A group of business leaders gathered in Arlington this week to discuss the changes needed to address the region’s shifting housing and transportation needs as federal spending slows.
“The bad news is that the federal government is not going to be growing as much as it has,” said former D.C. mayor Anthony A. Williams, the executive director of the Federal City Council, a civic group focused on improvements in the District. “But the good news is that it’s still here as a kind of anchor for us, as a launching pad for us.”
At a forum Tuesday co-
sponsored by the 2030 Group, a group of business leaders, panel members talked about how the region must adjust to a world where more people are choosing to live in apartments, without cars. Many are working in industries that hardly existed a decade ago, such as cybersecurity, or booming sectors such as health care as the baby boomers grow older.
But many of the jobs being created, primarily in the leisure and hospitality sectors, tend to pay less than the white-collar jobs of old.
The biggest employment growth in the region from 2010 to 2013 was in jobs paying $35,000 or less a year, said Stephen S. Fuller, a local economic development specialist and director of George Mason’s Center for Regional Analysis. From 2012 to 2017, two-thirds of the new jobs in the region probably won’t require a college education, he said.
The economic shift will require careful thought about what is needed to serve that population. Several of the panelists, who included members of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Urban Land Institute, recommended changes in the way people get where they want to go, including putting eight cars instead of six on Metro trains, adding a bridge between Virginia and Maryland and developing a rapid bus system.
“A big challenge we have is getting people to where the jobs are,” said James C. Dinegar, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
“It used to be the hub and the spokes,” hesaid. “Now it’s Tysons. It’s Baltimore. It’s the cyber growth in Fort Meade. Yet that MARC train still comes down and stops every morning in Union Station. The MARC train should come down into Union Station and keep going into Virginia. The VRE [Virginia Railway Express] should come up from Virginia and keep going into Maryland. It’s a regional transportation system, not two states stopping in the District of Columbia.”
Dinegar also pointed out that the region is home to some of the largest hotel chains in the country, including Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and Choice Hotels. Yet, there is not a hospitality school at any of the area’s universities similar to the one at Cornell University.
Matt Klein, president of Akridge, a commercial real estate company, and chairman of the Urban Land Institute’s Washington Chapter, said that 50 percent of all new residents moving into apartments in the District do not have cars.
“That’s part of the way people afford units, by shedding other costs,” he said.
Capital Business is The Washington Post ’s weekly publication focusing on the region’s business community.