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WBJ: A collective step toward sustainable growth and social equity in the DMV

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

The Economic Development Administration awarded $1.1 million to Connected DMV, the Federal City Council, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area to develop a model for working together.
DMV Regional Equity & Growth Playbook

To read the original story on the Washington Business Journal please click here.

By: Stu Solomon - President and CEO, Connected DMV April 19, 2022

Jurisdictional fragmentation, limited cross-sector coordination and socioeconomic inequities have limited Greater Washington’s economic health for far too long. While the COVID-19 pandemic worsened some of these challenges, it also marked a renewed commitment from regional leaders to a new approach for collaboration.

The Economic Development Administration recognized this commitment with a $1.1 million award to Connected DMV, the Federal City Council, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area to develop a model for working together. This unprecedented model — the DMV Regional Equity and Growth Playbook — will coequally join all sectors to enable a unified approach for delivering sustainable economic growth and social equity so that everyone in the DMV, regardless of ZIP code, can thrive. The playbook will map where we need to be and how we will get there.

This playbook project began in January with the gathering of perspectives from 25 of the region’s CEOs and other leaders. Their organizations represent industry, community, academia, philanthropy, and federal, state and local government. While their perspectives were unique, these common themes emerged.

1. Our foundation is strong. The DMV has tremendous assets that cross sectors and geographies. No other U.S. region is perceived to have the foundations and ingredients for more balanced strength and growth across all sectors.

2. We must better compete on the national and global stage. Our best opportunities for economic growth include industries of national and international importance. Yet, we tend to compete locally for smaller opportunities when significant opportunities abound.

3. Our inequities are persistent. Our performance on economic mobility and social equity has been poor. Collectively, despite valiant efforts, we have not made demonstrable progress over the past decades. More of the same is not the answer. We must work differently.

4. We must diversify more. While heavily dependent on the federal government, our economy has been diversifying with significant advances in life sciences, defense, hospitality and tourism; however, additional portfolio options exist. Our reliance on the government for innovation must become more diversified across our commercial ecosystems.

5. A proactive approach will drive responsible, inclusive growth. Our region tends to react to new opportunities. We also only capture a fraction of responsible growth opportunities. Our economic development organizations and regional development efforts will benefit from persistent and proactive cross-sector collaboration.

6. We must develop and retain more local talent. Our high-end talent pool is heavily imported, not sticky, with limited pathways for our underserved populations. We do not adequately prepare our most underrepresented communities for good entry-level jobs and career progression. We also tend to be slow to integrate our young and diverse leaders into regional leadership positions.

7. More integrated philanthropic engagement will improve regional outcomes. We have far more nonprofits than most cities yet lack adequate means to deploy philanthropic funding at scale. Philanthropists must be integrated early into decisions. While we lack a preponderance of major billionaire stewards, our DMV philanthropists have collective strength.

8. Tomorrow’s growth depends upon integration. Tomorrow’s solutions require strong cross-sector collaboration across industry, academia, government, philanthropy and community. Our regional economic and talent development opportunities must work from a common framework.

9. Technology growth is essential for our future. The DMV is not yet viewed as a national technology center and the District of Columbia lacks an integrated technology ecosystem. Recent additions and expansions of Amazon, Microsoft and others show promise. We can also capitalize on cyber, quantum, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other technology subsectors. Given our unique intersection of technology and policy, we have the potential to become a top-tier global technology hub.

10. COVID-19 has accelerated marketplace changes. Education models, commercial real estate utilization, flexible workforce models, daycare arrangements, transportation systems utilization and remote health care are a few areas transforming faster because of the pandemic. These changes were inevitable, and the implications will not be fully known for years. Our region must press forward versus attempting to recapture the past.

11. Life in the DMV is expensive. The high cost of living in much of the DMV is consistent with innovation districts like San Francisco, New York and Boston. We must consider the cost of living in our economic development plans.

12. We need to work from an integrated regional plan. The proliferation of uncoordinated regional organizations in the DMV seems excessive. Our regional organizations operate too independently resulting in redundancy, inefficiency and lost opportunities. Other regions are collaborating successfully and reaping the benefits.

These leader perspectives will help establish the principles and frameworks needed to create a better tomorrow. The silver lining on the dark cloud of the past two years is that our regional leaders are collaborating in ways not seen in many decades. With this collaboration, we at Connected DMV are confident that Greater Washington can emerge from COVID-19 stronger than ever.


Stu Solomon is president and CEO of Connected DMV, an initiatives-based, charitable 501(c)(3) organization that works with regional organizations across Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia – the DMV – to help drive ongoing improvements to social, digital, and physical infrastructure. Connected DMV focuses on cross-sector and cross-jurisdictional initiatives to best achieve enduring economic growth and social equity.


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