The Washington region has long depended on increased spending by the Federal Government for its economic growth. This report summarizes this history and provides an update on the region’s growth in 2014 through 2016.
The Roadmap for the Washington Region’s Future Economy, released in January 2016, identified seven advanced industrial clusters for which the region possessed a competitive advantage that were not federally dependent. Over the 2014 to 2016 period, job growth was strong. While the gains were not driven by increases in the Federal Government, they were also not driven by these advanced industries. Rather, the growth occurred in non-cluster based jobs, the majority of which are local serving. Overall, there is little evidence that the Washington economy has pivoted away from its historic dependence on federal spending to grow in the long run.
When Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was asked at the 2016 Capital Region Business Forum what advice he would give to the president-elect, he said: “Let’s put aside partisanship and let’s try to figure out a way to work together better than we do.”
This is good advice that needs to be applied not only in Washington, but also in Greater Washington.
Many of the issues facing the country and this region require timely action. It will take working across party lines and jurisdictional boundaries to put our economies on a positive trajectory, strengthen employment opportunities, fix our aging and inadequate infrastructure, and provide a high quality of life for current and future residents.
Unfortunately, as the Oct. 12 regional business forum showed, working together is easier said than done. Hogan, D.C. Mayor Bowser and Virginia Gov. McAuliffe were asked questions about the region that are on everyone’s mind — the state of Metro, infrastructure projects, economic vitality and global competitiveness — but any real sense of regionalism could not be ascertained from their interactions with one another or responses to the questions.
This was particularly evident when discussing the most pressing issue facing our region: how to fix Metro. Mayor Bowser put forth the idea of a 1-cent regional sales tax, which could yield $500 million annually for the region’s Metro system. McAuliffe was hesitant to embrace this suggested solution, and Hogan initially rejected the idea. After the event, The Washington Post editorial board admonished both governors for their lack of leadership on this matter, stating that, “Rescuing Metro is a heavy lift, but failing to rescue it will saddle the region with a crushing burden.”
And while this is only one potential solution to one of the many issues facing Greater Washington’s economy, it illustrates a larger point: We need to demand more accountability and action from our political leaders when it comes to acting regionally. Bowser, Hogan and McAuliffe have all acknowledged that there are benefits to thinking regionally, but lip service and a once a year commitment to a breakfast are no longer enough.
As jurisdictional competition remains our reality, the overriding reality Greater Washington faces is that our region’s transportation issues have become a transportation crisis and our regional economy grew the least among the 15 largest metro areas in the country last year.
We simply cannot afford to lose any more traction. But with the Bowser, Hogan and McAuliffe’s responsibilities being to advocate and advance their jurisdictions and their priorities first and foremost, who is advocating for the greater good of this region and its collective future?
If we want to be competitive in the increasingly global economy and maximize the potential that this region has, we need to create a strong public-private entity that is dedicated to moving regional priorities forward through increased awareness, cooperation, and action.
The business community and other sectors are ready to step up. They need leadership and direction, but there is a common understanding that the time has come to get off the sidelines and into the game. To move the region forward, we will need our political leaders to do the same.
Regionalism can no longer just be a theory, it must be practiced.
Bob Buchanan, a partner at Buchanan Partners, a Gaithersburg developer, is president of The 2030 Group, a regional business group.
In early 2016, The Roadmap for the Washington Region’s Economic Future affirmed one of the most common and consistent recommendations for Greater Washington’s economic health—that in order to remain globally competitive, the region must advance its regional identity beyond that of being “the Federal city.”
To move this recommendation forward, the Branding Greater Washington Task Force was created to look at what regional assets already exist and promote them as one entity to the benefit of all. The 2030 Group, Akridge, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and ULI Washington are the core team behind this effort. Cary Hatch, MDB Communications, is overseeing this effort as project manager and has been coordinating with Interbrand, key stakeholders, and the Advisory Board to create the foundation for the messaging platform of the brand.
Since the launch of the Branding Greater Washington Task Force in June, there have been three workshops held. At these sessions, we received input from diverse audiences (age, race, ethnicity, industries, etc.) to better understand a wide array of perceptions of this region. The interest and level of participation at these meetings has played a key role in developing a clear messaging platform that regional leaders and residents across the board can adopt and integrate into their own messaging/conversations. The interest and engagement in this process is also the sign of a continued commitment to regional collaboration and advancing regional priorities aimed at increasing the region’s global competitiveness.
At today’s Leadership Greater Washington’s “Future in Greater Washington” event the branding platform that has been developed through this process, and upon which a rebranding campaign can be built, was presented for the first time. The branding platform clearly identifies what makes this region attractive and unique and the messaging that will be effective in selling this region locally, nationally, and internationally.
