D.C. Officials Talk Business in Las Vegas

James Wright | 5/30/2012, 11:13 a.m.

The District's top officials recently attended a convention that's designed to showcase the city to retailers and corporations around the world.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown, joined by some members of the D.C. Council and heads of city agencies, attended the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) convention in Las Vegas from Sat., May 19-Tuesday, May 22. Gray, 69, said that city leaders received a warm welcome.

"We had 80 meetings where we met [retail] representatives and other businesses," the mayor said. "There were 30,000 people there and the District was considered to be a desirable place to do business."

Founded in 1957, the ICSC, of New York City, is the trade association for the world's shopping center industry. It has 60,000 members in the United States, Canada and more than other 80 countries including shopping center owners, real estate developers, retail leaders and professionals, as well as academicians and public officials.

Many mayors, governors and county executives attend this convention to create business opportunities for their jurisdictions. Anthony Williams, as mayor of the District and Jack Johnson, as county executive of Prince George's County, attended ICSC conventions annually.

Brown said that D.C. Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) and Michael Brown (I-At-Large) attended and talked to retailers and businesses in an attempt to entice them to set up shop in the District.

"The District is considered to be the hottest market in the country now," he said. "When we had our reception for people interested in the District, we had 1,000-1,200 to attend. Most want to come to the District."

Brown said that Costco and Home Depot have expressed interest in expanding operations in the city. He said he spoke with officials from AMC Cinema about the possibility of opening a movie theater in eastern Washington.

The chairman said that discussions started about the possibility of a 24-hour pharmacy in eastern Washington, possibly in the Penn Branch mall in Southeast that would be housed in a CVS or Walgreens.

"That will be helpful for 140,000 people who live east of the river," said Brown, 41.

Gray said that officials of Lowe's said there's a strong possibility that they will open a store in the District in the near future. The mayor also said that retailers and businesses were interested in the Saint Elizabeths development, considering that the U.S. Coast Guard will move its headquarters there in a few years.

The mayor also said that there were talks with retailers about the Walter Reed site in Northwest. It's no secret that Gray would like to see a Wegmans come to the District and thinks that the high-end grocer could do well at the Northwest location.

D.C. Council members Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), David Catania (I-At-Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) did not attend the ICSC.

"I think the mayor should represent the city at that convention," said Wells, 55.

D.C. Council members did manage to get into the news while there. Barry, 76, was hospitalized for a blood clot that drew national attention.

Orange, 54, was published in the Wed., May 23 edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the largest circulating newspaper in Nevada, taking a photo of a development display.

Brown said that District residents should be proud of the city's business reputation.

"We had a very productive convention," he said.