D.C. Region Struggling to Fill AOL's Vacuum

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2008-02-19 Print this article Print

Last October, AOL laid off 20 percent of its workforce. A large number of these jobs were cut from its Northern Virginia headquarters, where headcount was shrunk from 5,700 to 3,000 employees.

According to an article in the Washington Post Feb. 18, the area's tech industry--largely built up around AOL in its 1990's heyday--is struggling to get back on its feet.

Unlike Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley and the Boston area, Washington D.C. doesn't have schools such as Stanford and MIT, or the attraction of a world-class city, to create a steady supply of graduates to build up the local tech industry.

As the country's best-known online services provider, AOL became that magnet force in the 1990s, helping to revamp Washington's image as a sleepy, bureaucratic town. Whether the region recovers after AOL shifts its headquarters to New York City remains to be seen, but the outlook is not pretty.

"A leading company attracts a steady flow of top talent to a region, some of whom eventually spawn new ventures in the area that then grow to be leading companies," said Adam Lehman, a former AOL senior vice president and Bethesda venture capitalist told the Washington Post. "In the absence of having an Internet leader here, we risk the negative version of the cycle, where quality talent migrates elsewhere, with innovation, capital and employment growth following them."

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