Elena Perry
11th Grade
Richard Montgomery High School
Rockville, MD
Runner-Up Winner
 

Greater Washington – Why It’s the Best Region to Build and Grow a Business


    “Location, location, location” – it’s a phrase we’ve all heard. More than simply a byword of real estate agents, this well-worn aphorism could easily double as the golden rule of entrepreneurship, for location can make or break a budding business. Small restaurants and huge information technology corporations alike share certain basic requirements, such as a market for their goods and services, a skilled labor force, and quality infrastructure, all of which are closely tied to location. Over the past decade or so, a convergence of these elements of success has transformed the region around the nation’s capital into a hotspot of economic activity. Perhaps most telling is the region’s status, for twelve consecutive years and counting, as the national leader in number of fastest-growing private companies.1 It’s easy to see why entrepreneurs are flocking to Greater Washington, which encompasses the District of Columbia, northern Virginia, and suburban Maryland; with its robust economy, highly educated and diverse workforce, and improved and expanding infrastructure, the region has established itself as the best place for building and growing a business.

    In today’s uncertain national economic climate, Greater Washington’s economy and market stand out as beacons of vitality and growth, supported by a uniquely strong foundation. The region’s Gross Regional Product, a key measure of economic health, has risen steadily for the past 17 years and currently ranks fourth in the nation, at over $400 billion.2 Such consistent growth has been and continues to be insured, in part, by the region’s most noteworthy resident: the federal government. While other major metropolitan area economies often fall hard during national economic downturns, Greater Washington’s economy is bolstered by the ever-present cushion of federal spending. The statistics speak for themselves – during the recession of 2001, Greater Washington added more than sixty thousand jobs over a two year period, while eight of the other nine largest job markets in the United States registered significant losses.3 With respect to a dynamic market, the region not only lays claim to the world’s largest single technology consumer, in the form of the federal government, but also features a large base of private consumers, with a growing population of more than six million.4 Greater Washington further boasts a median household income of $83,200, currently the second highest in the nation by a narrow margin, which translates into plenty of consumers with high disposable income.5 The purchasing power of the region’s population stands to rise still higher, as forecasts predict that by 2012, more than one million households in Greater Washington will break the $100,000 mark in yearly income.6 Supported by a rock-solid economy, diverse public and private sectors (including the rapidly developing “green business”), and an affluent and growing consumer base, businesses in the region are assured of a robust and expanding market for their goods and services.

    Businesses located in Greater Washington also benefit from an exceptionally broad and deep pool of talented, highly skilled workers, which constitutes the backbone and driving force of the region’s vigorous economy. Among the nation’s major metropolitan regions, Greater Washington ranks first in educational attainment – nearly half of its workforce has a bachelor’s degree, and one in five holds a graduate or professional degree – and it is second only to New York in the number of workers employed in professional, scientific, and technical jobs.7 In addition, Greater Washington’s public school systems account for fifteen of the one hundred top-rated high schools in the country,8 feeding a large pool of well-educated workers that is further enhanced by graduates from over fifty colleges and universities in the region.9 Such an elite workforce provides businesses in Greater Washington with a crucial competitive edge in the knowledge-based economy of today,10 which places a higher premium on brains than on brawn. Diversity is likewise a significant boon in today’s global economy, and the region’s workforce fits the bill in this respect as well – the foreign-born population has increased by 28% over the past eight years, and now comprises 20% of Greater Washington’s total population.11 As a fusion of education and talent, hailing from local and international sources, Greater Washington’s workforce is perhaps the region’s most valuable asset for both start-ups and well-established businesses.

    In addition to its thriving economy and highly skilled workforce, Greater Washington features a newly enhanced transportation infrastructure that offers businesses improved ease of access to suppliers and consumers. The region’s variety of transportation options include the Beltway and other interstate highways, rail systems such as Amtrak, three major airports, and an efficient, well-connected Metrorail system. Plans are in the works for a Metrorail connection to the Dulles International Airport, and an additional Metro line connecting the Maryland suburbs has also been proposed. The road system continues to be expanded and upgraded as well – within the last two years, reconstruction has been completed on both the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the Springfield Interchange, which connects Interstates 95, 395, and 495, and construction has begun on the Inter-County Connector in Maryland. Greater Washington’s array of infrastructure projects demonstrates the region’s commitment to accommodating and promoting growth, and area businesses can look forward to a reliable, efficient flow of workers, raw materials, and finished products.

    Greater Washington is well-equipped to embrace relocating businesses, but its still-developing suburbs are particularly alluring for entrepreneurs looking to build from scratch. For those interested in the retail, restaurant, or hospitality industries, opportunity abounds in revitalized areas such as Maryland’s Silver Spring and Rockville, as well as the area around Virginia’s ever-expanding Tyson’s Corner. In addition, the $4 billion National Harbor project on the Potomac River waterfront includes plans for one million square feet devoted to retail, dining, and entertainment.12 Meanwhile, fledgling bioscience, technology, and professional services companies benefit from the region’s publicly and privately funded innovation centers and incubators, which promote the growth and success of young business ventures by providing office space, services, and resources.13 Start-up businesses can also qualify for various government loan programs and a variety of tax credits. Greater Washington’s multitude of growth-oriented amenities and perks lends entrepreneurs an invaluable boost, guaranteeing their businesses a competitive edge from the outset.

    As a paragon of economic strength, a magnet for talented and innovative workers, and a hotbed of opportunities for growing businesses, Greater Washington is a leading player in the increasingly competitive national and global economy. The region’s exceptional economic and cultural diversity continue to attract the best and brightest, while its flourishing professional and high-tech sectors, as well as its embrace of green business, further mark the region as one with its eye to the future. When it comes to business, choosing Greater Washington means choosing success.


Endnotes


1 Greater Washington Initiative. News and Press Releases. "Area Companies Dominate Inc. 500 List of Fastest-Growing Companies Once Again." Press release. 21 Aug. 2008. Greater Washington Initiative. 13 Oct. 2008 http://www.greaterwashington.org/news/news_press/082108-2.htm.
2 Greater Washington 2008 Regional Report. Economic Development, Greater Washington Initiative. Washington, DC, 2008. 9. 13 Oct. 2008 http://www.greaterwashington.org/pdf/rr_2008.pdf.
3 Greater Washington 2008 Regional Report. 6.
4 "Quick Facts." Get Regional Facts and Figures. Greater Washington Initiative. 13 Oct. 2008 http://www.greaterwashington.org/regional/quick_facts/index.htm. 5 Greater Washington Initiative. News and Press Releases. "Greater Washington Ranks #2 in Median Household Income." Press release. 26 Aug. 2008. Greater Washington Initiative. 13 Oct. 2008 http://www.greaterwashington.org/news/news_press/082608.htm.
6 Economic Barometer Newsletter. Summer 2007. Greater Washington Initiative. 13 Oct. 2008 http://www.greaterwashington.org/news/barometer/current.htm.
7 Greater Washington 2008 Regional Report. 2.
8 Greater Washington 2008 Regional Report. 11.
9 “Quick Facts.”
10 Greater Washington 2008 Regional Report. 2.
11 Greater Washington 2008 Regional Report. 10.
12 Greater Washington 2008 Regional Report. 15.
13 Montgomery County, Maryland, Department of Economic Development. Business Innovation Network Overview Montgomery County, Maryland. 13 Oct. 2008 http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/ded/incub/pdf/general_4-pager.pdf.