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Government and People
Vince Gray’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Development
Vince Gray believes now is the time for the District of Columbia to better connect its residents to jobs, accelerate business growth, and create a model for 21st century sustainable urban economic development.
Unfortunately, for the last three and a half years, the current administration has provided no economic development strategy for its most important shareholders – the public for which it serves. Workforce development, in particular, has been put on the back burner and too many people are wondering from where their next paycheck is coming. This year, the city-wide jobless numbers have hit a record high. In Ward 7, unemployment is at 19% and in Ward 8, it’s close to 30%.
Vince Gray knows this inattention is a problem that affects every District resident. High unemployment in our city affects the overall tax base, as well as our healthcare and social service costs. Idle hands affect our public safety and drive up incarceration and detention costs. Unemployment increases health risks including obesity and addiction, and strains our fragile safety nets. The more people are out of work, the tougher it becomes for our local small business owners, a vital segment of our economy, to stay in business.
This lack of jobs in the District is a ticking time bomb that affects us all. And the current administration has virtually ignored unemployment, doing little, if anything, to deal with this growing crisis – focusing more on creating jobs for the Mayor’s friends and allies than on the growing number of District residents trying to make ends meet.
As Mayor, Vince Gray will bring his own unique perspective to the issue of jobs and economic development. As a lifelong advocate for the disabled, the homeless, and at-risk youth, Vince Gray has worked tirelessly to improve conditions and expand opportunities for those who have been economically marginalized and disenfranchised in the District. As a member and Chairman of the DC Council, Vince Gray has been a tireless advocate for workforce development initiatives, as well as policies to help small businesses, smart growth, and neighborhood revitalization projects.
Until the recession hit, the District’s economic development was strong but concentrated in only a few parts of the city. As the economy recovers, economic development will pick up again, but must be reoriented to benefit areas across the whole city. Magnificent new office and residential buildings in a few emerging neighborhoods are positive statements of belief in the District’s economy, but the benefits of these developments have not reached our most distressed neighborhoods to provide living wages and economic opportunity.
It’s clear we need a Mayor who makes economic development a priority of the Mayor’s office, not only by utilizing existing tools, but by identifying new opportunities for job creation throughout the District; a Mayor who will find ways to connect District residents to local jobs and expand the economy for the benefit of all our citizens. And we clearly need to restore integrity and accountability to the economic development process, with a Mayor who will focus on creating jobs for all DC residents, not just his friends and cronies.
Above all, Vince Gray believes that the way to a better and more prosperous economic future is to create a new sense of urgency and collective responsibility in all sectors of the city – public, private, and civic. In this regard, and unlike Mr. Fenty, he offers his ability to engage, to problem solve, to inspire – and most importantly – to lead.
The Vince Gray economic development and jobs plan is based on the following core principles:
Creating a Real Economic Development Strategy and Infrastructure
Vince Gray knows that a detailed economic development strategy for the future, with a Deputy Mayor focused on local business growth, is central to creating a vibrant, local economy. Vince Gray also understands the urgent need to take action – that we cannot wait another day to get the city’s economy back on track.
As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Convene a DC Economic Development Task Force including a Jobs Summit to take place before he takes office. Vince Gray believes that we need more than an array of unrelated economic development projects if we are going to jumpstart the District’s economy. Instead, we need to immediately develop a long-term economic development strategy. As Mayor-Elect, Vince Gray will convene a DC Economic Development Task Force during his transition – with a Jobs Summit to take place during the fall of 2010. The DC Economic Development Task Force will include business owners, organized labor, government officials, job training providers, representatives of the higher education community, and other key stakeholders. The Task Force will identify strategic opportunities and targets for growing the city’s economy and creating jobs. The Jobs Summit will create the tactics and action plan for delivering jobs to residents. Mayor-Elect Gray will preside over the Summit and the Task Force which will be charged with submitting its findings and initial work-products within the new Administration’s first 100 days. Vince Gray will charge the Task Force with delivering three key deliverables: (i) an analysis of the strengths, opportunities and targets for economic development (ii) an action plan for linking job opportunities to market potentials, and (iii) proposed improvements to the District’s First Source law.
Recast the mission and structure of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. One of the early priorities of the Gray Administration will be to significantly reshape the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED). The current mission of DMPED is heavily weighted in favor of Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and development projects with little, if any, attention being given to business development and jobs. As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Making Workforce Development a Top Priority
There is no issue of greater importance than connecting District residents to jobs. For too long, the city has had a haphazard approach to job training and readiness, with existing programs having little or no accountability for their preparation or their connection of residents to the workforce. Under a Vince Gray Administration, this will change.
As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Enforce the District’s First Source law and implement changes suggested by the DC Economic Development Task Force and Jobs Summit. The District’s First Source law has been mismanaged, abused, and ignored. According to a recent DC Auditor report, the current administration has failed to implement and enforce the First Source law, costing District residents hundreds of jobs and more than $14 million in lost income. As the DC Auditor stated in the May 2010 report, “DOES did not implement a reliable system of internal control…[and] could not adequately track monthly reports and fulfill monitoring duties and responsibilities.” As Mayor, Vince Gray will sign an executive order on his first day in office, directing the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to actively oversee First Source compliance. The Deputy Mayor will immediately establish a First Source tracking system, complete regular internal oversight-review processes, monitor recordkeeping, and work to implement recommendations from the DC Economic Development Task Force and Jobs Summit.
Re-invigorate the Workforce Investment Council (WIC) to provide improved oversight and better outcomes for local job training programs.
