Category Archives: Regional Cooperation
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.
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.
Tamara Copeland is the President of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
Tell us a bit about the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, its mission, and how your work ties into the work of the 2030 Group.
WRAG is the shorthand name for the mouthful that is the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers. We represent foundations and corporate giving programs that are focused on the National Capital Region—Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Our job is to work with them to make their philanthropy more effective and responsive to regional needs.
Like the 2030 Group, we are focused on the region and we want to work with multiple stakeholders. Until recently, we have not been as connected to the business community. We want to change that.
Bottom line: we are both working for a more accessible, sustainable, prosperous and livable region.
What were the key drivers behind your decision to support the Roadmap initiative?
There were two reasons:
- WRAG is concerned about our region’s over-reliance on the federal government for jobs, but perhaps for a less obvious reason. When the federal government shut down the last time, local social profit agencies with contracts connected to government were forced to lay off workers and cut back services to vulnerable populations. We care about the impact events like this have on our community and want to be as involved as we can in the effort to identify ways in which our regional economy can mitigate the effects of reduced federal funding on the area.
- Philanthropy wants to connect with the business community in a more deliberate and stronger way to make our region better. There is much work to be done in order to overcome our present challenges and prepare for those that lie ahead, and regional collaboration will help us get there.
One of the main areas of focus for WRAG is affordable housing. Do you see affordable housing as something we must improve in our region in order to provide a higher quality of life for those living in the region today and to attract and retain residents in the future?
Absolutely. Affordable housing – be it rental units or houses for purchase – is a critical need in our region. Stories and reports about how unaffordable this region is are popping up on new sites on a daily basis. We have to fix this. WRAG wants to make sure that there are housing options throughout our region for people at all income levels and we want to make sure that lower income people have access to the greatest asset that most of us will ever have: a home that we own.
My father was a real estate broker and he always told me that owning a home was a key part of the American dream. He said, you could live in it, rent it, or borrow against it. That lesson resonates with me as WRAG works on affordable housing.
Do you see affordable housing as a large obstacle for millennials?
I do, but I see it as a much bigger issue impacting more than just millennials. Hard-working firefighters, retail workers, and tourist industry workers of all ages sometimes can’t afford the rent on an apartment in this region, much less afford the cost of purchasing a home.
What steps are currently being taken to address the housing affordability issues in our region? And, what steps do you hope to see taken moving forward?
I’m excited about the establishment of the Greater Washington Housing Leaders Group (GWHLG), a group of public and private sector stakeholders concerned about the housing affordability crisis in our region and its potential impact on our economy and quality of life in the future. I am pleased that WRAG is one of the co-conveners of GWHLG, which, to my knowledge, is the first time that developers, both for profit and non-profit, have met with philanthropy, the social profit sector, government, and academia to determine how to address this situation that affects us all. This partnership is still in its infancy, but shows great promise. To learn more about WRAG’s work around housing and the GWHLG, click here.
In addition, WRAG has been encouraging philanthropy to consider impact investing as a vehicle for addressing the housing affordability problem. Actual investments from philanthropy, not grants, can be a new form of capital available in our region and WRAG has been working with the Enterprise Community Loan Fund on this venture.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Well, yes. One thing I know for sure is that the key to addressing homelessness in our region is providing folks with homes. And, lastly, WRAG is delighted to work with the 2030 Group on the Roadmap project and to play a role in providing a high-quality of life for residents of the National Capital Region today and in the future.
Mr. Alfred Grasso is president and CEO of The MITRE Corporation.
Tell us a bit about MITRE, its mission, and how your work ties into the work of the 2030 group.
The MITRE Corporation is a not-for-profit organization that operates research and development centers sponsored by the federal government. We provide innovative, practical solutions for some of our nation’s most critical challenges in defense and intelligence, aviation, civil systems, homeland security, the judiciary, healthcare, and cybersecurity.
Our sole focus is to operate FFRDCs—federally funded research and development centers—which are unique organizations that assist the U.S. government with scientific research and analysis, development and acquisition, and systems engineering and integration. We are chartered to work in the public interest so we have no commercial interests, no owners or shareholders, and we can’t compete for anything except the right to operate FFRDCs.
Our largest office, with 3,500 employees, is located in Tysons Corner, so we have an interest in being involved in initiatives that support the National Capital Region and help to provide our workforce with a high-quality of life.
What were the key drivers behind your decision to join the 2030 group and support the Roadmap initiative?
The 2030 group’s focus on long-term solutions for the area’s economy is a topic in which we want to be more engaged. One of the focus areas is transportation, which is an enabler of a vibrant economy and a critical issue for our employees and our government sponsors. Exploring ideas to address transportation challenges supports our recruitment and retention efforts—hiring and keeping talented workers is crucial for us to continue delivering the best solutions to our government sponsors.
The number of patents and intellectual property coming out of Virginia has decreased in recent years—Virginia is ranked third in federal R&D funding but only 20th in utility patents issued to state residents. Meanwhile, R&D expenses in Virginia are increasing (by 11.3% from 2010 to 2011) along with public pressure to see outcomes from that research. We want to encourage more return on investment for the research dollars flowing into the region—more IP, patents, and technology transfer opportunities to support economic development. This is where the Roadmap initiative comes in—we think the 2030 group and their research into the competitive strengths and weaknesses of our region could help find ways to address this problem.
