Justin Wolin
10th Grade
Richard Montgomery High School
Rockville, MD
First Place Winner

    As I stepped onto the Metro, I heard a voice from above say “For your safety, please step back. The doors are closing.” My father had challenged me to discover what makes Greater Washington the best region to build and grow a business. Being a high school student with a “limited” knowledge of the Washington area’s economy, I decided the best way to discover this would be to spend the day on the Metro exploring the many neighborhoods of Maryland, Northern Virginia, and D.C. After a long day on the Metro, I determined that Greater Washington is greater than other regions in the country due to the education, federal government, transportation, tourism, local entertainment and activities, and the diverse population that the area provides. As the train departed the station, I quickly looked over the map to figure out where I should go to experience and understand Greater Washington business.

    Leaving from the Shady Grove stop at the end of the Red Line, I was ready to begin my journey. My first stop was Tenleytown-AU, which serves to represent the strong educational foundation within the Greater Washington region. It is important for businesses to have a highly educated workforce and to provide the benefit of a strong educational system to the families of its workers. Besides American University, Greater Washington can pull an extremely talented workforce from prestigious universities such as Georgetown University, University of Maryland, George Washington University, and George Mason University, just to name a few. Also there are very strong public and private school systems within the area which provide excellent elementary, middle, and high school curriculums. For example, the public school systems within Montgomery and Fairfax Counties are nationally recognized, which help to attract business executives looking for challenging educational opportunities for the families of their workforce. As I headed back to the Metro, I not only realized that education was an important consideration for businesses in the area but that the Greater Washington area provides excellent opportunities for those seeking to further their education.

    Back on the Red Line, I switched trains at Chinatown and took the Yellow Line to the Pentagon station. The Pentagon represents the role the federal government plays in strengthening the Greater Washington economy. Even in difficult economic times such as today, the federal government protects the Greater Washington economy from economic downturns. This is due to such things as the ongoing defense spending, federal contracts, and the impact of the federal workforce, which continues to stimulate the local economy even when other economic systems are suffering. For example, the recent financial crisis turned the focus of the financial industry from New York City to Washington, D.C. While other regions may be losing jobs to this crisis, there is an opportunity for the region to gain jobs and prosper as the bailout plan brings more activity to the Greater Washington area.

    Six minutes later, the train arrived at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport station. Including Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport, this is one of three local airports which allow local businesses to engage in both domestic and international business. Being able to choose between three airports is a great benefit for businesses in the Greater Washington region because it allows more choice among flights and costs. Also having three airports within an hour of each other allows greater access for those who wish to visit and do business in the Greater Washington area. As I walk into the airport terminal, I am also struck by the number of TSA agents within the airport, which leads me to conclude that this is another example of how the federal government creates jobs within the Greater Washington area in response to a national crisis. Since I am not able to get past security without a boarding pass and identification, I head back to the Metro to continue my journey.

    Heading towards the Smithsonian station via the Blue Line, this is the first time I have noticed the vast amount of tourists using the Metro. When I have gone to the Mall with my family in the past, looking at it from a business perspective never entered my mind. Now, when I am standing on top of the escalator, looking at all of the monuments and museums that surround me, I realize the importance of tourism and the economic benefit it creates for the area. The Greater Washington area will continue to attract U.S. and international visitors due to its historical significance and various monuments. It also provides an experience for people of all ages, whether you are a student traveling on a school field trip or a senior with a tour group visiting the Smithsonian museums. As I put my fare card into the slot to pay for my trip to my next stop, it dawns on me that many of the tourists’ spots in D.C. are free making it an affordable travel destination that stimulates the local economy.

    After transferring at L’Enfant Plaza, I took the Green Line down to the Navy Yard station. Many of the tens of thousands of people who attend the Washington Nationals’ games would have gotten off at this stop. To me, this stop is more than attending a baseball game, but symbolizes the pinnacle of Greater Washington entertainment and activities for the local community. Whether you are Redskins fan, enjoy the cultural arts of the Kennedy Center, love to hike and bike along the C & O Canal towpath, or cannot imagine a week without going to the mall, there is something for everyone. All of these attractions, along with the moderate climate and sense of community in D.C. and the surrounding suburbs create a strong attraction for businesses to come and grow in the area.

    Businesses cannot survive in a region without a workforce with a wide range of skills and education. Taking the Metro from the Navy Yard, all the way up to the Wheaton stop, I am struck by the diversity within the Greater Washington region. The many Metro stops along the way represent a difference in economic status, education, and culture, which are important to drive business throughout the area. A strong business region is fueled by a workforce with talents, skills, and motivation to work in a wide array of businesses such as those that support the federal government as well as retail and service industries within the region. As I exit the Wheaton station, I am amazed at the multiple languages I hear and see on signs in the windows of the local stores. The Greater Washington region embraces diversity which is another element that attracts businesses to the Greater Washington area.

    Rather than traveling the fifty-nine minutes on the Red Line back to Shady Grove, my father drives me back home. This is an excellent opportunity for me to explain to him why Greater Washington is the best region to build and grow a business. While I can’t do a similar Metro study in other major metropolitan areas, I know what makes this region truly great for business is the education, federal government, transportation, tourism, local entertainment and activities, and the diverse population that the area provides. I’m glad my father challenged me to better understand the Greater Washington area from a business perspective and my future trips on the Metro will definitely be from a different perspective. Greater Washington is greater than I had expected.