March 11, 2010

I Wonder Why these Virginia 'Burbs are the Richest Counties in U.S. ?

Marc Comtois

Yesterday I mentioned the report that federal employees make more than private employees in most occupations. Now we learn that 6 out of the 10 wealthiest counties ( and 11 of the top 25!) are suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Rank County Population Median household income
1 Loudoun County 277,433 $110,643
2 Fairfax County 1,005,980 $106,785
3 Howard County 272,412 $101,710
4 Hunterdon County, N.J. 129,000 $100,947
5 Somerset County, N.J. 321,589 $100,207
6 Fairfax City 23,281 $98,133
7 Morris County, N.J. 486,459 $97,565
8 Douglas County, Colo. 270,286 $97,480
9 Arlington County 204,889 $96,390
10 Montgomery County 942,747 $93,999

There hasn't been a recession in D.C. John Derbyshire has been saying for a few years now that the only way to guarantee not only all-around security but also a pretty nice, upper-middle class living for your family is to get a government job. Looks like he's right.

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Those aren't the government workers (unless its a two income household of government workers. THose wages are earned by the employees of the private companies with government contracts! That's who live in the big houses in those counties.

Posted by: John at March 11, 2010 1:00 PM

John, You're partially correct, but gov't workers also live and work there and make a good living at a good wage. Both groups are making a lot of dough because of a growing gov't.

Posted by: Marc at March 11, 2010 1:07 PM

Whenever the subject of overpaid public employees, and their excessive employee benifits, is discussed here, Anchor Rising's resident Retired Public Employee, Joe Bernstein is strangely silent
Just Saying, No insult intended
Be Well All

Posted by: Jeff at March 11, 2010 1:24 PM

Whenever the subject of overpaid public employees, and their excessive employee benifits, is discussed here, Anchor Rising's resident Retired Public Employee, Joe Bernstein is strangely silent
Just Saying, No insult intended
Be Well All

Posted by: Jeff at March 11, 2010 1:25 PM

I've been looking at legal and pseudo-legal management jobs recently. The states are cutting jobs and not hiring. The private sector is cutting jobs and not hiring.

Took some civil service test and scored well on it, posted my resume up on the website. Over the last few days I've been getting e-mails and calls from federal agencies, unsolicited, telling me that they have lots of new positions to fill and that I should come in for interviews. Many of these agencies and sub-agencies I had never even heard of before, and each one has thousands of federal employees in it. Most people have no idea. It's like the federal government is in its own boom economy and the rest of the country is in a severe recession.

Posted by: Dan at March 11, 2010 1:25 PM


Posted by: slappy ducharme at March 11, 2010 1:44 PM

Slappy....yeah, it's not like we're at war or anything....

Posted by: Marc at March 11, 2010 1:50 PM

This right here is the problem:
- Republicans keep creating new anti-terrorism/defense/intelligence agencies
- Democrats keep creating new welfare/urban/environmental agencies

They rub backs, everybody gets theirs at the expense of the taxpayer, and NONE of these agencies are ever dismantled or scaled back. Both parties are equally to blame for the massive fiscal irresponsibility, but each just points at the other.

It's like two bacteria strains multiplying exponentially in a jar. Eventually the entire system will collapse - it has to.

Posted by: Dan at March 11, 2010 2:09 PM

Corporate lawyers and lobbyists.

Posted by: rhody at March 11, 2010 3:55 PM


Montgomery County is in MD with Howard County, MD abutting it. Montgomery County is the 8th richest county per capita in the USA. I don't think it's all because of Government growth and spending as you suggest. I copied the following from Wikipedia:

"Montgomery County is an important business and research center. It is the epicenter for biotechnology in the Mid-Atlantic region. Montgomery County is the third largest biotechnology cluster in the nation, holding the principal cluster and companies of large corporate size in the state. Biomedical research is done in the county through institutions like Johns Hopkins University's Montgomery County Campus (JHU MCC), Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of Maryland. Federal government agencies engaged in related work include the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health, and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

Many large firms are based in the county. Discovery Communications, Lockheed Martin, Marriott International, Host Hotels & Resorts, Travel Channel, Ritz-Carlton, Robert Louis Johnson Companies (RLJ Cos), Choice Hotels, MedImmune, Chevy Chase Bank, TV One, BAE Systems Inc, Hughes Network Systems, and GEICO are just a few of the large firms headquartered in Montgomery County.