Could you explain how our region could benefit from the knowledge sharing mindset at MITRE?
Knowledge sharing has been a core value at MITRE since our beginning. Developing the Semi-Automated Ground Environment (SAGE) integrated defense system required a unique combination of military, operational, and technical knowledge and experience from government, industry and academia.
As part of our public-interest mission, we are sharing our practices in developing our “knowledge driven enterprise” (KDE) so other companies can learn from our experiences.
Has working collaboratively instead of in silos helped MITRE in achieving its goals and implementing changes?
We encourage our scientists and engineers to collaborate across the company as well as with other experts in their research domains. This kind of sharing helps us gather relevant advanced knowledge on a topic and then apply it to a new solution—saving time and resources by not reinventing the wheel.
Our external partners include academic institutions, federal laboratories, other research organizations, and industry. Collaboration agreements enable MITRE researchers to work with peers outside the company and share commercial- and government-funded resources and technology to achieve common research goals.
We have found this to be an effective model, and are pleased to join a group like 2030 that focuses on increasing regional collaboration to set the region up for success in the future.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
As part of our mission as an operator of FFRDCs, our government sponsors want us to return value to the nation’s economy. Product development, however, is not part of our mission; so we have an active technology transfer program where we transfer some of our internally developed technology to commercial companies that can make them accessible to the government and the public as affordable products. We want to spread the word about this program to more companies in the region to help spur innovation and economic development.
We also release books and publications that can benefit companies in the region—for example, last year we released a free book on best practices for Cybersecurity Operations Centers and we’ve had a Systems Engineering Guide available for free for many years.
The following article ran in the Washington Business Journal on Apr 24, 2015.
Editor’s note: Bob Buchanan gave the 2nd Annual Leadership in Real Estate Lecture hosted by George Mason University’s Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship on April 20, 2015. This is a summary of his remarks.
The Washington region has had it pretty good for a long time. But after years of expansion and unprecedented job growth, it appears the tide has turned and will continue to ebb. Sequestration cuts have pointed out that we have been too dependent upon federal funding for our economic well-being, and according to the most recent census data, our population growth is in decline. In fact, for the first time, Fairfax County, Arlington County and Alexandria have all seen more people move out than in over the past year. So, what can we do to turn around our deteriorating economy and buffer the unprecedented threats to the national capital region’s quality of life?
The answer: Think regionally.
For too long, local leaders have been able to adopt an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. But this mindset is no longer sustainable. Our public, private, philanthropic/nonprofit and academic sectors need to come together and work together to ensure that we are setting the region up not only to survive, but also to thrive in the future.
The Washington region is known best for its federal presence, but not for any other real global dynamic. What are we doing to correct this? Currently, not enough. Our long-term dependence on government funding has resulted in a regional culture that lacks an entrepreneurial spirit and savvy in responding to market change. This needs to change if we are to compete with other cities and in the global economy. Our region must work together to find ways to attract new industries to the area and maintain the talented workforce that is already living in this area. For example, Maryland is home to world-class research centers like the National Institutes of Health, and Montgomery County alone is home to more than 350 bioscience companies. In 2014, Virginia had the second-highest concentration of tech workers in the nation. If we leverage the resources and talent of both states, we could create one of the greatest biotech clusters in the world. But we have yet to capitalize on our collaboration potential. If we don’t start thinking and acting as a region, other metropolitan areas that do will continue to surge ahead of us.
Just a few years ago, our region’s economy was No. 4 nationally and about to overtake Chicago to be No. 3. Now, it has fallen to No. 6 and faces stiff competition from other regions that have gotten their acts together to compete globally.
Our terrific workforce, exemplary education centers and other resources set us up well to compete, but we must shift our focus from local to regional and adopt top-down decision-making over bottom-up, if we are to succeed in this new environment. This will require developing strong public-private partnerships and providing an infrastructure that can support these changes.
Our current transportation infrastructure is a mess and cannot be ignored if we wish to maintain our current workforce and attract new talent and businesses. We need to be working on fixing our Metro system and getting another river crossing. At a recent event, Dulles Matters, Gov. Terry McAuliffe echoed the need for another river crossing, stating that it would improve the vitality of the Dulles airport and the region. Increased activity at Dulles and a major public project would spur economic development and create jobs. But in order to get another river crossing built, we need Gov. Larry Hogan and Maryland to come to the table.
These are the kinds of projects we need to be planning for and implementing if we want to move our region forward. We need to stop thinking about what is politically correct today and start thinking about what needs to get done for tomorrow. The Washington region will always be a special place to live, work, play and learn, but things are changing and we need to take action to ensure that our quality of life is maintained and even improved. More of us need to participate, step up and speak out about what we want our region to be in the future. We cannot afford to take what we have for granted, and we must think regionally.
Bob Buchanan, a principal at Gaithersburg developer Buchanan Partners LLC, is president and founder of the 2030 Group, an association of Washington’s top business leaders focused on regional long-term decision-making and solutions.