Region Forward Blog

Equity as the Model to Grow and Sustain our Region's Competitiveness (Part 2)

Nov 22, 2011
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Alicia Lewis and Sophie Mintier Housing Planners at MWCOG recently attended PolicyLink’s Equity Summit 2011 in Detroit. The “Dispatches from Detroit” series will provide RF followers a recap of what they learned as well as specific proposals to move our Region Forward. This is part two of Alicia’s report. Read part one here.

Several Region Forward goals include opportunities to improve and strengthen the contribution our area’s residents educators health practitioners business community and others can play in sustaining and boosting our competitive edge.

Let’s take one very important Region Forward goal as an example: achieving a 90% high school graduation rate for all students across the region. While several of the region’s schools already exceed this goal many are also far from reaching such a rate. The Impact Team – a subgroup of the larger Region Forward Coalition comprised of executive leaders who can turn policy discussion into action – may create an initiative that would help challenged schools reach this goal.

The Coalition’s Equity Team – comprised of community organizers and nonprofit organizations – is interested in working with regional partners to maintain and create small business and affordable housing opportunities along the region’s vibrant transit corridors. SAIC is presently working to develop workforce housing units at its Fairfax County headquarters site for its employees in order to remain competitive. Initiatives like these that attract companies to the region will us meet the Region Forward target of sustaining an annual 2-4% growth rate in our gross regional product.

Other members of the Region Forward Coalition will address community health disparities through the creation of a regional health impact assessment to gauge the impact proposed projects will have on public health. This assessment will be akin to an environmental impact assessment that is undertaken prior to major transportation or construction projects to determine the impact they will have on the environment. Recommendations from this assessment will be implemented in communities across the region struggling with specific health challenges. This work will contribute to our regional goal that at least half of our population meets the U.S. Department of Health’s Healthy People goals.

The recently-launched Region Forward Coalition is already working to make metro Washington more accessible sustainable prosperous and livable. Once achieved targets and initiatives like these will increase our region’s desirability among prospective residents (families and singles) industry and retailers alike.

Equitably addressing the region’s tough challenges will undoubtedly improve the educational quality incomes health outcomes and quality of life for all our residents. Equitable planning will ensure metro Washington’s competitiveness while also contributing to our country’s sustainable growth. Equity is the model to grown and sustain our region’s (and by extension our country’s) competitiveness.

Alicia Lewis

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