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Northern Virginia Smart City Initiative

Smart Infrastructure Program Will Tackle Urban Challenges

Smart City Works, a next-generation business accelerator focused on improving life and infrastructure in cities, and Refraction, a leading nonprofit innovation hub, won a $750,000 federal grant to develop a regional smart infrastructure innovation program for Northern Virginia.

With the i6 Challenge grant, Smart City Works and Refraction will lead the Northern Virginia Smart City Initiative, a program designed to speed the development of startups focused on urban challenges and infrastructure, grow the region’s pool of tech talent, expedite product commercialization, and strengthen the region’s smart city technology and innovation ecosystem.

The grant is the maximum available under the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) i6 Challenge program. Smart City Works was one of 26 awardees selected nationally from more than 140 applicants.

“This type of support is transformative,” said Robert Mazer, co-founder of Smart City Works. “The EDA’s grant allows our group to continue to lead and innovate in the emerging ecosystem of mature businesses, startups, universities and governments in the region.”

“We are excited to receive this recognition from the federal government of our mission to advance the smart city tech cluster at a time when addressing infrastructure challenges is key to the future of our region and country,” said Esther Lee, CEO of Refraction and former director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Overall, the program gave out $17.5 million in grants, which will be matched by $20.1 million in investment from public and private sources. Three other initiatives in the greater Washington region, including Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center in Easton, Maryland, and the Old Dominion University Research Foundation in Norfolk, Virginia, also won grants.

The Northern Virginia Smart City Initiative will use the three-year grant to graduate more than 45 companies from the intensive 90-day business acceleration program offered by Smart City Works, launch 30 new smart city products and services, train 60 apprentices and, in five years, create over 180 new jobs.

“Our goal is to drive commercial activity that solves real-world problems,” said David Heyman, co-founder of Smart City Works. “Cities are struggling today to address significant community challenges in transportation, housing, energy, water, and long-term economic and sustainability needs. This initiative will contribute substantially to a region that is fast becoming a hub for smart city technology. It will support innovative companies, help build a trained workforce and launch much-needed products.”

In addition to Smart City Works and Refraction, which will house the Northern Virginia Smart City Initiative, the program will bring together a number of partners to support entrepreneurs and help to develop, launch and pilot new smart city products and services. Key partners include Amazon Web Services, Amazon’s massive cloud computing business; Alpha, a construction consulting firm; Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate firm; the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), a Commonwealth of Virginia organization that supports innovation and entrepreneurship; Virginia Tech; Northern Virginia Community College; Fairfax County and Arlington County.

“It’s critical that we have a vibrant and thriving innovation ecosystem if our region is going to be competitive in the 21st century,” said Fairfax County Deputy Executive Rachel Flynn.  “This initiative will help to make Northern Virginia a smart cities innovation hub, and it advances the county’s strategic efforts to grow and diversify the economy while delivering higher quality of life. We have been working with Smart City Works, Refraction and other partners for the past two years to spur innovation and entrepreneurship, and we believe this continued partnership will make our economy even more dynamic and resilient.”

“Virginia Tech is excited to be a partner in the Northern Virginia Smart Region Initiative led by Smart City Works, which furthers our commitment to work in partnership across the region to translate scholarship and education into practice. Working across jurisdictions and beyond traditional boundaries, we can help build regional resilience through entrepreneurs leveraging technology and innovation,” said Steven McKnight, Vice President for the National Capital Region at Virginia Tech.

To find out more about Smart City Works, visit or contact

 About Smart City Works. Smart City Works is a next generation business accelerator, called a BUSINESS ACTUATOR, that can rapidly move early stage ventures to commercialization, help bring products to market faster, and reduce investor risk. We focus on companies that improve the livability, operations and resilience of cities large and small, with special emphasis on urban tech, IoT devices and the built environment. Smart City Works offers business acceleration, innovation and commercialization programs to support government innovation, and foster rapid growth in companies of all sizes.

About Refraction. Over the last five years, Refraction has built the premier collaborative innovation hub in the greater Washington region. Nearly 100 companies have been members of the Refraction community of startups and high-growth businesses, which have collectively raised more than $250 million.


Just How Important Are Our Airports To Our Economy?

Airport’s Economic Impact Study Released

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority supported more than 187,000 jobs and contributed $23.6 billion to the National Capital Region’s economy in 2017, including $9 billion spent by visitors arriving by air, according to an economic impact study by a leading international research firm.

The Airports Authority, which operates Reagan National and Dulles International airports and the Dulles Toll Road and manages construction of the Silver Line extension of the region’s Metrorail transit system, spent more than $950 million during the year, 80 percent of which went to local businesses.