Other U.S. federal government agencies based in the county include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Downtown Bethesda and Silver Spring are the largest urban business hubs in the county; combined, they rival many major city cores."

Loudoun County, VA has the highest median household income in the United States and has been sparring with adjacent Fairfax County for that title. This is horse and wine country!

Traditionally a rural county, Loudoun's population has grown dramatically since the 1980s. Having undergone heavy suburbanization since 1990, Loudoun has a full-fledged service economy. It is home to world headquarters for several Internet-related and high tech companies, including Verizon Business, Telos Corporation, Orbital Sciences Corporation, and Paxfire. Like Fairfax County's Dulles Corridor, Loudoun County has economically benefited from the existence of Washington Dulles International Airport, the majority of which is located in the county along its border with Fairfax. Loudoun does retain a strong rural economy in the western part of the county. The equine industry has an estimated revenue of $78 Million. It is home to the Morven Park International Equestrian Center which hosts national horse trials. Loudoun has 19 wineries and over 25 active farms. Loudoun has rich soil and was in the late 1800s the fourth-largest wheat producer in the U.S.

MCI, Inc. (formerly WorldCom) is headquartered in Ashburn, Loudoun County. It announced that it would move its headquarters to Ashburn in 2003. AOL had its headquarters at 22000 AOL Way in Dulles in unincorporated Loudoun County. In 2007 AOL announced that it would move its headquarters from Loudoun County to New York City; it would continue to operate its Virginia offices. Orbital Sciences Corporation has its headquarters in Dulles.

Before its dissolution, Independence Air (originally Atlantic Coast Airlines) was headquartered in Dulles. Prior to its dissolution, MAXjet Airways was headquartered on the grounds of Washington-Dulles International Airport and in Dulles.

Fairfax County, VA was the first county to reach a six-figure median household income, and has the second-highest median household income of any jurisdiction in the United States after neighboring Loudoun County.

The economy of Fairfax County is a robust service economy. Many residents work for the government or for contractors of the federal government (better known as belt-way bandits). The government is the largest employer, with Fort Belvoir (NSA) in southern Fairfax being the county's single largest employer. The economy of Fairfax County is larger than that of Vietnam.

Fairfax County also is home to large companies such as CSC (formerly Computer Sciences Corporation), Gannett, Capital One, General Dynamics, and NVR. The county is home to seven Fortune 500 company headquarters. The county is also home to 11 Hispanic 500 companies, a ninth of the number found in the state of California. Volkswagen Group of America, CSC, and Hilton Hotels Corporation have announced plans to move to Fairfax County after the county lost homegrown company headquarters AOL and Nextel. Volkswagen of America is headquartered in an unincorporated area in the county. ExxonMobil has various industry operations in Annandale, at a site that was formerly the headquarters of Mobil Oil.

The economy of the county is supported by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, which provides services and information designed to promote Fairfax County as a leading business and technology center. The FCEDA is the largest non-state economic development authority in the nation. Fairfax County is also home to the Northern Virginia Technology Council, a trade association for local technology companies. It is the largest technology council in the nation, with technology industry figures such as Bill Gates and Meg Whitman speaking at various local banquets. Fairfax County has a higher concentration of high-tech workers than the Silicon Valley.

Tysons Corner:
The Tysons Corner CDP of Fairfax County is Virginia's largest office market and the largest suburban business district in the nation with 25,700,000 square feet (2,390,000 m2) of office space. It is the country's 12th-largest business district, and is expected to grow substantially in the decades to come. It contains a quarter of county's total office space inventory, which totaled 105,200,000 square feet (9,770,000 m2) at year-end 2006, which is about the size of Lower Manhattan.

