out this year, Fairfax County leaders and staff are looking at ways to ensure people get access to broadband internet, which they’ve likened to a utility like electricity or water.
A staff report presented to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ information technology committee on Tuesday (June 15) found that there are significant disparities in internet access among homes in the county due to infrastructure and affordability.
While different county representatives — from the school system to the Department of Family Services — were collaborating prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they started looking more intently at equity issues during the pandemic, as technology needs hit a crescendo between students attending school from home and job seekers looking for work.
“Many of us saw at the outset how difficult it was for community members to work from home or for their children to be educated from home — whether or not they had the technology available, if they had strong enough internet connectivity, if they had space in their own homes to do this, or if they were trying to locate wireless within the community and do all of this from their own cars,” Fairfax County Public Library Director Jessica Hudson said.
Some zip codes are more affected by this lack of connectivity than others.
According to an analysis presented by the county, an estimated 4.2% of households in the county have no broadband internet access, but that number jumps up to 20.8% in the zip code 22044 and 18.8% in zip code 22041, both neighborhoods in the Seven Corners area of Falls Church.
The gaps in connectivity are concentrated in areas with many people of color and lower-income households, Fairfax County Chief Equity Officer Karla Bruce said on Tuesday.
The Federal Communications Commission internet discount, known as the Emergency Broadband Benefit or EBB, helps lower-income households get a $50 discount each month for broadband service, among other benefits.
Officials are continuing to share information about the program, providing outreach in multiple languages and partnering with nonprofits and other community organizations.
You can still get the discount even if you have another benefit called Lifeline, which provides a $9.25 monthly discount indefinitely, Hudson said.
But the $3.2 billion fund set up to provide the EBB benefits nationwide is expected to run out this year, possibly around Thanksgiving, according to Hudson.
Among the county’s efforts to improve access, the library system offers Chromebooks that people can check out for two weeks at a time, along with extended exterior WiFi access outside buildings (except in parking garages) from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
In addition, Neighborhood and Community Services is conducting a countywide analysis of Wi-Fi access, and the Department of Housing and Community Development and Redevelopment and Housing Authority are conducting a site analysis to address connectivity barriers, according to the county presentation.
“All of these community agencies are trying their hardest to find ways to connect with residents and make sure that they have appropriate technology, digital literacy skills, and access points,” Hudson said.
County supervisors asked for more information to target areas in need as part of the county’s efforts to help overcome access issues.
Photo via Corinne Kutz/Unsplash
Local Birds Suffer from Mysterious Ailment — “People should refrain from feeding birds until scientists determine the cause of a mysterious ailment that has blinded and killed hundreds of birds in Maryland, Virginia and the District since at least late May, a federal agency said Monday.” [The Washington Post]
Dogwood ES to Hold Meeting on Principal Selection — Dogwood Elementary School will hold a virtual meeting today (Tuesday) at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the process for selecting a new principal with staff, families, and community members. The meeting will be conducted through BlackBoard. [Dogwood ES]
Herndon IT Firm Officially Bought by Booz Allen — “McLean, Virginia-based Booz Allen Hamilton, already the largest government IT contractor in the D.C. region, has completed its acquisition of Herndon-based Liberty IT Solutions for $725 million…Liberty IT Solutions has a backlog of more than $2 billion in IT modernization work. Booz Allen says the acquisition will immediately increase revenue growth and earnings.” [WTOP]
Reston Software Company to Be Acquired — “Investment firms Blackstone and Vista Equity Partners have reached an agreement to acquire Reston-based higher education software company Ellucian, according to an announcement from the companies released Monday…Ellucian provides enterprise resource planning software products such as student information systems, data analytics tools and graduation-tracking platforms for more than 2,700 higher education customers in more than 50 countries representing more than 26 million students.” [Virginia Business]
County Knew About Lawsuits Against New Police Chief — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says supervisors became aware of the lawsuits that Police Chief Kevin Davis faced while working in Prince George’s County during the hiring process. The Fairfax County NAACP has filed a FOIA request to get more information about the search, which McKay says tried to strike a balance between public transparency and confidentiality for candidates. [Patch]