Reagan National and Dulles International brought 8.4 million visitors to the National Capital Region from across the country and around the world, who spent about $9 billion across the area on transportation, lodging, food, entertainment and shopping. If all its economic activity were combined into a single private-sector corporation, the Airports Authority would have ranked No. 123 on the Fortune 500 list for 2017, according to the study.

“This research validates the Airports Authority’s progress in pursuing our missions of serving the traveling public and supporting local economic growth and development,” said Airports Authority president and CEO Jack Potter. “Our partnerships with state and local governments, particularly in the increasingly important area of promoting travel and tourism in our region, have been instrumental in our success.” 

The study, commissioned from London-based IHS Markit, a business information provider, looked at the regional economic impact of Reagan National and Dulles International airports and their combined 46.6 million passengers per year, along with the impact of the Airports Authority’s construction of the Silver Line Metrorail project and Dulles Toll Road. The analysis was structured around the key economic impact categories of visitor spending, travel services and local spending.

Other key findings of the study, based on 2017 data, include:

  • About 300 businesses operated on the airport campuses to support airline operations and deliver travel services to the 46.6 million passengers who passed through the airports. These businesses stimulated $7.4 billion in economic output and supported 44,600 jobs.
  • In 2017, the Airports Authority spent nearly $590 million on construction of the Metro Silver Line extension, of which $496.5 million went to local businesses in the D.C.-Maryland-
    Virginia region. The Silver Line is bringing substantial economic development all along its path in Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Northern Virginia.
  • The Airports Authority’s local spending stimulated $2.3 billion in local economic output and supported 11,300 jobs.
  • The Airports Authority’s business activities contributed nearly $14.4 billion to regional gross
    domestic product.
  • The 187,000 jobs supported by the Airports Authority’s businesses would be equal to the population of a city that would be the sixth-largest in Virginia. That number of people would fill four major sports stadiums in the area: FedEx Field, Nationals Park, the U.S. Naval Academy’s Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and DC United’s Audi Field.
  • The Airports Authority helped stimulate more than $1.1 billion in state and local taxes in 2017, translating to a daily rate of $3 million flowing to state and local tax authorities. This is enough money to educate 87,000 public school students per year across the region.
  • The $9 billion in regional spending by 8.4 million visitors included $1.4 billion spent by 1.4 million visitors in Maryland, $3 billion spent by 2.9 million visitors in the District of Columbia and $4.5 billion spent by 4.1 million visitors in Virginia.

More information on the report can be found at


Analysis Of Rental Rates Near Metro Stations Reveals Interesting Results

The Washington Post recently reported on the findings of a rental analysis compiled by Renthop, an apartment search platform, that looked at rental rates of one-bedroom apartments in proximity to all of the Metro stations throughout DC metropolitan region.  The WAPO article points out the following results.

Here’s where RentHop found the biggest savings between two adjacent
Metro stops:

  • Renters on the Orange Line can save $1,125 by moving from Stadium-Armory (where the median rent for a one-bedroom is $2,300) to Minnesota Avenue (where the median rent for a one-bedroom is $1,175).
  • Renters on the Green Line can save $947 by moving from Navy Yard-Ball Park ($2,200) to Anacostia ($1,253).
  • Renters on the Blue and Silver Lines can save $923 by moving from Stadium-Armory ($2,300) to Benning Road ($1,377).
  • Renters on the Orange Line can save $400 by moving from East Falls Church ($2,000) to West Falls Church ($1,600).
  • Renters on the Green and Yellow Lines can save $325 by moving from U Street ($2,225) to Columbia Heights ($1,900).
  • Here are the stops with the biggest decrease in median rent for a one-bedroom unit:
  • Apartments near the Rhode Island Avenue stop on the Red Line with a median rent of $1,995 dropped 7.2 percent compared to 2018.
  • Those near Addison Road on the Blue and Silver Lines with median rent of $1,120 dropped 6.7 percent.
  • Those near Twinbrook on the Red Line with a median rent of $1,650 dropped 6 percent.
  • Those near Gallery Place on the Green, Red and Yellow lines with a median rent of $2,350 dropped 4.1 percent.
  • Those near Morgan Boulevard on the Blue and Silver Lines with a median rent of $1,200 dropped 4 percent.
  • Those near Waterfront on the Green Line with a median rent of $2,225 dropped 3.3 percent.

