Last fall XM Satellite announced that it will locate its headquarters in the District, bringing 300 jobs with it. Just a few years ago, the idea of the District winning a major technology opportunity was unthinkable. At that time, the District was far too busy worrying about meeting payrolls, filling potholes and fighting crime. I know, I was a member of the D.C. financial control board then. Today, however, the city is at "ground zero" of a technology revolution.
After a diligent search, XM Satellite, a $1 billion radio-broadcast operation, has announced that it will locate near Union Station. XM Satellite is one of only two companies in the United States licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to offer radio broadcasts via satellite.
From its location in the heart of Washington, XM Satellite will broadcast news, music, sports and children's programs through 100 FM channels nationwide. Subscribers will pay a monthly fee for uninterrupted programming via special radio receivers and antennae. XM expects to be operational by the middle of 2001.
XM's chief executive officer, Hugh Panero, says that he commissioned a study to look at locating in the District or in one of two other jurisdictions -- Arlington County or Montgomery County. The study looked at the regulatory environment in the three jurisdictions, at possible incentives of tax savings and at avoidance of business costs and similar benefits. All three jurisdictions expressed strong interest in attracting XM Satellite.
But the District's economic development team was prepared to offer innovations and reform to lure XM to the city. D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams worked with XM to ensure that key elements of an incentive package were secured. Doug Patton, former deputy mayor for planning and economic development, supported the project and testified on its behalf before the D.C. Council's Committee on Finance and Revenue. The District's assistant treasurer, Mike Hodge, also provided XM with guidance and helped facilitate the final incentive package.
Legislation was necessary to confirm XM's status as a commercial mobile-service provider. That legislation was introduced by D.C. Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis and made its way through the council with the help of member Jack Evans and former D.C. marketing center director Jeff Stone.
The XM deal sets a precedent that establishes the District as a can-do jurisdiction, eager to work with companies to attract and retain them.
"There wasn't an office in the city that I went into that didn't want to make this happen," said Panero. "They worked in unison, they worked quickly, and they even introduced legislation to make it happen."
XM plans to rent 120,000 square feet at 1500 Eckington Place NE, an area the District hopes will become a high-tech center.
This was a "win-win" for everyone. XM needed a headquarters in an area that has excellent transportation and that is culturally vibrant enough to maintain a necessary level of creativity. The District gained a company that will provide new jobs in a business with great growth potential.
The District's assets are enormous -- an excellent Metro system, outstanding resources for higher education, a crime rate that is at an almost 40-year low and new leadership that is both responsive and determined to make Washington the finest city in the United States. Positive changes are occurring for businesses in the District, which now makes Washington the right match for business.
-- Stephen D. Harlan