Below is an overview of the new messaging platform:
Greater Washington is more than a Federal city. Stretching from DC into parts of Maryland and Virginia, Greater Washington is, in fact, a region. One that goes beyond government and politics. One that fosters and supports a whole range of enterprises from data to biotech, hospitality to education, advocacy to policy… Greater Washington has it all. It’s a place where you can savor an exceptional quality of life, where your ideas can thrive and the future of the world is built every day.
This is where you come to make history happen.
Greater Washington brings together a powerful network of talent with exceptional skills, diverse experiences, knowledge, and perspectives. This is a place where ideas thrive and things get done. Work pressure-tested here sets the agenda for the future.
Government provides a stable backdrop to economic growth and inspires a spirit of civic mindedness and a commitment to action. It encourages people to spark meaningful change no matter the industry or enterprise.
Greater Washington is a diverse community of purpose-driven people who, together, forge a better future through their commitment to ideas and action. From bio-health scientists to culinary innovators, computing revolutionaries to literary luminaries, policy shapers and makers to world-class artists, Greater Washington is home to a diverse, multi-national community of educators, thinkers and do-ers.
People who expect big things from life and aspire to do work that matters will find like-minded and supportive people in Greater Washington. Here people look to break through the limitations of how things are done today to mobilize ideas that will shape the future. Businesses attempting to establish unprecedented approaches or leading-edge businesses who seek to do things on an epic scale are well-suited to thrive in this region.
We provide access to resources that enable important discourse, drive new thinking, and help make ideas a reality. Greater Washington is a forum for diverse thinking, sharing,
The region is notable for its spirit of humanity, cultural richness and the constant flow of people and ideas. Time here is defined by its quality and life by the fulfillment it brings to its communities.
If you meet a stranger on a plane and say you’re from the Washington area, do you get a grimace in response? A disparaging comment about government gridlock, waste or corruption?
A group of civic leaders unveiled an effort Wednesday to change that perception. It outlined steps to “rebrand” the Greater Washington region in hope of making it easier to attract business and talent, and to promote what they called “regional swagger.”
The Branding Greater Washington Task Force hasn’t yet settled on a slogan, jingle or logo for the area. But Cary Hatch, its project manager, told an audience of about 100 regional leaders that the message should emphasize the region’s well-educated, idealistic workforce; sizable private sector; and cultural richness.
Hatch said a survey found that when the public was asked what words it associated with people from Washington, the three top answers were “corrupt,” “educated” and “arrogant.”
“This breaks my heart,” Hatch, who is chief executive of MDB Communications, said. “We need to step out of the shadow of the federal government, because we represent a lot more than that.”
Her presentation highlighted some phrases that looked like possible marketing slogans: “Greater Washington has it all,” and “Where you come to make history happen.”
She described how other cities had successfully branded themselves with taglines such as “I love N.Y.,” “Keep Austin weird,” and “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
Hatch also suggested talking points to use with the stranger on a plane to reshape the region’s image “as more than just the ‘Federal City.’ ”
She noted that various publications or studies have labeled the District or the area as:
- Sixth-largest metropolitan economy in the country.
- No. 1 city for professional women.
- Best city for new college grads.
- Third-best place to start a business in the U.S.
- “A burgeoning foodie region.”
The task force, formed in June, is led by the 2030 Group, Urban Land Institute, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Akridge commercial real estate company. It made the presentation to members of Leadership Greater Washington and similar, county leadership groups from Arlington, Howard, Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George’s.
After getting feedback and doing further study, the group plans to launch the regional branding campaign next year. It hopes to replicate the success of the “D.C. Cool” campaign, which helped raise the District’s profile as a lively destination for nightlife and restaurants.
In three workshops leading up to Wednesday’s rollout, it became clear that the biggest challenge in “branding” the Washington region is deciding whether to embrace the federal government or keep it at arm’s length.
Should the region emphasize its large and growing private sector, in hope of putting distance between itself and the bad reputation of politicians and bureaucrats?
Or should the area instead emphasize its closeness to the levers of power and highlight the potential to land lucrative federal contracts?
The task force tried to square that circle by casting government work as public-minded. In the Washington area, it said, government “provides a stable backdrop to economic growth and inspires a spirit of civic mindedness and a commitment to action.”
The branding effort got its start in part because of concern over the negative impact on the regional economy of federal budget cutbacks under the process known as sequestration.
In addition, the region got a wake-up call about its negative international reputation when it failed to secure the U.S. nomination to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. One of the main objections was concern that Washington was seen in many foreign countries as a symbol of American imperialism and militarism.
Mark Ein, founder of Venturehouse Group and a supporter of the Olympics bid, said earlier this year that Washington lost the Games because overseas, the city is viewed as “the evil face of the U.S. empire.”
What is the alternative? Seeking to describe the desired message in a single sentence, Hatch said the goal is to cast the region as “a diverse community of purpose-driven people who together, forge a better future through their commitment to ideas and action.”
Now the task force merely has to condense that idea into a pithy phrase that would look good on T-shirts.