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Manassas businesses shine, take home top awards

On Thursday evening Feb. 25, 2016 the Prince William County Chamber of Commerce hosted its 5th annual business awards dinner at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas to honor the best of the local business community. Awards recognize excellence in business, innovative practices, outstanding contributions to the community and businesses/organizations that stand out among their peers.


Schools notifies community of bomb threat at Gar-Field

Prince William County Public Schools announced today they are investigating a written threat to bomb Gar-Field Senior High School in Woodbridge. 

Here is the statement: 

Police and school security investigating a written statement found in a Gar-Field High School bathroom that referred to a bomb tomorrow morning.

Officials will conduct searches and take any other steps needed to make certain the school is safe Friday and every day. Students and community members are asked to report any information about the source of the disturbing statement.

Gar-Field and a few other schools received unfounded threats earlier this year. Officials say they will not be tolerated and that those found responsible will face serious consequences.

This comes after a similar threat was discovered last month at Woodbridge Senior High School in Lake Ridge.

10 major gas leaks found after Woodbridge blast


Washington Gas spokesman Jim Monroe spoke to us about the ongoing work in Marumsco Hills, and about a town hall meeting held to address concerns after the February 7 explosion at a home on Franklin Street.

Senator Jeremy McPike held the town hall meeting, and on Monday told Potomac Local some residents called Washington Gas to report the smell of natural gas before the explosion. The comments come on the heels of an investigation by the Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department, Washington Gas, and Virginia State Corporation Commission.

“We respond to all odor complaints,” said Monroe. “The work history and response in days preceding the February 7 event will all be part of investigation, all questions will be answered, and it’s premature for me to comment on the results of the investigation before it’s complete.”

Monroe spoke about the utility’s plan to replace 800 gas lines in Marumsco Hills — something he said the company is not required to do. (more…)

Momentum Aerospace Group takes on the world’s most difficult problems

From a sinking ferry on a great lake in Africa, 14 lives were saved.

Flying an unmanned aerial vehicle above Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo in summer 2015, a sensor operator sitting next to the pilot noticed a sinking ferry 40 nautical miles from shore.

“We joke around and say he used the “force” because he’s not a maritime guy, not former Navy or solider,” said Joe Fluet, CEO of Momentum Aerospace Group (MAG).

A total of 21 people were aboard the ferry that was capsizing in the lake. The drone operators had been on a reconnaissance mission seeking out intelligence on an insurgent group on the other side of the great lake. They deviated from the mission, took another pass near the sinking ferry and provided the geo-location position data of the doomed boat to the Congolese coast guard.

“In much of the world, when ferries sink everybody dies because there are no radios, no way to get rescue and no way to contact anybody. Those 14 people got to go home and be with their families that night,” said Fluet.

That was a memorable day for MAG; a six-year-old company Fluet founded shortly after retiring from the Army Reserve. Now with more than 600 employees on five continents, operating about 100 aircraft, the company headquarters sits in Woodbridge, Va.

MAG has become the hub for people who want to work in remote areas of the world, taking on difficult challenges, with the mindset of “country first.”

“We’re not a lifestyle company,” Fluet said. “The happy MAG employee has two things in life: work and family. Someone who wants to come in at nine and leave at five won’t do well at MAG because they won’t be happy.”

Checking and responding to emails late at night, and working on projects on weekends is just the beginning of the workload for the type of employees MAG attracts.

The reward for this work is high. “MAG pays above market for most positions”, said Fluet. “There’s also the satisfaction in a job well done, with a focus of a mission is to “make the world smaller and a safer place.” His company’s interests align with those of the U.S., and he expects the same kind of patriotism from his employees.

Before founding his company, Fluet was tasked in 2004 by the Pentagon to set up the very first Aviation Special Operations Unit in Afghanistan. After two tours in the Army and now with the Army Reserve and National Guard, Fluet was tapped for the project because of his experience in the cockpit.

fluet4He spent one year in Afghanistan, where he called on the help of several contractors to get the job done. Unimpressed with the”mercenary” attitudes of many, the contractors he worked with were more about getting paid than providing a service to their country.

“I was unhappy with the contractors I hired at the time,” said Fluet. “I genuinely believed I could do it better than what I’d seen.”

When MAG began, Fluet found himself in Washington, D.C. almost on a daily basis, in meetings, providing support and winning contracts. Better communications technology today means he and his employees can work better remotely. His presence in D.C. has significantly diminished.

He chose to locate in Prince William County because of its business-friendly climate and proximity to the Pentagon, Fort Belvoir Army Base and Marine Corps Base Quantico. There’s also plenty of military service members in the area to make it feel like home.

“I went for a run one morning, stepped out onto my block, and I counted 11 American Flags outside of houses,” said Fluet. “Where else do you see that?”

More companies like his are locating to Prince William County because there’s Class A office space for 25% less than the cost of similar spaces in Northern Virginia. MAG will continue pursuing business from the military, U.N., and NATO, all while working in more remote and non-permissive areas across the globe.

The region took notice of MAG earlier this month when Fluet took home a 2016 SmartCEO Future 50 Award. The ceremony recognizes the region’s fastest-growing mid-size companies. Collectively, Future 50 CEOs employ more than 8,000, and have a cumulative $2.3 billion revenue.

It’s difficult to list what MAG does in a 15-second elevator speech. Fluet says that’s both a curse and a blessing.

“If you hired me to fly to you to Indianapolis because you needed to interview someone there, I’m happy to do that for you. But there are literally 5,000 companies that can do that. I would prefer to be hired to conduct aerial surveillance in Yemen. Not a lot of companies can do that.”

This promoted post is written by Potomac Local under an agreement with Prince William County Department of Economic Development to showcase business in the region.

Sedan left on blocks at Horner Road commuter lot in Woodbridge

This car had wheels on it when the driver parked it in a Woodbridge commuter lot.

Commuter David Snead returned to the Horner Road commuter lot Friday evening to find silver sedan missing all four tires and rims. A cinderblock appeared to have been placed underneath the car for support while the thieves did their dirty work.

Snead parked his car nearby and said he didn’t know the owner of the car now missing its wheels and rims.

“I came back from work on the PRTC commuter bus about 5:40 p.m. Most of the cars were gone, and this car was near mine. I don’t know how long it was … there…too many cars in the morning to see it. A few people were dispersed across the lot, but none near the car. Police were not in the vicinity,” Snead told Potomac Local in an email. (more…)

Winning spinach and chorizo soup now on Manassas menu

A frigid winter evening didn’t hold people back from coming to historic downtown Manassas for the 2nd Annual Souper Bowl, Friday, Feb. 5.

Crowds filled the sidewalks and shops as they explored downtown and tasted 13 different soups. In the end there had to be a winner, and this year’s Souper Bowl Champion was Mariachi’s Tequileria & Restaurant with their homemade Chicken Tortilla Soup, featured at the Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory.

Mariachi’s is a new restaurant in Manassas opening just over a month ago in the old City Square Café location on Battle Street. They featured two soups at this year’s event – the winning Chicken Tortilla Soup as well as a spinach and chorizo soup.

Originally, the spinach and chorizo soup wasn’t a regular menu item, but after such positive praise at the Souper Bowl, owner Antonio Escamilla added it to the restaurant’s daily menu.

“We’ve had a few different groups of people come in since the Souper Bowl, saying they learned about us and our location after attending the event,” Escamilla said. Mariachi’s is owned by Escamilla, Rafael Martinez, and Primo Castlan who says their goal was to bring authentic Mexican cuisine and traditions to downtown Manassas – “it’s the food your grandmother would make” said Escamilla.

Every Friday and Saturday night a live mariachi band performs in the restaurant but on this First Friday they traveled to both Calico Jack’s and the Center for the Arts to supply an added ambience as attendees sampled the soups from both locations.

Head chef L. Fernando Babadilla says the key to the winning Chicken Tortilla Soup is his homemade tortilla recipe that he has had perfected for nearly five years. Chef Fernando’s secret to the spinach and chorizo soup – homemade chorizo. The chorizo mixed with the creaminess of the spinach makes for a soup packed with flavors everyone can enjoy.

This year’s Souper Bowl saw nearly a 20 percent increase in attendance with many already talking of their excitement for next year’s event.

It was a great kickoff for this year’s series of First Fridays, the next of which is Friday, March 4. Don’t forget to mark your calendars and come out to enjoy a fun evening in historic downtown Manassas! For a comprehensive list of events going on in Manassas this year, go to www.visitmanassas.org.

This post is written as part of a paid content partnership between Potomac Local and City of Manassas to showcase businesses and economic development in the city.

Infant shaken, family member charged

A four-month-old girl was violently shook by the accused, according to police.

She was taken to a local hospital for serious, non-life threatening injuries. 

The accused is charged with felony child abuse.

Here is more in a press release: 

Felony Child Abuse – On February 17 at 5:45PM, detectives from the Physical Abuse Unit responded to investigate an assault which was reported to have occurred at a residence located in the 4300 block of Ensbrook Ln in Woodbridge (22193) earlier that day. The investigation revealed that the accused, identified as a family member, was watching the victim, a 4 month old girl, when at some point he violently shook her. A short time later, another family member responded to a local hospital with the victim where she was treated for serious, non-life threatening injuries and police were contacted. Following the investigation, the accused was arrested without incident.

Arrested on February 17:

Sebastian Emanuel DIAZ, 18, of 4300 block of Ensbrook Ln in Woodbridge

Charged with felony child abuse

Court Date: Pending | Bond: Held WITHOUT Bond

Explosion at Woodbridge home prompts gas investigation

Gas crews are checking their lines in a Woodbridge neighborhood following an explosion inside a home Feb. 7.

On that day, fire and rescue crews were called to the 14000 block of Franklin Street for a report of the gas leak. Crews entered a home and smelled gas inside the structure, and were lucky enough to make it out unscathed before the house exploded.

Betsy, who declined to give her last name, had a 25-year-old firefighter son who was dispatched to what was originally reported as a house fire and possible outside gas leak. Emergency officials upgraded the call to an inside gas leak just before the house exploded, and just before Betsy’s son arrived.

“Firefighters rush into danger all the time, so I should’t be worried, right,” asked Betsy. “At least that’s what they tell me.”  (more…)

OWL Volunteer Fire Deparment reuniting families

For Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department, saving lives is just in a day’s work.  Sometimes those lives aren’t even human.  

While the engine crew from station 14 was retrieving dinner, they spotted a beautiful husky who was without his family.  “We saw him walking around the parking lot and we just walked up to him and he came right to us. He was very well behaved and friendly, so we knew he had a family,” said Firefighter Chris Weber.  Although wearing a collar and tag, the veterinarian listed was out of business. “We took him to Old Bridge Animal Hospital but he did not have a chip.” 

Animal control had been contacted, but Firefighter Weber put out a post to other department members in the hopes that the owner might be found.  Another member recognized the dog, whose family had posted his disappearance on Facebook.  Within the hour, dog and owners had been reunited.  “Kai” who is four years old had run off through an open gate in the back yard.

He had been gone for two hours and the family was thrilled to find him so quickly.  “Sometimes your best chance of finding help for a missing pet can be in your pocket on your smartphone,” said Valencia Lee, Kai’s owner.  To the OWL firefighters, Lee expressed gratitude. “Thank you for finding him and bringing him home! I don’t know what we would’ve done if no one had found him!”

Remember to chip and have current tags for your dog. If you find a lost pet, call Animal Control services at the Police non-emergency number at 703-792-6500.


Woodbridge man charged with distribution of cocaine

A local Woodbridge man has been arrested and charged with distribution of cocaine.

He is charged with two counts of distribution of a schedule I or II narcotic, according to police.

Here is more in a press release:

Narcotics Investigation – On December 2, 2015, detectives from the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force concluded an investigation into the distribution of cocaine in the area of Featherstone Rd in Woodbridge (22191). Following the investigation, the accused was located and arrested without incident. The arrest was previously held for investigative purposes.

Arrested on December 2:

Kevin Rene TORRES-PALMA, 18, of 1535 Maurice Dr in Woodbridge

Charged with 2 count of distribution of a schedule I or II narcotic

Court Date: April 12, 2016 | Bond: Held WITHOUT Bond

Go green and refill your Manassas Olive Oil bottles

Did you know you can return and refill your old olive oil and balsamic vinegar bottles for a discount, and go green at the same time?

Manassas Olive Oil customers can now return and recycle their used oil bottles.

“The glass bottles we give you, you can refill them as long as they’re brought back clean and dry and refilling them gives you a 10% discount,” said Manassas Olive Oil General Manager Cameron Thompson.

Manassas Olive Oil says recycling old bottles is better for the environment because it keeps empties out of landfills and off sides of the road. (more…)

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