Here are the stops where median rents for a one-bedroom apartment increased the most since last year:

  • Apartments near Farragut North on the Red Line with a $2,550 median rent rose 10.9 percent since last year.
  • Those near Benning Road on the Blue and Silver Lines with a median rent of $1,377 rose 8.4 percent.
  • Those near Southern Avenue on the Green Line with a median rent of $1,227 rose 7.9 percent.
  • Those near Arlington Cemetery on the Blue Line with a median rent of $2,000 rose 7.8 percent.
  • Those near Dupont Circle on the Red Line with a median rent of $2,285 rose 7.5 percent.
  • Those near Minnesota Avenue on the Orange Line with a median rent of $1,175 rose 6.8 percent.

Virginia’s Try Transit Week September 16 – 20

Win Transit for a Year and Amtrak Tickets

By Miriam Foster, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation

Every weekday across Virginia tens of thousands of commuters take buses, vanpools, and trains to work.  If you are not one of them, Try Transit Week is a great time to start.  You might just win free transit to work for an entire year and two round-trip Amtrak tickets!

If winning a year of free transit is not enough to persuade you to ride the bus, Metro or vanpool, then maybe one of the many benefits transit offers will change your mind.  Commuting by way of transit saves money.  The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reports the average household can save nearly $10,000 by taking public transportation and living with one less car. Even if you don’t give up driving you can still save hundreds each year. Transit use will lower your annual fuel expenses, reduce wear and tear on your car, and lower auto maintenance costs. Many auto insurers will also give discounts or lower premiums for reducing the amount of miles you drive each year.  APTA estimates that the use of public transportation saves the United States 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually, which is good for both you and the environment.

Another benefit is safety.  Using public transportation can save lives and reduce injuries for commuters by mitigating road congestion.  Fewer cars on the road mean fewer accidents.  APTA concludes that the chance of being in an accident is reduced by more than 90% simply by choosing public transit as an alternative to commuting by car, and that transit trips are 10 times safer per mile than car trips. 

Transit also saves you time.  Instead of being stuck behind the wheel in traffic, employees can use their commute to spend that time the way they want or need.  When you ride transit, you get back the time wasted in traffic to catch up on work before heading into the office, read, text, listen to podcasts or just relax.  

To enter to win free transit to work for a year and two round-trip Amtrak tickets, visit and pledge to try transit during the week of September 16-20.  Local bus prizes will also be awarded.   All participants must make their Try Transit Week pledge before midnight Friday, September 20. 

There couldn’t be a better time to save money, save time and try transit!


A Commuter’s Perspective: Date Driving – Making the Most of Your Time

In a busy world that is always changing making the most of our limited time seems imperative to living well. Technology is great. But it is not meant to replace relationships. The computer and smartphone are tools, and the Internet can help us find deals, discounts, and dates, but peace is found in the inner workings of our hearts. What is your heart telling you today? Who are the people that make you want to live your best life? Take a moment to reflect, smile and rejoice for you are truly blessed.

Often the best use of our time is not in running faster, but slowing things down, and enjoying the life we are missing along the way. The gentle breeze, the steam from a nice warm cup of coffee, the color of the sky, and the little miracles of life all around us. If we cannot be happy with what we have, how can we ever expect that having more will lead to greater happiness? Simplify your life and remind yourself that living more doesn’t mean having more, but loving more of what you possess.

Life does not always turn out the way we expect. We can get stuck in the traffic jams of life. For some of us, that can last an annoyingly long time, preventing us from living our best life now. We may not be able to remove the unexpected bumps in the road of life, but we can change the way we respond to them internally. Imagine your life as perfect. Say it enough times and you start to believe it. Use the power of words to lift your spirits and those around you. 

Our six- and three-year-old sons keep us on our toes. Free time is hard to come by. In fact, it is often difficult to get a sentence in when my boys are both constantly vying for their mom’s attention. One way my wife and I have learned to strengthen our relationship and communication is via transportation. Date driving. I take the family on long enough trips on the weekend to ensure my boys fall asleep in the back of the car. My wife and I then use that time to laugh and talk as a couple. Transform mundane events into memorable ones for the people you love.

Taking trips alone can also refresh our spirits. Driving or bicycling alone can give us the time and space to check-in with ourselves. So too can reading a good book or meditating on a simple poem. May this poem I wrote below reassure you that you were made perfectly, a limited edition timeless masterpiece of creation. 

Manufactured for Excellence

Each eye

Precision manufactured 

All parts perfectly placed

Fingers fit nicely on hands made to create

Wonderfully crafted toes touch ground

Nose, mouth, arms and legs ready

Chiseled frame faces nature’s forces

Interior wired engine roaring 

Heart and soul imbued with the Spirit’s breathe

Made for all life’s challenges 

DNA stamped, out of the factory 

Rolling out for runs on life’s grand track

For more information, visit