March 3, 2017
After finally wooing millennials, Washington cannot hold them
Published: March 2, 2017
Millennials have been flocking to Washington for nearly a decade, lured by the promise of plentiful jobs and high wages in the aftermath of the Great Recession.But will they stay? Researchers say it’s doubtful.

“The high cost of living, horrendous traffic and high crime levels may cause millennials to have second thoughts about staying in the D.C. region,” according to a new report by American University’s Kogod School of Business. “Only 9 percent say they will definitely not leave in the next five years.”

Two-thirds of Washington’s 20- and 30-somethings said they would consider moving out of the area for the right job. Arlington residents were most likely to leave town, with 78 percent saying they weren’t particularly wedded to the area.

“A demographic tsunami is upon us,” said Stephen Fuller, an economist and professor of public policy at George Mason University. “There are already signs that millennials are moving out as fast as they’re moving in. They’ve come here to get their tickets punched, to learn the trade, to get some experience — and now that they have that, they’re not so keen on sticking around.”

For now, though, the Washington area continues its reign as the second-most desirable U.S. locale for millennials, behind San Francisco and ahead of Boston, New York and Denver. Researchers surveyed 504 adults on 33 factors, including job availability, salary levels, housing and child-care costs.

“We hear a lot about millennials as though they’re mythological creatures from another planet — a planet with beanbag chairs and foosball tables in every office,” said Dawn Leijon, executive-in-residence at the Kogod School of Business and the report’s lead researcher. “But they have the same working-stiff concerns that previous generations did: Are there enough jobs? Can they make enough money to pay the bills?”

And, she added, they’re increasingly finding it difficult — and expensive — to put down roots in the Washington region. Even with an average salary of $65,910 — a 39 percent premium on the national average of $48,320, only 12 percent of millennials said they felt they could afford to buy a house in the area, according to the second annual Kogod Greater Washington Millennial Index.

“The high cost of living makes it very, very difficult to save money towards retirement,” one survey respondent said. “Many people are living paycheck to paycheck.”

Traffic was another source of frustration. The Washington area has the second-worse commute, behind New York, according to Leijon. It turns out, for all of the talk of public transportation, ride-sharing and cycling, 60 percent of Washington’s millennials drive themselves to work each day. Many — 57 percent of those surveyed — said they could commute using Metro, but chose not to do so because it is unreliable and inefficient.

“Traffic is horrendous,” Leijon said, adding that 32 percent of survey respondents said congested roads were the worst part of living in the area. “About one-third of millennials said their commute is ‘killing’ them.”

The Washington region should work to retain its concentration of 20- and 30-somethings, Leijon said. By 2020, millennials will make up half of the U.S. workforce, making it especially important for the region to be able to attract — and keep — well-
educated workers.

In practice, many millennials said that means having employers who match their contributions to 401(k) plans and subsidize their health insurance. They also said they would like a paid, two-month sabbatical after five years of employment and the option to telecommute at least one day a week.

“Washington has traditionally been all about workaholics,” Fuller said. “But millennials don’t want that — they want work-life balance, and it is essential that companies pay attention.”

American University’s Kogod School of Business Greater Washington Index 2017 Millennials

February 17, 2017
UPDATE: Rebranding Greater Washington

Federal News Radio

Regional group working on solution to DC’s image problem

Although the greater Washington region is one of the best places in the country for small businesses and entrepreneurs, many across the country — and around the world — tie their perceptions of the region to political gridlock and dysfunction.

The problem for advocates of the region is how to pitch the capital region to entrepreneurs.

“This is an opportunity and a moment in time when we desperately need to redefine ourselves — not just to our own communities, but to outside the country,” marketing expert Cary Hatch told What’s Working in Washington.

“We’re looking to elevate the profile and stature of the region to get people to consider this region in a different way,” she said. Hatch’s latest task is managing the Rebranding Greater Washington Taskforce.

Hatch said one of the aims of the rebranding project is to drive people to start businesses and families in the area.

“Greater Washington is often perceived to be a place of gridlock, partisanship and political dysfunction — an image that hindered the area’s strong bid to become host the 2024 Olympics and detracts from all that this region encompasses and offers,” said the CEO of MDB Communications.

“In reality, we are much more than just the federal city. Stretching from D.C. into parts of Maryland and Virginia, Greater Washington is a region … and a strong one at that,” Hatch said.

The Rebranding Greater Washington Taskforce’s aim is to create a regional brand that transforms the image of the region into one that is less government-centric and enhances the region’s reputation as a good place to start a company, build or expand a business, learn, and have a high-quality of life.

Regional leaders including the 2030 Group, Akridge, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and ULI Washington are the driving force behind the effort and have worked closely with international branding firm, Interbrand, and over 160 stakeholders to develop a new identity campaign.

Just last week, Nestlé announced it would be moving its headquarters from California to Greater Washington in large part due to the region’s highly educated and talented workforce.

For female entrepreneurs,  D.C. is the best in the nation, according to Hatch.

“Most people don’t realize that there are more female executives in the greater Washington area than anywhere else in the country,” she said. “I think it’s a very diverse community, not just women. It’s people of color, it’s immigrants. Despite what you hear on the news, this is the location that welcomes talent. If you have talent to bring, if you have energy and if you have passion, this is the place where people come to make history.”

In 2016, the region was voted the fittest city in the U.S. and Bon Appetit named D.C. its 2016 restaurant city of the year.

The capital region is home to more of the fastest-growing companies in the nation than any other region. Greater Washington has it all, now we need to sell that image to all.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW: What’s Working in Washington – Ep 15 DC’s image problem and how to fix it

February 17, 2017

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.

The Roadmap for the Washington Region’s Future Economy: Pivoting the Region’s Economy Away From Its Federal Dependence—An Assessment

October 26, 2016
Bob Buchanan: Our leaders must show more than lip service to regionalism


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.