By Chris Teale (Courtesy photo)
Alexandria-based multimedia financial services company The Motley Fool will stay in the city and expand its Carlyle headquarters, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced last week.
The city, alongside the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, fought off competition from Washington, D.C. for the company’s headquarters, and received a Commonwealth Opportunity Fund grant for its bid. It has been located in the Carlyle neighborhood since 2005, and its new lease will last 10 years.
The state grant and city tax breaks each will contribute $350,000 over a three-year period, based on investment and job creation milestones met by the company. Those milestones include a $5 million investment in office expansion and the addition of 60 new jobs to the current workforce of 282.
The city projects that its investment will be recovered within the first year of the firm’s new lease, something AEDP president and CEO Stephanie Landrum said will come from the company’s annual real estate and business license taxes as well as the taxes The Motley Fool pays on its furniture, fixtures and computers.
Founded in 1993, The Motley Fool provides investment advice through its website, podcasts, books, newspaper column, radio show, mutual funds and premium investing services. It also has offices in Australia, Canada, Germany, Singapore and the United King- dom, although it was founded on South Fairfax Street.
“Here in Alexandria, we love The Motley Fool. It is truly an Alexandria business success story, and we are very proud that it was founded here and that it has flourished here in our beloved, historic city,” said Mayor Allison Silberberg in a statement. “As a company nationally recognized for its friendly corporate culture and investment in people, The Motley Fool’s decision to stay and grow in Carlyle supports Alexandria’s vision of unique, amenity-filled neighborhoods where residents and businesses live, work and play.”
The Motley Fool’s chief financial officer Ollen Douglass said the company considered several locations in D.C. as alternative headquarters. He said the company was impressed by the “scale and diversity” of development across the District, and that among those locations under consideration were sites near Union Market, the Southwest Waterfront, Eastern Market, Navy Yard and NoMa.
Landrum said the search began in 2014, when The Motley Fool approached AEDP to discuss its future needs and to say that it was considering alternative sites. But company officials said a local connection was a key factor in their decision to stay and expand in the Port City, especially given the company’s history in Alexandria.
“Since our humble beginnings in a backyard shed on South Fairfax Street, The Motley Fool has called Alexandria home,” said Tom Gardner, co-founder and CEO of The Motley Fool, in a statement. “Even as we continue to expand globally, we remain true to our local roots and are proud to be a part of the Alexandria community.”
From AEDP’s perspective, the desire to keep a homegrown business in the city was coupled with wanting to show Alexandria as a place where businesses can thrive as they expand, especially with everything that the city has to offer.
“We want to make sure that businesses can not only start here but that we have real estate and the infrastructure and frankly the cool neighborhoods where larger companies that are grown here can stay,” Landrum said. “We don’t want to be the place where we start all these small businesses and they move on and prosper somewhere else.”
McAuliffe’s office used the Commonwealth Opportunity Fund grant as a discretionary incentive to help retain The Mot- ley Fool. Formerly known as the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, grants are awarded to localities as matching funds with the expectation that the grant will bring more jobs to Virginia.
“It is critical that we provide world-class business resources and workforce training in order to attract and retain high- quality companies in the Commonwealth,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “We will work with businesses to ensure that they have the tools to grow and prosper here in the common- wealth as we continue to build a new Virginia economy.”
With knowledge of incentives offered at the state and local level, Landrum said it is possible using a model to calculate the return on investment a company will bring, and that was something AEDP did with regards to The Motley Fool.
“The benefit of negotiating with a business for an incentive is that we get to ask them for a lot of information that they wouldn’t necessarily volunteer as a privately-held company about their revenues and about taxes that they pay,” Landrum said.
City officials hailed The Motley Fool’s decision as complementing its ongoing Carlyle Vitality Initiative, which is focused on making the neighborhood a good place to work and live in as well as visit. The initiative, started in late 2014 with help from Motley Fool employees, so far has included planning for special events in public spaces and a pop-up doughnut and coffee shop in the tunnel leading to the King Street Metro station, among other examples.
“Really, Carlyle Vitality is [tenants, residents and businesses] coming together and saying, ‘We have a beautiful space with a beautiful neighborhood from an infrastructure perspective,’” Landrum said. “‘We have transit, we have a good mix of residence and businesses, what do we need next?’”