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Gray: Economic Development Plan Bearing Fruit

Barrington M. Salmon | 12/23/2013, 3 p.m.
During a recent press conference, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said about 1,100 people a month are moving into the District. He touted the city's education reform and talked about his mandate to provide affordable housing.

The District of Columbia is riding the wave of an economic boon that going into its second year has produced almost 18,000 new jobs, $281 million in tax revenue and slightly less than $1 billion in foreign investment in real estate projects.

Mayor Vincent Gray (D) said the city is on track to achieve its goals of 100,000 new jobs and at least $1 billion in new tax revenue at the end of five years. Gray said city officials have partners, universities, the local business community and a host of others to thank for helping put the District in this position.

“We’re projecting in years two through five to create 82,863 jobs and $281 million in tax revenue,” Gray said during an hour-long presentation at a recent mayoral press conference. “We’re also anticipating $691 million in sales, hotel, restaurant, property taxes, including the taxes of individuals moving to the city.”

“We’ve been combating sequestration. We can’t fight it so we’re going in another direction in the city. We’re adding population and people are bringing resources to this effort … Almost 10,000 private-sector jobs have been created but we lost federal jobs. If we don’t shift this economy in a different direction, we will continue to be affected by what’s going on in the federal government. We can either wring our hands or redefine who D.C. is.”

The Nation’s Capital has become the city of choice for millennials, families with children, singles and others drawn to a burgeoning metropolis with revitalized neighborhoods and quadrants, an explosion of new apartments and condos, hundreds of thousands of square-feet of retail space, bars, restaurants and a bustling nightlife.

The District proved to be a safe harbor from the storms created by the recession, the bursting of the housing bubble and the economic downturn in 2007-2008. The presence of the federal government and federal contractors, ancillary businesses and jobs and other factors provided a cushion. That made the District a beacon and the destination of choice for the well-educated, the young, the well-heeled, techies, and people from around the country and the world, drawn to a place which continued to add jobs while other municipalities and states shed them. Between 2009 and 2011, for example, it is estimated that D.C. attracted more newcomers than it had in the prior decade.

Gray, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins, city officials and business leaders and boosters like the DC Chamber’s Barbara Lang could not be more pleased.

“About 1,100 people a month are moving to D.C,” Gray said. “Diverse numbers of people are coming here. We’re in the midst of education reform, we’re facilitating growth and development, increasing safety and creating as much affordable housing as we can.”

Lang said she is committed to changing current thinking so that businesses feel encouraged to come to the city and stay.

"Nationally, things have been recovering but a lot slower than we'd like to see," Lang said during an earlier interview. "Things are so up and down but D.C. is doing pretty well. We have the hottest real estate in the country and we're the only city that is growing. We're a mecca for young people and are now considered the #7 hippest city in America. D.C. has a lot going on. The mayor is working with us. The mayor and his team get it."

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