Why Virginia’s become mecca for military contractors.

Image: Citytowninfo.com When rocket engine and ammunition maker Alliant Techsystems…

Image: Citytowninfo.com

When rocket engine and ammunition maker Alliant Techsystems disclosed last month that it would move its corporate headquarters to Northern Virginia, it became part of a trend that has already made the Old Dominion home to most of the nation’s top-twenty military contractors. Considering the fact that neighboring Maryland borders the nation’s capital on three of its four sides, the preference for Virginia may be about more than just where the Pentagon is located. In fact, several of the recent arrivals are locating their headquarters many miles away from the Pentagon, but they all seem to decide they’d rather be in Virginia than in Maryland or the District of Columbia.

The migration of corporate headquarters into northern Virginia actually began during the last defense downturn 20 years ago, when General Dynamics announced it would move its headquarters from St. Louis to the Washington area. Chairman William Anders cited increased competition for military contracts and a need to be closer to the company’s government customer as reasons for the move. However, Anders then proceeded to sell off most of the company’s assets — it had been the Pentagon’s number-two supplier — so it wasn’t at all clear that Virginia would one day soon be a mecca for the top brass of defense companies. When Lockheed merged with Martin Marietta to form what would eventually be the biggest defense contractor four years later, it elected to site its headquarters in Maryland.

Read the rest of Loren Thompson’s article at Forbes.com.

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