Urgent action is needed on issues like workforce development and transportation funding in order to maintain and improve the region’s economic competitiveness, according to a report approved today by the COG Board of Directors.
Economy Forward: COG’s Call to Action for a More Competitive Metropolitan Washington notes that while the federal government has been the driving force of the region’s economy for decades, the combination of slow job growth, decreased federal spending, the sequestration of $1.2 trillion, and ongoing federal budget uncertainty is pushing the economy dangerously close to a fiscal cliff.
“Given the changing role the federal government will play in our region, we know we need to work more closely—and more strategically—with our federal partners,” said COG Board Chair Frank Principi, who serves on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. “We also need to grow our private sector by building on our competitive advantages and addressing the regional challenges that impact our economy.”
Rather than create a new organization to lead these economic initiatives as other regions have done, the report recommends that area officials work together at COG to move forward on five specific actions:
- Implement a Transportation Priorities Plan to produce sustainable funding strategies. The Transportation Planning Board at COG is currently developing a list of 10-15 top priority strategies and identifying specific funding sources. The report notes a recent survey of economic development directors and other stakeholders ranked the transportation system as one of the top challenges to recruiting and retaining businesses in the area. Greater investment in infrastructure is essential to the region’s economic competitiveness.
- Implement a plan to guide more efficient investments in the region’s Activity Centers. As the traditional office park becomes an outdated location for economic development, mixed-use centers can increasingly help attract and retain businesses and workers. COG is currently developing an Activity Centers Investment Plan for governments, developers, and other groups to create strong centers with the right mix of jobs, housing, and transit.
- Undertake an industry and labor market analysis. This data would be used to address the mismatch between available jobs and a skilled workforce and ensure that workforce development programs are training people for current and future growth sectors.
- Develop a new brand that promotes the region’s economic diversity. Future economic growth requires moving beyond the image of being a “government town.” The report states that how metropolitan Washington tells its story to the rest of the world will dictate how competitive it will be with other regions.
- Work with senior Administration officials to identify an official to serve as a federal-regional liaison to improve partnership. Such a partnership would help regional leaders better understand and mitigate the impact of federal cuts and plan future investments.
“These actions focus on what COG does best—bringing stakeholders together, sharing essential data with decision-makers, and developing regional solutions,” Principi said. In approving Economy Forward, the COG Board commits to aggressively promote and advocate the report’s recommended actions among area leaders, stakeholders, and the public.
The Board held half a dozen sessions with area economic development directors, industry leaders, and other experts as it examined the region’s economic outlook, competitive advantages, and barriers to success. It launched its focus on economic competitiveness in February 2012 to ensure that the region was prepared for changes resulting from a significant decrease in federal spending.
To view the report: Click here