Virginia Holds Vaccine Day of Action — Virginia wants residents to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts by joining a statewide “It’s Our Shot” Day of Action today. Ways to participate include making a plan to get vaccinated, sharing your vaccine story on social media, and becoming a COVID Community Ambassador. [Office of the Governor]
Tour de Hunter Mill Showcases County Cycling Options — More than 180 cyclists toured Reston, Vienna, and Tysons in the inaugural Tour de Hunter Mill on Saturday (May 15). The event was intended to highlight the multimodal transportation facilities that people can use to travel the district without getting in a car. [Patch]
Discount Available to Help Pay for Internet Services — Households struggling to pay for internet service due to pandemic-related hardships could get a temporary discount on broadband services with the Federal Communications Commission’s the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. Fairfax County Public Library will hold a virtual training on the program and application process from 2-4 p.m. today. [Fairfax County Government]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
One of the side-effects of the global pandemic and the resulting quarantine has been the difficulty of recognizing others after months of not seeing each other in person. There is the normal aging process that can alter our looks, along with little or no access to barbers and stylists, and a decline in interest to apply the usual make-up since no one is going to see you up close. All this can leave others looking quizzically at you with an “I believe I know you” look. Longer hair without additional coloring and a mask covering half your face can make it a challenge sometimes to even recognize our friends.
Facebook has or had a system to alert you if your photo appeared on someone else’s page. I have gotten dozens of such messages which when I investigated them found photos of persons who clearly were not me and for which I could find no resemblance. As clever as the technologists were who developed it, the use of facial recognition leaves serious questions about its application, particularly in law enforcement.
The challenges of recognizing even someone you know under today’s difficult conditions and the shortcoming of the systems now being used have raised questions about the propriety of collecting large numbers of photos and using them in criminal investigations. In the Washington Metropolitan area there is a little-known program called the National Capital Region Facial Recognition Investigative Leads System that has 1.4 million photos that can be used in criminal investigation but for which civil rights groups have little information.
Concerns about facial recognition technology came to the attention of Virginia legislators last year, and in the recent legislative session we passed a bill signed by the governor to require agencies that plan to use the technology to get specific approval of the legislature. With the high error rate in correctly identifying minorities among its other shortcomings, along with the civil liberties issues it raises, it is unlikely that such approvals are to be forthcoming.
Requests for legislation involving the use of new technologies are most often referred to the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) which was created from legislation I proposed and of which I was chair for many years. Learning about new technologies is always interesting but precautions must be taken when there are issues of civil liberties involved.
JCOTS’ usual procedure is to appoint a technical advisory committee that may involve as many as 25 persons from the advocate community, adversaries of the proposals, representatives from academia, and other interested parties to work through the issues involved.
The legislature will not get involved in proprietary issues around a particular technology but instead will involve itself with the civil liberties issues, impact on the community, and trade concerns, among other matters. Regardless of the complexities involved with a technology it is imperative that the legislature provide appropriate safeguards for the community.
Reston Company Bets on National Security’s Tech Evolution — “The Reston information technology services company has a foot in both cyber operations — offering threat detection, malware forensics, penetration testing and other services — as well as several emerging technologies that have captured the interest of agency leaders, like artificial intelligence, big data analytics and even quantum computing.” [Washington Business Journal]
Dog Killed in Reston — A dog was found dead near a walking path on the 2200 block of Cocquina Drive in late February. Police believe that the dog died from an apparent gunshot wound. Animal Protection Police officers and detectives are actively investigating the case. [Fairfax County Police Department]
COVID-19 Restrictions to Begin Easing Today — Gov. Ralph Northam will ease some coronavirus-related restrictions today. Outdoor social gatherings will increase from 10 to 25 people and outdoor entertainment can operate at a capacity of 30 percent or 1,000 people, up from 250. [WTOP]
Applications for County Board of Appeals Due Today — The county is seeking two new members for the Board of Zoning Appeals. Applications are due by today. All applicants must reside in Fairfax County and serve as private citizens, not county employees. [Fairfax County Government]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr