Business Leaders Issue Do or Die Plan For The DC Region
The DC region has been growing at a steady clip for several years, but if it doesn’t tackle some of its biggest headaches (we’re looking at you, inner loop backup), the region’s growth will falter.
The 2030 Group, a group of business leaders and 12 sponsors, commissioned a study by regional economic guru Stephen Fuller (above) that includes several recommendations for getting the DC area thinking and acting more like other regions of the country and less like three distinct jurisdictions. The recommendations, which partly came from interviews with 30 top CEOs in the region, are being vetted through a number of working groups. They'll consider setting up a regional transportation authority to fix a broken transportation system; a regional housing compact to better understand affordable housing; and look at how universities can work with the private sector on developing in-demand skills and creating an entrepreneurial culture. A group is also discussing how to launch a communications campaign focused on the region's assets beyond the federal government.
The group is also pushing for more collaboration between the jurisdictions, which has always been a challenge. Commercial real estate leader Bob Buchanan, one of the founders of The 2030 Group, says he’s just now starting to see it happen with the Roadmap—several groups that don’t normally work together, like the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, have collaborated on the Roadmap.
So what about funding—the biggest culprit politicians point to for not solving some of these issues? Bob (above) says the lack of funding has been too easy an excuse for the last 20 years. “There is money, but there hasn't been a will to spend it. I’m more worried about the political and private will to solve the problem,” he adds.
Bob says work on the Roadmap started last spring, and a coalition of business, public and nonprofit groups agreed to sponsor it because regionalism was something local jurisdictions and public and private leaders had been ignoring. Bob says the region had too many years of prosperity with growing federal procurement dollars, yet failed to address certain problems and invest in the future.
The region’s biotech and life sciences sectors have paid the price for lack of collaboration. They could be in the second tier of clusters in the country if Maryland and Virginia worked more closely together on attracting and retaining more biotech companies, says Bob. “We’re not ready to compete with Boston and San Francisco, but because we haven't marketed ourselves as a region, we’re in the fourth tier,” he adds. Gaithersburg-based MedImmune is one of the few companies with a strategy to attract more employees and other biotech companies by doing its own branding of the region as a great place to live and work for the bio sector.
The next step for The 2030 Group is looking at the best way to nurture the entrepreneurial community and figuring out what it needs to do to thrive. Bob says the coalition behind the Roadmap will also focus on the pending Global Cities Initiative, a program launched by Brookings and JPMorgan Chase in 2012 to help metro cities strengthen their regional economies by being more globally competitive.