An east-west divide continues to exist in the D.C. region in terms of economic development, but a group of regional leaders is pushing for equity.
By William J. Ford Washington Informer Staff Writer
Connected DMV, led by Stu Solomon, a former Accenture executive, published a report, “Regional Economic Development Strategy” highlighting strengths and weaknesses in the DMV.
Some of the strategies have been discussed before such as jurisdictions not competing with each other. One major example: a proposal to relocate the FBI headquarters from the District of Columbia to a site either Fairfax County in Northern Virginia, or one of two in Prince George’s County in Maryland.
“Yes, we have been down this road before,” said David Iannucci, president and CEO of the Prince George’s Economic Development Corp. and part of Connected DMVs 23-member steering committee. “This initiative has struggled in the past, but from my perspective, that doesn’t mean you don’t try again.”
Unlike previous regional efforts, there’s more support from a wide variety of people from the public sector, nonprofit organizations, academia, business community and philanthropy.
One boost in economic development, according to the report, comes from the Amazon H2Q in Arlington, Virginia, “told us that the market wanted us to compete as a region.”
Some of the goals will focus on a regional branding and marketing program, form a “regional umbrella” while promoting local assets and hold regional discussions and workshops to boost education and economic opportunities east of Interstate 95 which includes D.C. and Prince George’s County.
The document summarizes how the Greater Washington area and jurisdictions within the region rank amongst other regions nationwide that include the following:
Number one in availability of technology jobs.
More than 50 percent of people obtained bachelor’s degrees.
At least six million people ranked the sixth largest region in the nation.
Out of the 53 “very large metro regions” with populations of at least one million, the D.C. area ranked 37th in population growth, 43rd in prosperity, 51st in racial inclusion and 52nd in inclusion.
The coronavirus pandemic outlined various racial, health and environmental disparities.
The Connected DMV report also notes economic disparities, which Brookings noted years ago.
Fairfax County in Northern Virginia ranked second and Montgomery County in Maryland ranked 12th among 150 largest counties and jurisdictions nationwide in economic mobility, defined as a person or family being able to increase their income over time.
In Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia, those majority-Black jurisdictions ranked 107th and 142nd, respectively.
“Prince George’s County has more to gain than any other jurisdiction in the metropolitan area in addressing this equity argument,” Iannucci said. “There’s a very profound discussion going on around the nation about diversity, inclusiveness and equity. In Prince George’s County, there isn’t any location that is more of a call to action for a combined effort to address these historic inequities.”
Food inequities also exist in Prince George’s with the county distributing nearly five million pounds of food since the pandemic affected the state of Maryland in March 2020.
“When you make the intentional investment in communities that have been traditionally underserved, then you know that you’re starting to right the ship,” said Rosie Allen-Herring, president and CEO of the United Way of the National Capital Area and member of the Connected DMV steering committee. “Most of the time people think of equity as equality, meaning that we give everybody the same thing. If you’re starting from places where the gaps are so large [and] giving everyone the same thing…the need and the gap still exists.”