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April 8, 2022

Fauquier’s new economic development director has hit the ground running

Doug Parsons began his role as economic development director for Fauquier County in October 2021. (Photo by Beverly Cooper)
By Jaya Patil
“Fauquier has got a lot going for it,” says Doug Parsons, director of the Fauquier County Department of Economic Development.

That much is clear, as Parsons has established his footing in the position since starting in October 2021. The department’s plan for the county revolves around cultivating an environment in which existing and new businesses can thrive.

Economic development is all about strengthening the activity in the community and building the region up to exhibit all the area has to offer. The endeavors of economic development encourage entrepreneurship, lure in the right kind of business, support existing business and promote tourism. Those aspirations rely on retention, marketing and resources, the economic development director says.

Supporting existing business

“Over 80% of new jobs nationwide come from existing businesses,” Parsons says. Stimulating the job market is part of the overall gameplan, so the department needs to invest learning and growth opportunities into the businesses that already help run the county.

Parsons and the department team have already made 25 business retention visits. The motive for the retention visits is to communicate directly with business owners and open the conversation on ways the department can help.

Three of the businesses found the visits productive after the department took action to help with their expressed staffing needs. Department of Economic Development Workforce Coordinator Donna Comer organized career cafes that resulted in new employees for the attending businesses.

Allure of Fauquier

On his way to work, Parsons said, “I get to drive through some of the most beautiful farm country in Northern Virginia," dreamily listing Delaplane and Marshall among the sights. Parsons is one of the 11,000 people who travel into the county daily. He makes the hour-long commute from his home base in Berryville.

Parsons doesn’t mind the drive, saying it “gives [him] time to either wind up or wind down for work.” He is a self-proclaimed lover of the outdoors.

“I see dozens of deer and foxes on the way in ... some of them running out in front of the car,” he chuckled, “but most of them placidly eating in the fields.”

With 22 wineries and a surplus of scenic landscapes, there’s plenty to be relished in Fauquier -- something the department is working to market. Sharing the wealth of Fauquier’s land and businesses invites non-locals to participate in the community. Parsons said tourism supports 1,500 jobs in the county, and “capturing that disposable income is one of the attractive things about bringing in new businesses.”

Attracting new business

Two-thousand people in the IT field commute daily outside of the county, and that’s just a fraction of the total number of residents who leave the county for work each day. Parsons strives to capture those jobs that take people out of the county and bring them to Fauquier.

The department intends to reel in IT, cybersecurity, data center and government contractor business to make those opportunities accessible to residents. Many of the resources offered as selling points are valuable to both new and existing business.

“We’ve been working on a new website that we’re creating to try to better illustrate the advantages of doing business in Fauquier County to business prospects,” Parsons said, “and also have it be a resource for existing businesses to access financial and workforce resources.”

Integration and foresight

The department has reached out to the different municipalities in the county to foster reciprocity and give attention to every corner of the county. They have ongoing projects in Warrenton and Remington, a focus on tourism in The Plains and construction in Marshall to increase accessibility and appeal.

In the meantime, Parsons has been enjoying the county’s offerings. His day starts at Deja Brew and might lead to Ellie’s or Denim and Pearls for lunch. He found his wife’s birthday gifts at Latitudes.

Ultimately, it’s the people that drew him into his position, Parsons says.

“There’s a great group of people here that are very talented and working hard,” so the future is bright for Fauquier.

This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of Warrenton Lifestyle. Read the issue here.
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