Every weekday, Tysons Corner draws over 100,000 workers from around the region. It also draws 55,000 shoppers every weekday as it is home to neighboring super-regional malls Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria. In comparison, Washington, D.C. draws 15 million visitors annually, or the equivalent of 62,500 per weekday.

After years of stalling and controversy, the $5.2 billion expansion of Washington Metro in Virginia from Washington, D.C. to Dulles International Airport received funding approval from the Federal Transit Administration in December 2008. The new line, informally dubbed the Silver Line, will add four stations in Tysons Corner, including a station between Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria.

Along with the expansion of Washington Metro, Fairfax County government has a plan to "urbanize" the Tysons Corner area. The plan calls for a private-public partnership. It would use a grid-like street system to make Tysons Corner a more urban environment, tripling available housing to allow for more workers to live near where they work. The goal is to have 95% of Tysons Corner within 1/2-mile from a metro station.

Arlington County, VA BusinessWeek ranked Arlington as the safest city in which to weather a recession, with a 49.4% share of jobs in 'strong industries'. In July 2009, CNN Money ranked Arlington second in the country in its listing of "Best Places for the Rich and Single." Along with five other Northern Virginia counties, Arlington ranked among the twenty U.S. counties with the highest median household income in 2006.

Arlington is the location of Arlington National Cemetery, Reagan National Airport, the Pentagon, Fort Myer, the Pentagon Memorial, the USMC War Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, and numerous other monuments.

Arlington has consistently had the lowest unemployment rate of any jurisdiction in Virginia. The unemployment rate in Arlington was 4.2% in August 2009. 60% of office space in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor is leased to government agencies and government contractors. There were an estimated 205,300 jobs in the county in 2008. About 28.7% of these were with the federal, state or local government; 19.1% technical and professional; 28.9% accommodation, food and other services.

Personal income:
According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the county was $94,876, and the median income for a family was $127,179. Males had a median income of $51,011 versus $41,552 for females. The per capita income for the county was $37,706. About 5.00% of families and 7.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.10% of those under age 18 and 7.00% of those age 65 or over.

In 2009, the county was second in the nation for the percentage of people ages 25–34 earning over $100,000 annually (8.82% of the population).

Numerous federal agencies are headquartered in Arlington, including the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, DARPA, Drug Enforcement Administration, Foreign Service Institute, National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, Transportation Security Administration, United States Department of Defense, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Marshals Service, and the United States Trade and Development Agency.

Companies headquartered in Arlington include AES Corporation, Alcalde and Fay, CACI, Corporate Executive Board, USA, ESI International, and Rosetta Stone. US Airways (formerly USAir) maintained its corporate headquarters at 2345 Crystal Drive in Arlington County. When it merged with America West Airlines, the headquarters moved from the county.

Arlington is also home to organizations such as the Consumer Electronics Association, The Politico, and the US-Taiwan Business Council.

Fairfax City is situated in the Northern Virginia region, Fairfax forms part of the Washington Metropolitan Area. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines Fairfax and the city of Falls Church with Fairfax County for statistical purposes.

While the city is an enclave within the County of Fairfax, a small unincorporated portion of the County comprising the courthouse complex, the jail, and a small area nearby is itself an enclave within the city. Fairfax County's Government Center is west of the City of Fairfax in an unincorporated area.

Beginning in June 2005, Old Town Fairfax has undergone an extensive redevelopment. The redevelopment added a new Fairfax City Regional Library, over 45,000 square feet (4,200 m2) of retail and restaurant space, over 70,000 square feet (6,500 m2) of office condominiums, and 85 upscale residential condominium units.

In May, 2009, the City of Fairfax was rated as #3 in the "Top 25 Places to Live Well" by Forbes Magazine. Forbes commended Fairfax for its strong public school system, high median salary, and a rate of sole proprietors per capita that ranks it in the top 1% nationwide. According to the magazine, "These factors are increasingly important in a recession. When businesses and jobs retract, as they have nationwide, municipalities with strong environments for start-ups, and those that offer attractive amenities, are better suited to recover from economic downtimes, as there are more business activity filling the void."

