Donald Borenstein
12th Grade
Walter Johnson High School
Bethesda, MD
Runner-Up Winner

Promise on the Potomac:
Why the DC Area is America’s Fertile Crescent for Upstart Businesses

    One of the English language’s most used colloquialisms is the expression, “All roads lead to Rome,” a phrase which alludes to the fact the every single major roadway in the ancient Roman empire did indeed run through the fabled city. It was arguably the prominent feature that created and sustained this ancient capital city’s status as the world’s cultural and commercial epicenter; entrepreneurs from the Slavic borders came in from the north, Mediterranean merchants came bearing commodities and ideas from the south, and travelers along the Silk Road brought resources and cultures across thousands of miles from the Far East into the paved streets of Rome. Ideas converged, cultures collided, and this confluence of resources and people resulted in a mercantile society like few others the world has seen. In an age when the majority of the world was still largely agrarian in nature, Rome saw the rise of the modern marketplace, a place where products, ideas, capital, and innovations were constantly being shared and exchanged; a place where people could create their own niche in the economy; where they could successfully establish a role as the provider of a good or service. Rome was a model for commercial prosperity, and throughout the centuries, countless cities have followed in its footsteps as global commercial epicenters. Indeed, it could be said –very accurately- that the Rome of the modern world might lie in our very own backyards: The Greater Washington area provides unparalleled opportunities for new businesses to grow and prosper, as no other city in the world presents such a confluence of the brightest minds, the widest range of readily available resources, and the geopolitical advantages that our nation’s capitol holds in abundance.

    There is no city on the planet that is more connected to the rest of the world than Washington D.C. With six interstate highways, three US highways, seven state highways, two international airports, a national airport, two Air Force bases, one of the nation’s largest public transportation systems, and a location right on the Potomac River, the entire world is accessible from the D.C. metropolitan area, and this provides local businesses with an inherent advantage over competitors located anywhere else. Because the Greater Washington area is so accessible, businesses – whether they are multinational corporations or upstart enterprises - are able to reach out to multiple markets and establish connections without overextending themselves or sacrificing the ability to have a strong central hub of operations. As such, a young business that entrenches itself in the Washington area can create a strong presence in its own region, yet at the same time it can also establish itself as a major marketplace player in cities all across the nation. Nearly the entire East Coast and Midwest United States are within a three-hour flight out of the District of Columbia, and almost every major city in North America is within an eight-hour flight from one of the area’s three major airports, two of which are international airports which also serve cities all across the globe, a crucial resource in an ever globalizing world marketplace. With the rest of the world so readily accessible from Washington D.C., an upstart business can successfully balance geographic expansion with economic growth, and it can do so while preserving a streamlined, centralized organizational structure –a crucial element to control expenses for a young business. In this sense, the Greater Washington area provides a perfect location for a young business to establish itself and extend its wings, as there is no place on Earth that is so integrally tied to the rest of the world as Washington D.C.

    Similarly, the District of Columbia presents a distinct advantage for businesses in the sense that it is one of the information hub of the world. Nearly every major media outlet in the world has offices or staff stationed in the Greater Washington area; bloggers, broadcasters, and beat reporters alike all gravitate towards the nation’s capital, and such constant media attention creates an easily available resource for young businesses to promote their product. Washington D.C. is, after all, one of the largest media markets in the nation. Its countless advertising opportunities aside, the D.C. area also is unique in the sense that its location and status as the nation’s capital provides unique opportunities for businesses to gain contracts and connections with powerful entities. With essentially every major component of the massive federal bureaucracy rooted in the Greater Washington area, federal contracts abound, and these various contracts create even more opportunities amongst these companies. The net result is a magnetic effect that pulls businesses across the nation towards the Capitol Building. Indeed, with its abundant opportunities, there is no city that lends itself to growth and expansion as does the District of Columbia.

    The District of Columbia is connected to the rest of the world in a way that is unique to any other city in existence, and the result is a confluence of ideas and intellect that is simply nonpareil. Within the greater Washington area there are more than fifteen major universities, embassies from nearly every major nation in the world, a plethora of think tanks and research institutions, and countless lobbying organizations. The region is also blessed with the largest museum complex in the world (the Smithsonian), the largest information technology corridor in the world (The Dulles Technology Corridor), the headquarters for the United States Military (The Pentagon), the largest library in the world (The Library of Congress)—and oh, right, the federal government, the Capitol Building, and all of its branches, offices, and operations from the CIA to the EPA are all centered in the District of Columbia. The result is a regional brain trust that creates a cornucopia of human and technological resources that are simply not available anywhere else in the world; the Potomac River region and its abundance of new ideas and perspectives is a hotbed for innovation and growth for businesses that wish to break through in any field. Indeed, the large and diverse populace of the Greater Washington area provides an ideal market for an enterprise to anchor its operations in, as nearly every demographic can be found amongst the more than 5 million residents of the D.C. Metropolitan area, providing any type of business with the ability to thrive amongst its target audience. No other place in the world can say it simultaneously provides the largest concentration of excellence with an accurate snapshot of the consumer marketplace as a whole, and it is in this sense that the Greater Washington area provides the best opportunities in the world for a new business to flourish.

    New ideas and new opportunities are abound in the Greater Washington area, as the brightest young minds and the seasoned veterans of their fields converge in the nation’s capital. Indeed, where a swampy marsh once stood 200 years ago, there is now a contemporary fertile crescent for the global marketplace, a land where any business can lay its roots and thrive, growing into a successful enterprise. In an area so richly endowed with the best resources at mankind’s disposal, it is easy to see why hope springs eternal for young enterprises on the banks of the Potomac.