Tony Howard is president and CEO of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce.
You've been at the chamber nearly seven years. What's your sales pitch to businesses and potential residents?
We have a very special quality of life here, a robust commercial sector in the eastern half of the county -- tremendous business areas and the No. 1 international airport. Go west, you have some of the most beautiful Virginia countryside. It's wine country. We have a unique duo here. You have the businesses, as well as the historical and scenic aspects. It's just something you don't see in other parts of the greater D.C. area.
How do you maintain the rural character of the county amid such population growth?
It's a priority for the community, to our citizens. We work at it. It doesn't happen by accident.
How does your wine scene compare with California's?
When you enjoy a Virginia wine, you kind of feel like you're getting it on the ground floor. On a scale, [California is] larger and more established. But we still have the best-kept-secret kind of status, and you don't have to get on a plane to enjoy it -- and you won't find a prettier countryside.
Has Loudoun turned you into a wine enthusiast?
My affection and knowledge of wine has increased exponentially. Now I can actually tell a cab franc from a cab sauv without having to look at the label. I was more of a beer man. Now I can enjoy them both equally.
What's the biggest difference in Loudoun since you started?
It's technology, and it's grapes. Where we have seen explosive growth is the winery industry. The other thing is the data center industry. It's mainly a recognition thing. Before I moved here, I usually just came for shopping. But now I know: It's so much more than just that.