The National Capital Region: Vision or Pipe Dream?

May 30, 2013
By The 2030 Group

Gary Garczynski is the President of National Capital Land and Development.

Consider recent headlines: “Region could lose hundreds of thousands of jobs under sequestration,” “Sequester punctures area economy’s government-dependent bubble,” “Washington rated the worst for traffic congestion — again,” “Bid For FBI Building Sets Off Regional Competition.”

In the DC metropolitan region we think and act parochially, think that Mother Government will always there to support us. But as we look at history, from the Springfield Bypass & ICC to the Wilson Bridge, strong support from the private sector encouraged these projects’ progress.

Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads. We are part of a global economy. We’re not competing with other cities or states as much as other nations and continents. The structure of our economy is changing and will continue to change as the role of the Federal Government shrinks and new industries emerge.

Our workforce is not necessarily trained for the jobs of the future. Our housing costs are amongst the highest in the nation, but our population growth went down from the 4th to 15th place among the fastest-growing metropolitan areas with more than a million residents. And we are among the nation’s most traffic congested regions, where two-hour commutes are commonplace.

There is simply no coordination as to how to address these challenges. Entering into this vacuum, The 2030 Group was founded in 2010 by a relatively small group of Maryland, Virginia and DC business leaders to focus on what needs to be done to insure that the National Capital Region is nationally and globally competitive 20 years from now.

This initiative is focused on 3 areas: workforce training, ensuring that there would be adequate workforce housing, and a regionally-focused transportation network of connected highways, bridges and public transit to support a globally-competitive regional economy.

The 2030 Group and ULI, COG, various Chambers, and the Board of Trade all concede that without growth, you die. The chief problem here is that no one is responsible for our lack of progress.

At the recent ULI conference, one point was repeated: state and jurisdictional boundaries are not impermeable. Jurisdictions are interconnected.

The business community is the only entity that can and therefore must bring a regional perspective to our most important challenges. It is up to us to evolve practically from federal government dependency and continue to develop trust, and therefore cooperation between organizations like ULI, COG, Federal City Council, University Network, Chambers and other groups who are working toward solutions. The bigger challenge to The 2030 Group is to activate the players who are part of the answers.

Our biggest regional competitors – Northeast Ohio, the Tri-State area around New York City, the Greater Chicago region, and Denver, Colorado – are already at looking at their growth issues with the private sector’s perspective in mind. Denver growth expert Randy Pye recently noted that the private sector, not the government, led their collaborative efforts.

But our call to action is simple in its message yet complex in its application: To help inform and support our public officials, make sure they pay attention, examine the research and come to the table in good faith to negotiate priorities, and take responsibility for our future.

Socrates said, “A society grows great when men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Let’s come together as a region and start planting those trees together.