The report was prepared under the leadership of Dr. Steven Fuller, a distinguished, long-time — regional economist at the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University (GMU). Bob Buchanan, President of The 2030 Group, was a co-leader.
The report was sponsored by a wide range of academic, business, and governmental institutions, including GMU, American University, University of Maryland, Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and the Urban Land Institute.
The report documents that cutbacks in federal spending drastically have reduced regional economic growth since 2010. “This pattern of under-performance is likely to continue into the future as long as the region’s economy remains overly dependent for its growth on increases in federal spending.”
The report identifies seven advanced industrial clusters that “represent high value-added and high-growth potential businesses for which the Washington region is a competitive location.” To continue to diversify our economy, the report recommends that we should focus on these clusters: Advocacy; Information and Communications Technology; Science and Security Technology; Biological and Health Technology; Business and Financial; Media and Information; and Business and Leisure Travel.
The report identifies four critical business requirements for growth in these clusters: Talent Development, Attraction and Retention; Quality of Life; Transportation Flexibility and Adaptability; and Access to Capital. It also identifies four constraints on business growth: Lack of Regional Branding; Lack of an Entrepreneurial Culture; Competition among Local Jurisdictions; and Public Costs and Disincentives.
Based on interviews with 33 of the region’s top business leaders and CEO’s, the report recommends six action items. The highlights of each action item are:
Talent Requirements: In order to advance the region’s competitive position, it’s essential to invest in the region’s public education capacity to ensure that its graduates have the necessary capabilities to pursue careers requiring advanced education and skills training.
Quality of Life: The region needs to develop regional solutions to its high housing costs and the resulting challenges of affordability. Housing affordability has multiple facets including publicly imposed costs that contribute no real value to the finished product.
Transportation: The ultimate solution is the authorization of a Tri-State (DC, MD, and VA) Transportation Authority (including highway, mass transit and water services) that has the authority to plan, finance, construct and operate the region’s transportation system.
Business Branding: The development of a business brand for the Washington area needs to be initiated by the private sector because the public sector is too fragmented and competitive to come to a consensus on a singular regional brand.
Regional Collaboration among Local Jurisdictions: Establishing a culture of collaboration among local jurisdictions, even within the same state, will be challenging but needs to start somewhere, as the cost of non-collaboration is high and the region’s economic future cannot afford non-collaboration.
Inefficiencies among Multiple Governments: Cost differentials exist within the region and result in business investment seeking locations in lower-cost jurisdictions. Unless these higher costs can be rationalized by the affected businesses, the higher-cost jurisdictions will be viewed negatively and avoided.
Arlington’s economic future is tied to the region’s economic future. We should pursue sensible strategies that recognize and reinforce our increasing interdependence.