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    EDITORIAL: The Loudoun we want to be

    Creativity is about connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it. They just saw something that seemed obvious. That's because they were able to connect experiences and synthesize new things.

    Sharon Virts founded a consulting business in her brother’s basement in Lucketts. Fci Federal became a $100 million company with 1,400 employees – 85 percent who are women -- that provides services for the government.

    Bill May had a vision for “the hole in the doughnut:” fallow farmland between Washington and Leesburg. He’s currently developing that vision at One Loudoun, a new concept for an urban downtown in the exurbs with homes, parks, offices, shops and entertainment

    Karen Schaufeld launched a technology company that helps consumers navigate consumer product warranties. Now she’s using strategic philanthropy and collaborative investing to improve the lives of the citizens of Loudoun County.

    Dr. Grace Keenan carved out a niche in the highly commoditized world of health by blending conventional western medicine with eastern therapies. She launched NOVA Medical Group that today ranks among Loudoun County’s largest primary care medical groups.

    Not many bankers are confused with bikers, but Bill Ridenour has ridden motorcycles for 45 years, five years longer than he’s been a banker. He brings his passions for helping people to a motorcycle trek through Virginia to support the Wounded Warrior Project and as president of John Marshall Bank, one of the most successful small banks in the state.

    As an engineer, Linda Erbs helped Loudoun County navigate land-use. Now, as an executive with Tetra Partners she’s helping to steer the thinking about how to develop the land around the Silver Line stations that are coming into the county.

    A chemical engineer, Becky Harris worked at companies specializing in industrial processes and production systems. Scott Harris spent 20 years building a software career in telecommunication systems and government IT solutions. They traded it all in for the chance to own and run their own distillery -- the first in Loudoun County since before Prohibition.

    Buddy Rizer is probably the only economic developer who’s met rock luminaries such as The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and KISS. He owned a radio station and worked as a DJ. Now he’s spinning hits for Loudoun County by applying the digital technologies he learned in the music business to Data Center Alley in Ashburn.

    Last week, the Times-Mirror brought these nine, creative people together to make connections about what’s next for the county. A common vision emerged: by connecting the values that are important to the people who live here, Loudoun County will prosper from new ideas from those who move here. New people, new ideas, new progress.

    There’s a tendency to look at commuter trains, bulldozers, highways and new buildings as symbols of progress. But progress should not be measured by what happens to the resources on the ground, but by the resources between the ears. The true measure of progress is the ability of smart people to envision change and connect ideas.

    Mr. Rizer, the county’s talented economic development director, has a good idea: reach out to the business community, nonprofits and the public sector to help create a go-forward vision for the county called Loudoun 2018.

    “There’s a new normal, a new dynamic we have to react to react to,” he says.

    Rizer is right. You can feel the the momentum in this rapidly growing county.

    The context for Rizer’s enthusiasm is the Silver Line, which will connect to Dulles Airport and two Loudoun County stations by the end of 2018.

    But there is more to the idea of managing growth than a new rail-line. Schaufeld suggests the county conduct a comprehensive evaluation of assets that addresses human needs beyond the mere transport of commuters.

    “How do you look at where you want to be?” she asks. “What do you think the quality of life will be in the future?”

    Traditional approaches for assessing and delivering meaningful change that impacts the quality of life in the county are inadequate, Schaufeld contends.

    “There are all these silos where business people hang out with business people and do business stuff. Government people hang out with government people and do government stuff. And nonprofits do their little thing and often don’t know what the other nonprofits are doing …, “ she says. “You can’t silo the effort.”
    Loudoun 2018 is an opportunity to connect things, to look beyond the expected. But for the vision to work, it requires embracing participation by creative citizens, the kind of people who can connect experiences and synthesize new things.

    We pledge to do our part. Beginning today, the Times-Mirror is launching an agenda to inform readers about the Loudoun 2018 project. We’ll continue to bring together the people who connect things with the ideas that create “the Loudoun we want to be.”

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