Region Forward Blog

COG Board Launches 2015 Focus on Regional Economic Competitiveness

Mar 13, 2015

Elected leaders from around metropolitan Washington agree that enhancing the economic competitiveness of the region will require encouraging the growth of the area’s strongest industries, developing its workforce and promoting messages that communicate the value of doing business and living here.

The goals, discussed during the March meeting of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG,) were summed up by Terry Clower, a George Mason University professor of Public Policy, in a new word:

Coopetition.

Dr. Clower, who is the Northern Virginia Chair of George Mason’s Center for Regional Analysis, said the cobbled-together term suggests that local jurisdictions can cooperate as well as compete.

At the meeting, Clower and Chuck Bean, COG’s Executive Director, said the National Capital Region’s economy has suffered since 2011 as federal procurement has declined by $13 billion and the area has lost about 5,000 federal jobs each year. Household incomes also have declined and office vacancy rates have increased.

ClowerSlide-1024x768

Click here for Dr. Clower’s presentation.

Because the race to achieve prosperity is now global, Clower said We’re in competition with Sydney, London and Berlin. He suggested focusing on the region’s principal economic assets “ such as scientific and technical services, higher education and health services “ as sources of growth. He also said a unified message and brand is important for the region.

To address these economic challenges and identify opportunities for collaboration, COG Board Chairman and City of Alexandria Mayor William Euille announced during the meeting that regional competitiveness will be the primary focus of the Board of Directors in 2015. Euille said this effort would be an opportunity to follow up on COG’s recent work to identify the region’s infrastructure needs and encourage investment. It would also build on the Economy Forward initiative from a few years ago, which urged the region to prepare for federal spending cuts.

Following Clower’s presentation, Fairfax County, the region’s largest jurisdiction, shared with the Board its newly approved Strategic Plan to Facilitate the County’s Economic Success. The document was developed by the Board of Supervisors’ Economic Advisory Commission rather than the county’s business marketing arm. Its focus was on developing a skilled workforce with access to affordable housing as well as on business growth and industrial development in the county.

Fairfax’s Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova and Supervisor John Foust stressed that the key parts of the action plan are to further diversify the economy and create mixed-use communities “ or activity centers where people most want to live and do business.

Members of the COG Board called the Fairfax plan a great example for the region and discussed the need for more affordable housing and regional economic coordination.

Thanks to Fairfax County for that presentation. And I really like that word ‘coopetition.’ We’re all here to work for the betterment of the region, said Andrea Harrison, a Prince George’s County Council Member.

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