During its first meeting of the year, the Region Forward Coalition – comprised of local, state and federal government officials, business and nonprofit leaders, and advocates – tackled a range of regional issues from the economy to housing.
The coalition was briefed on the key findings from the State of the Region: Economic Competitiveness Report, which was released by COG in January. The report evaluates the region’s economic competitiveness based on four indicators: economic climate, built infrastructure, human infrastructure, and quality of life.
Cutbacks in federal procurement, inflation outpacing median wages, and high housing costs are some of the trends threatening the metropolitan Washington’s economic competitiveness, according to the report. To boost and diversify the region’s economy, COG is working on new efforts such as the Global Cities Initiative and joint trade missions, said COG Executive Director Chuck Bean.
One group that plays a key role in the region’s economy is the millennial generation, said Dawn Lejon, Executive in Residence, American University Kogod School of Business. Millennials, ages 16-35, make up the largest portion of the workforce and their influence and earning power will increase over the next 30 years, according to The Kogod Greater Washington Index: Millennials.
To attract and retain millennials, area leaders need to understand what they want, said Lejon, who discussed the report’s results. The report looks at the factors that millennials consider important when choosing a place to live and work and evaluates how the metropolitan Washington area stacks up. While the region is strong in terms of job availability, salaries, and amenities, millennials are concerned about housing affordability and commuting, according to the report.
However, affordable housing is not just a problem for millennials. More than 150,000 families in the greater Washington region are currently in need of affordable homes and that number is expected to double in less than 10 years, said Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) Vice President Gretchen Greiner-Lott.
WRAG and the Enterprise Community Loan Fund presented one solution to housing affordability – “Our Region, Your Investment.” The initiative provides local stakeholders the opportunity to support the production and preservation of affordable homes in the region through impact investing.
The coalition will use the information presented at the meeting as a baseline for their work this year, said Coalition Co-chair and the City of Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan. The coalition was created by the COG Board of Directors to help the region advance shared goals in the Region Forward Vision.