Such odd times we live in, so many countervailing winds.
All around my office in downtown D.C. are signs of a city on the rise. People moving in. Buildings going up. Bustle.
And yet all that activity belies the fact that the region’s economy remains sluggish, its gears grinding from the slowdown in federal spending. The main engine of local growth is sputtering, despite the building cranes rising around the region.
Then there’s this: Our economy is undergoing a transformation, and change can be disruptive. Jobs come and go as executives try to size their businesses for the challenges at hand. More and more, we find ourselves left to our own wiles to navigate the consequences.
This week, Capital Business looks back on the year that was — and it is difficult to draw any clear conclusions about the direction we are headed in.
I expect 2015 will be much like 2014.
Recent surveys suggest we’re feeling a bit more optimistic these days. And why not? The rest of the nation is doing better.
But be wary of such vibes.
Washington is not like the rest of the country. We typically do better when times are tough. Unlike the nation as a whole, the Great Recession bought business to the capital and prompted the government to crank up the money machine. The response insulated us from the worst of the downturn. Now business is picking up beyond the Beltway, and the federal government is pulling back.
Compared to other places, growth here is lagging.
Still, what is happening in aggregate can hide the energy stirring in our midst. Every day, I discover new upstarts, gaining traction in new industries, whether it be cybersecurity, big data, online education, digital media or biotechnology.
The metropolitan area is a big place. The critical mass exists to fuel a real renaissance, and the region’s leaders appear to at least understand the need to help these new industries take root and grow in order to wean ourselves from an overdependence on federal spending.
But this is no new preoccupation, and only time will tell if we can put our interstate rivalries aside and build a truly diversified economy.