In recent years, metropolitan Washington’s economy has suffered from the decline in federal spending – the region’s principal economic driver, said Dr. Stephen Fuller, George Mason University (GMU) Center for Regional Analysis Director of Special Projects, during a presentation to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Board of Directors.
This decline is expected to continue with federal government employment dropping an additional 12 percent by 2045, according to the Cooperative Forecasts of Future Growth developed by COG in collaboration with area governments.
Although the COG Forecasts predict growth in the region’s population and job base over the next 30 years, some challenges still lie ahead for the economy in the short-term.
To reduce dependence on the federal government, Fuller emphasized the importance of diversifying and repositioning the metropolitan Washington’s economy to focus on advanced industries and the region’s competitive advantages.
“We need to build on our strengths and demonstrate the assets we have to offer businesses that are already here or may be looking to relocate.”
So what are the areas that the region can build upon to grow the economy?
The Roadmap to Our Region’s Economic Future report identifies seven advanced industry services for their potential to re-accelerate the region’s economic growth over the next decade. Those industries are advocacy, information and communication technology, science and security technology, bio and health technology, business and financial services, media and information, and business and leisure travel. The research was completed by the GMU Center for Regional Analysis, American University Metropolitan Policy Center, and University of Maryland Inforum.
To expand the region’s competitive advantage in these seven areas, Fuller recommends working more closely with the business community and developing public-private partnerships.
In a survey conducted by the Roadmap research team, business leaders identified a need for talent development and access to capital as well as improvements to quality-of-life and transportation in the region. Future economic growth will depend on regional collaboration to make improvements in these areas and meet the needs of businesses.
“COG is the region’s principal collaborative platform for local governments and provides the leadership to foster collaborative solutions to regional problems,” Fuller said. “None of these actions can be more effectively achieved at the individual, organizational, or jurisdictional level than at the regional scale.”
As part of its focus on economic competitiveness, the COG Board of Directors will continue to identify opportunities for collaboration to boost the region’s economy despite federal cutbacks. One such effort is the Global Cities Initiative, in which COG along with the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area will develop an export strategy to help boost new industries that will reduce the region’s reliance on federal spending.