Regionalism Day 2019

October 15, 2019

The Class of 2020 convened at Gallup headquarters on October 10 for a program introducing the concept of regionalism: an approach to integrating goals for economic growth and social progress across Greater Washington.

Our accomplished leaders explored regional successes and challenges to further prepare them to make a collective positive impact throughout our region and to provide context for future program day discussions and initiatives. What follows is a recap of some of the day's activities:

Program Co-Leaders Mioshi Moses (’16), Executive Director, Genesys Works National Capital Region, and Howard Ross (’91), Founding Partner, Udarta Consulting welcomed the class and introduced the topic. A variety of class members brought experience to the conversation, sharing their diverse experience with applying the principles of regionalism through their work in the region. 

Mioshi Moses (’16) led a panel with journalists Robert (Bob) McCartney (’07) Senior Regional Correspondent and Associate Editor for The Washington Post, and Vandana Sinha (’18) Editor-in-Chief, Washington Business Journal. The two gave background on the historical context of regionalism in Greater Washington and led an interactive discussion on present-day successes and challenges inherent to the region. 

Robert McCartney ('07) said, "we need to create a climate of opinion -- where there is instant recognition and instant consensus -- that regionalism is the way to go, and media can play a big role in this." Panelists encouraged participants to collaborate across geographical boundaries, "there is a greater good to working together as a region than working as jurisdictions, " said Vandana Sinha ('18). 

With a focus on mobilizing leaders around a common cause, and empowering participants to serve as a collective force for social change, we took a deep dive into the economic status of our region and its interrelated effects through an examination of data. This portion was Led by Jeanette Chapman, Deputy Director and Senior Research Associate with the Stephen S. Fuller Institute for Research on the Washington Region’s Economic Future at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.

Considering our region's economy broadly, Jeannette pointed out, "job growth is concentrated in professional business services, state and local government and leisure and hospitality services. If this continues in the next couple of years, it is going to make it hard to function because we need more sectors to balance our economy." The chart below demonstrates the most concentrated occupations in our region by type:

Jeanette Chapman provided a dynamic and fascinating overview of the role our region plays in the US economy, delving into recent trends and near-term economic forecasts covering everything from job growth, population shifts, educational attainment, and data examining the types of professional sectors most common to our region. This was followed by a lively Q&A where members discussed the factors crucial to advancing our region. Here are just a few of the questions that came up:

Q: Most of the people earning below 30K in our region are black and brown. When you look at poverty, you can determine how people are faring by their race. What is the impact on communities of color in our region? How can we make sure those impacts are not as egregious? 

A: Jeannette Chapman:  It is easier to address this when you have more in the pot than less. If you look at the course of the last recession, the poor are the first out of economic growth and the last back in. So, in the last 6 months, they are finally getting wage growth, and it is going to disappear in the next year or so. In terms of DC, offering universal Pre-K has done well as a long-term solution. The short-term solution is housing, and how to make policy interventions that will help people benefit in the job market. Are we doing enough? The answer is that we can never do enough.

Q: Do you think Amazon is a blip or a game-changer? 

A: Jeannette Chapman: Amazon is a continuation of a trend – they came here to be close to the federal government. Our specialty is smart people, and a lot of businesses take advantage of that. I don’t think the halo effect will be quite as strong as it was in Seattle with startups, but I do think it will have a positive impact in terms of branding our region. When you are looking at location and growth, you are looking at more than one factor. It is going to have a big impact on Crystal City, but we can’t all just go home yet.

Q: DC is a very liberal and progressive place. What are the effects of those laws on the business community? 

A:  Jeannette Chapman: Policies are always about balancing tradeoffs. When we ramp up social spending, there is always a tradeoff. Those policies work much better when the economy is expanding. DC has ramped up its commercial tax base. In the long term, markets will adjust. We are competing with New York, San Francisco, and Boston and their tax environments are similar. We have three distinct tax environments in our region, but it is easier to get a deal through in Northern Virginia due to their tax environment. That will likely continue as the economy slows because every little cost tends to add up.

Q: I am curious about artificial intelligence and the impact on jobs. As leaders in this area, is this something we should be concerned about? 

A: Jeannette Chapman: We haven’t looked closely at AI yet, but automation, in general, will have a big impact on jobs. In our area, our jobs are less prone to automation, because we are specialized. Retail in our region requires person to person interaction. We prefer talking to a human. In terms of AI, I don’t know the realistic timeframe of when we should start worrying about that. Automated vehicles are probably next up. 

Q: As an architect in the region, we are always challenged to find skilled construction workers. How are we working towards that? We have more projects, but we are not finding more people. What are we doing to address immigration in the Latino community? 

A: Jeannette Chapman: It is becoming harder for lower waged jobs to attract and retain a workforce. There is a dearth of workers. Our region has a large immigrant community. Our embassies and consulates have a pull from other areas. We tend to migrate in flows. People tend to move where there are already established family and other support networks. So that can help. Our region does rely heavily on immigration for population growth. It is agnostic to where you were born. Many of the workers are migrants rather than “immigrants”. We do rely on Latino populations for job growth. We are not special in that we rely on immigration to maintain base levels of growth.

Q: We are a hot market from a talent perspective. I have recently given my team at Deloitte significant raises. What are some strategies for keeping top-performing workers in our region?

A: Jeannette Chapman: It is no longer just a wage story, to keep the workers that you have, wages are a part of that, but when you are trying to fill new jobs it is all about finding new workers. Our population growth rate last year slowed to the lowest rate since the 1980s. It is a demographic story; our housing market creates high barriers for entry, so that is the key factor when you are thinking about the impediments to getting people in and keeping them.

The program continued with “The Pitch,” an exercise where participants break up into teams and pitch a hypothetical business in either DC, suburban MD or Northern Virginia to imaginary investors. The exercise was led by advisors Christina Winn, Executive Director, Prince William County Department of Economic Development, Neil Albert (’13) President & Executive Director Downtown DC BID and David Iannucci President & CEO, Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation.

The class voted on the winning pitch and most voted along jurisdictional lines, proving that community self-interests play a role in regionalism. Advisors rated teams based on their effectiveness in demonstrating the value of the labor force, legislative environment, quality of life, transportation, business climate, education and real estate within the region. The experience demonstrated the power of embracing regionalism when working to advance a community, and each team emphasized the unique characteristics of their region, while also demonstrating the value of proximity to the others.

The focus of the November program will be education, with the goal of increasing awareness of the education system and how class members play a role in supporting the system and community. Learn more about the Signature Program here. 

Regionalism Day 2019