This morning, the White Flint Partnership sponsored the third event in its speaker's series. The subject today was on the future of jobs in Montgomery County and, in particular, the vision for the White Flint sector. Speakers were Nancy Floreen, county council president (thank you for the correction in the comment below); member of the PHED committee (also attending was fellow PHED member Marc Elrich), Dr. Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis and professor at George Mason Univ., and Jim Dinegar, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. Here is a summary of their comments:
Nancy Floreen- the current job status in the county is better than the country in general, but the county was still affected by the recession. We have 5.2% unemployment, with 13,000 jobs lost in the county in 2009. The county is 2nd to last in the Metro area in job growth. Relative to the rest of the country, this is good, but the county is actively seeking means to encourage business to grow and to add jobs. The White Flint Sector Plan council review has been in the PHED committee and will go to the full council next week. They will begin with the staging plan, with an emphasis on determining funding levels and developing an appropriate public-private financing plan. There should be a decision out of the full council by mid-March. With regard to the county in general, she is trying to create a Montgomery Business Partnership which will work with the Chambers of Commerce and the Office of Economic Development. It was not clear what the purpose of the partnership will be as opposed to what the Chambers are already doing.
Prof. Fuller- although not official, the recession ended last June, and we are 8 months into the recovery cycle. The labor market hasn't stabilized yet, and there has been job loss of approx. 25,000 in the region, with Montg. Cty. taking a proportionally large "hit." The federal government has created 13,000 jobs, most of which are on the higher end in salary and education requirements. Unemployment nationwide will decrease slowly during the next several years. His forecast for Montgomery County for the next ten years (2010-2020, which is short-term in forecasting terms) includes the following: there will be a slowing of job growth (less than the metro area average), giving the county a smaller share of the regional economy. This, however, includes 20% job growth and 44% economy growth during this 10-year period. 25% of people who are currently employed in the county will retire or separate from their jobs, so that "new hires" will have to include replacing workers in existing jobs. Housing units lag behind jobs, and, with 49,500 housing units proposed to be added, this will only be 2/3 of the units needed for the job growth projected. In other words, we will not be building enough housing to accommodate the workers and their households that will be coming to the county. There is a need for more housing locally in the county. There is a high proportion of available jobs that require higher education and experience and are higher-salaried, with much of the available labor force in the lower-salaried retail, service industry, and construction sectors.
Jim Dinegar- there is a great opportunity for advancing the region in several industries in which the Metro region is already strong. These include health (NIH & bio-tech), hospitality (Marriott, Ritz, and others), green research & technology (BP Solar, ULI, AIA, Green Building Council, and numerous others), and cyber-terrorism (Google security headquarters debating coming here or to Texas). Do not underestimate the power of BRAC to bring related companies to the area and to affect our region, nor of NIH & the new Johns Hopkins campus to influence business relocation. We will never be a manufacturing center, so should be concentrating on our strengths, which include the presence of the federal government and all of the industries above, transportation systems, availability of suitable housing, entertainment, recreational, and cultural opportunities, and school quality.
Each speaker recognizes the changing character of our unique location, which was, until recently, a suburban community serving jobs in DC. The growth of business and federal involvement in Montgomery County dictates a re-alignment of the vision of the future to an urban community (in close-in Montg. Cty), utilizing smart-growth concepts to create higher density and provide cultural opportunities without overloading the transportation system.