Around ExxonMobil in Fairfax County, the restaurants, coffee shops and others that depend on its employees worry what will happen when the company is gone. This week, the oil giant, announced it is relocating its Fairfax operations to Houston, Texas. It comes at a time when the overall economy is still suffering although the move won't happen until 2014.
"Day to day, we hope it gets better. We're putting our best food forward... It's a couple of years from now, "said Sue Gonzales, manager at Grevey's restaurant, a popular spot for ExxonMobil employees.
The regional economy though, has changed since Mobil Oil first moved to Fairfax County 30-years ago. The company helped build the county into a global business center, making the sting of its loss significant for Northern Virginia but not catastrophic.
"They can get along without them now. It's unfortunate timing and it will leave a hole for a short while, but I expect it would be backfilled pretty quickly," said Stephen Fuller, director of George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis.
The ExxonMobil complex, off Gallows Road and Route 50, is a prime location. In an email, an ExxonMobil representative told FOX5,
"The Fairfax office complex is a world class property that we believe will appeal to organizations that want to locate their operations in the area."
Exxon has about 2100 employees working at the complex and says it doesn't expect any significant staffing reductions as a direct result of the relocation. One employee FOX5 spoke with, was hesitant to speak on camera, but seemed excited about the move to Texas. Asked whether it was a good thing he replied
"It depends on who you are." The number of jobs the county will lose when the company moves is significant, but a fraction of the nearly two million jobs in the county.
Where the move will hurt most is in the surrounding community and businesses like Grevey's. ExxonMobil employees are its customers. They come for lunch, dinner, happy hour and company parties.
"I would say lunch, happy hour, it's a significant amount...We are single family owned, so it gets a little harder than anybody else that has a little more money," Gonzales said.
Virginia's Governor Bob McDonnell tried to convince ExxonMobil to stay. In a statement the Governor's communications director Tucker Martin said "While disappointing. We've been aware since early in the administration that Exxon Mobil planned to consolidate operations in Houston. Our focus now is ensuring that every possible step is taken to help all those impacted."
ExxonMobil plans to make the move in phases, starting in 2014 through 2015. That gives the company time to find another corporation to fill its sprawling office complex and for the county to replace the jobs that will be lost. According to Fuller, Fairfax County creates about 10,000 jobs a year, more than enough to offset the job loss and the half billion dollars he estimates ExxonMobil pumps into Northern Virginia's economy. "Fairfax County is in the best position of any in the region to absorb this loss," Fuller said.
At Grevey's the hope is whoever fills the emptied offices, will fill up seats at the restaurant the way ExxonMobil's workers did.