Posted by: Ken at March 11, 2010 4:09 PM

Yes Marc we are at what. You are clearly trying to make some vague point about the overpaid government workers living the high life along the Potomac. Clearly that is not the case at least not for the most part. Those homes and those incomes are going to many private citizens who are not directly employed by the government.

Posted by: Slappy d [AR codenamed: Assigned Pest] at March 11, 2010 4:34 PM

As other said, lobbying firms, the military industrial complex and think tanks have a lot to do with income.
N. Virginia is also a BIG high tech alley.

So, you have problems with Pentagon officers making an average of 100K?

As usual, the righties will look at the sun coming up in the morning and blame it on the government or the union. Then, after complaining about how much the military (N. Virgina is the hub) makes, they shout "support the troops" and vote for trillions more!

Oh, thou hypocrites.

Seems like the only good and expensive government is when there is a GOP Majority. Then all the right wingers are strangely silent. I wonder why?

Posted by: Stuart at March 11, 2010 8:35 PM

As some have suggested here, I wonder how much the federal and state governments and their salaries are expanding and increasing and how much expansion there is at the federal and state consultant/contractor level. By way of example, we've all heard about how much of the RIDOT is being run by consultants -- indeed the feds have criticized RIDOT for having such an inadequate base of knowledgeable, non-consultant regular employees. Put another way, if numbers and salaries are increasing in some government areas, just think what must be happening in the government consultant/contractor area -- which I suspect is largely off the radar.

Posted by: Bill at March 11, 2010 11:01 PM

Thanks for all of the commentary: My point was simple - the recession doesn't seem to have hit Washington, D.C. and the surrounding burbs.

Posted by: Marc at March 12, 2010 8:19 AM


You base your assertion that; "the recession doesn't seem to have hit Washington, D.C. and the surrounding burbs." on the fact that 3 of the most wealthiest counties in VA and 2 in MD with the highest concentration of Corporate America, Biotechnology, Research, Communications, equine industry, wine country and one of the largest shopping complexes in the USA drawing 55,000 shoppers every weekday abuts Washington, DC.

You neglect to take into account how the recession has impacted the following, Washington, DC its self, 10 additional abutting counties in VA, 7 additional abutting counties in MD and 1 abutting county in WV.

I think when you add up the impact from the additional 18 abutting counties plus Washington, DC you just might have made a wrong assertion because 1 county in MD does not abut Washington, DC making a total of 4 counties in your syntheses of abutting counties out of a total of 22 counties plus Washington, DC itself.

Posted by: Ken at March 12, 2010 3:40 PM

"I Wonder Why these Virginia 'Burbs are the Richest Counties in U.S. ?"

Because they live near and benefit from the national treasury and the body which dispenses it, whether their gov't paycheck is made out directly or indirectly (for example, a lobbyist - wasn't President Obama going to ban them all, by the way? - getting paid by a company for which he secures a gov't contract or a beneficial law).

