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Arlington County, Virginia, USA (2014)
Top7 Intelligent Community of 2014
Published Thursday, January 23, 2014 7:00 am

Back to Top Seven:  Year    Population     Region

The smallest self-governing county in the US, Arlington is also one of its most densely populated, most diverse and most livable.  Livability is a product of forward-looking planning during the 1980s, when the county successfully lobbied for an underground Metrorail line to connect with an existing commercial corridor rather than a less costly route along a future interstate highway.  High-density economic growth took place around Metrorail stations, leaving quiet residential neighborhoods and 1,100 acres of parks and open space beyond.  Bordering Washington DC, of which it was once part, Arlington County has a highly educated population (69% have a university degree) and a public school system ranked in the top 1% nationwide, where students hail from 126 countries and speak nearly 100 languages. 

But the county faces significant challenges to its future.  Decisions by the US Department of Defense will move 13,000 jobs out of the county over the next several years.  Expansion of the Metrorail system will put the county into competition with cities farther from Washington that offer more attractive commercial rents.  Meanwhile, its building stock is aging, with 70% of commercial buildings dating from before 1990.  And Arlington has found that its dynamic population is also a transitory one.  The highly mobile workforce makes workforce retention difficult and creates obstacles to maintaining the spirit of volunteerism and collaboration that has underpinned the county’s success. 

To combat these challenges, Arlington is doubling down.  The county is developing its own fiber network to leapfrog current broadband capacity.  Government-business-university collaboration has been critical to its innovation economy; the county is now reaching out to Latin business owners to more closely connect their energy and entrepreneurship to the mainstream.  It is taking its community engagement out of the meeting hall and putting it online and mobile.  And a new round of master planning is promoting redevelopment of commercial centers to forge a better balance of residents and workers and create dynamic neighborhoods attractive to innovators and leading-edge businesses.  Through an Arts Incubator program, the county has doubled the number of arts organizations, further increasing its lifestyle advantage. These and other projects promise to maintain Arlington County’s edge in the innovation economy.  





Arlington County In Brief


Labor Force

26 square miles

Top Industries
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services, Public Administration, Accommodation and Food Services, Educational Services

Broadband Penetration
% Access: 100% households, 100% business, 100% government, 100% education & nonprofit.

Degrees Awarded
Undergrad 8,515; graduate 9,208.

3-Year Job Creation
8,660 net jobs, 3,824 net jobs depending on ICT.

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