Posted by: Monique at March 12, 2010 9:34 PM

Jeff-I have not been silent-you just haven't read any of my comments on public employees,their responsibilities to the public,and their unions.
I don't take an extreme position on unions at all.Public and private sector unions are different.Private secror unions are justified in striking for higher wages,better conditions,etc,because they produce goods or services for someone else's profit-they work for a corporation or private owner and fair's fair.
Public employees work for the public,who has no say in hiring them,so some humility is in order-like strikes being a non-starter for one.
Public employee unions are mainly there to prevent unfair labor practices and unjustified adverse actions by management.Contracts are also negotiated,but public employee unions have to remember who pays them-their "boss" doesn't make a profit on their labor.
Okay,now if you think I have a sweetheart deal like some state and municipal employees,you're wrong.Federal employees don't get free medical,nor do retirees.I have to carry a family policy which only my wife uses,because I am on VA healthcare.I think it would be better if I could carry just an individual plan for her because it's about 1/3 the price.We have a wide choice pf plans,but the good ones are exorbitant,so I carry Blue Cross Basic mainly because my wife has no chronic conditions.It's okay for major stuff,but the copays are still pretty stiff.
We have a COLA equivalent to the Social Security which means none this year and probably next year either.
I'm not a whiner,just saying.
I should tell you I retired under CSRS,for which you had to be hired prior to 1/1/84-I started in 1976 with the Federal government.
Let's see-have I been specific enough,Jeff?
What line of work are you in?I think I know,but then I may be mistaken.
I haven't had much to say on the teachers' situation in CF because i think it's too complex and issue for a simple solution and I just don't know that I'd have anything of value to add to the conversation.
And no,I don't get insulted easily,pissed off,yes,but insulted?Nah.I've been called a lot worse than anything I could say here.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 13, 2010 7:32 PM


Obviously you are blind or can't read basic words written so everyone of some comprehension level beyond the 8th grade can understand.

Let me repeat myself in my last post to Marc; "You base your assertion that; "the recession doesn't seem to have hit Washington, D.C. and the surrounding burbs." on the fact that 3 of the most wealthiest counties in VA and 2 in MD with the highest concentration of Corporate America, Biotechnology, Research, Communications, equine industry, wine country and one of the largest shopping complexes in the USA drawing 55,000 shoppers every weekday abuts Washington, DC.

I think when you add up the impact from the additional 18 abutting counties plus Washington, DC you just might have made a wrong assertion because 1 county in MD does not abut Washington, DC making a total of 4 counties in your syntheses of abutting counties out of a total of 22 counties plus Washington, DC itself."

I traveled to and worked in this area for over 10 years from Newport, RI and I can tell you from firsthand experience, Federal Government, state, municipal and county employees comprise about 30% and the beltway bandits about 15% the rest 55% are legitimate corporate American business headquartered in this area due to tax advantages and experienced workforce.

Fairfax County, VA has a higher concentration of high-tech workers than the Silicon Valley and Tysons Corner, VA contains a quarter of county's total office space inventory plus Montgomery County is the epicenter for biotechnology in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Joe Bernstein,

As a former Viet Nam Viet and short time Federal Government employee till BRAC those people who have probably never worked for the government (or could qualify) don't have the knowledge but feed on general gossip, falsehoods and Internet created myths should not have to be validated attacking you with a reply to their assertions. Peace brother.

Posted by: Ken at March 14, 2010 1:54 AM

Ken-thanks.I didn't feel put out to answer Jeff.He always says I insult people.I never insulted him until it began to wear on me and I called him a name.
But far be it from me to be challenged and not respond on point.
BTW,I don't know how close you and I are on politics,but you're the one guy I can share some things with here that the others aren't part of-most by being too young;OTL by being too old(hah!);and a few by just who they are.
OTL-I appreciate your honorable service before my time.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 14, 2010 4:20 PM

joe bernstein,

Joe I am a open book on politics because I've been privleged to be in the backrooms of both Republican and Democratic parties back to Gov. John Chaffee as a free lance photographer and "son of my father" giving me access. I also in later years use to fly the same weekend shuttle of the RI elected working in Washington, DC while being on temporary government assignment in VA. My photo negatives are in a locked vault which only I have access.

I have a unique position in life with my family and departed wife's family that touch federal government, state government, municipal government, education, United Nations, law enforcement, national security, US State Department, military, and foreign governments as USA advisors.
Among the males I am only the third one to serve in the military and participate in combat. My uncle fought in WW-II in France and my departed wife's uncle also fought in WW-II and was part of NATO.

Both my father and uncle are highly decorated for their service as well as my departed wife's uncle.

Just to let you know I understand where you are coming from and where I am coming from.

We have a lot in common by military and occupation.

Posted by: Ken at March 16, 2010 3:43 AM
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