While steps have been made in recent years to improve the WIC – a vital, federally-mandated body that oversees much of the District’s workforce development funding – the WIC is still not meeting its mandate to provide robust and stringent oversight of local job training programs. As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Require a competitive RFP process for all job training providers funded by DOES and use a performance-based procurement model that holds providers accountable. Too many public job-training dollars are spent without a competitive process, with few clear benchmarks, and with little accountability for outcomes. As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Expand and leverage the Community College’s contribution to workforce development. The Community College of the District of Columbia (CCDC), championed by Chairman Gray, will have a tremendously positive impact on the District’s ability to train its residents for jobs. The CCDC will work with existing job incubators and work to start new ones in every area of the city. Initial enrollment figures are one of several indicators that confirm the promise of CCDC – and Vince Gray will look to build on this early success as Mayor. As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Revamp the Transitional Jobs Program to better provide an on-ramp to employment for District residents. Many District residents who have useful job skills still need assistance to obtain lasting employment. As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Responsibly design and manage the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). Every summer, the news media is filled with stories about the gross mismanagement of Mayor Fenty’s Summer Youth Employment Program – mismanagement that results in poor outcomes and uneven experiences for the youth it supposedly serves, not to mention the wasting of taxpayer dollars. As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Ensuring a Competitive Edge in the Region and a Business-Friendly Environment
Northrop Grumman’s recent decision to relocate to Virginia, instead of the District, amply demonstrated the city’s difficulty attracting business and, thus, jobs. But it is not just large companies that find the city to be a problematic place to do business: the District of Columbia was recently ranked last – 51 out of 51 – in a recently-published “Small Business Survival Index.” As Chairman of the Council, Vince Gray was a leader in making the District a more competitive playing field for small business owners by raising the personal property tax exemption from $50,000 to $200,000, assisting smaller property owners and business tenants, and dedicated a portion of the revenue to neighborhood investment strategies. As leader of the city that’s at the center of the fourth largest metropolitan economy in America, Vince Gray will work tirelessly to attract businesses, both large and small, to the District.
As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Convene Industry Advisory Councils focused on specific core industries with recommendations due within six months of taking office. These Industry Advisory Councils will develop specific recommendations on how the District can improve the business climate for the District’s core industries. By focusing on discrete sectors of the economy, meaningful recommendations will be made by experts on issues from tax and regulatory changes to infrastructure improvements and targeted job training. The Councils will be put into place during the transition and will have six months from the inauguration to develop detailed, actionable plans.
Establish a ‘Business One Stop,’ within the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, for new and existing businesses. The necessary steps to start and build a business should be in one easy-to-use, well-defined place. The new Business One Stop will be a web-portal to provide prospective and current businesses detailed information on how to start and grow a business, including a customized, step-by-step list of permits, licenses, inspections, and funding sources.
Establish position of small-business expeditor in the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. As discussed earlier, this position will help businesses with licensing, permits, and certificates of occupancy.
Empower CAPGO and NEDCO to provide much-needed capital to local businesses. As discussed earlier, these programs can provide vital capital to local firms seeking to expand their businesses and create jobs.
Reduce healthcare costs for local businesses by fast-tracking the development of ‘SHOP’ exchanges. Vince Gray knows that rising healthcare costs are severely impacting businesses – particularly in this already-tough economic climate. ‘SHOP’ exchanges have worked well in other cities and it is a best practice we will try in DC. This idea, and others like it, have come from our business community and small business leaders and are the type of ideas we will explore by collaborating with stakeholders.
A key component of the recently-passed federal healthcare reform was the inclusion of mandatory Small Business Health Options Programs, or ‘SHOP’ exchanges. This program creates purchasing pools where small businesses can, together, purchase health insurance – often at a fraction of the cost if they were to acquire insurance on their own.
The healthcare reform bill requires that such exchanges are created by 2014, but Vince Gray will not wait to implement and realize the critical benefits of this initiative. As Mayor, Vince Gray will work to create robust SHOP exchanges for District businesses immediately.
Increase the supply of workforce housing. Vince Gray recognizes that we cannot be economically competitive if only 33% of our workforce lives within the District. In order to increase job productivity, grow our revenue base, and promote sustainable development, Vince Gray is strongly committed to (i) programs designed to increase the supply of workforce housing and mixed-income housing in the District, and (ii) full compliance with mandatory inclusionary zoning, as well as the affordable housing requirements in publicly-assisted economic development projects.
Vince Gray will work with the Council and other stakeholders to identify workforce housing zones near neighborhoods undergoing redevelopment to connect residents to local job opportunities. Vince Gray will charge the Office of Planning and Economic Development to provide options for workforce housing zones, in partnership with developers, who will be provided tax breaks and other incentives. Currently, developers have difficulty with mandatory inclusionary zoning. These zones will ensure that in neighborhoods like Columbia Heights, the H Street Corridor, and Southwest that good jobs go to nearby residents.
Viewing the Federal Government as a Core Industry
In terms of economic development, the District government would be shortsighted if it did not view the Federal government as its leading core industry and treat it as a valued client. This reality has been lost on the Fenty administration. In the past year, it finally hired one staff person who spends only part-time tending to the District’s relationship with the Federal government. The incumbent has no strategy or business model for more fully reaping the benefits of the Federal government’s presence and no thought on how to expand the relationship.
As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Task the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to designate two existing positions as point persons for the District’s relationship with the Federal government. These staff persons will maintain regular contact with the General Services Administration to ensure that the District is always under consideration for meeting Federal agency and department space requirements. Their duties will also involve providing prompt responses to agency and department requests for assistance.
Task District agency and department heads to identify opportunities for Federal funding. Pilot programs, infrastructure improvement, and reimbursements will create jobs and save money for District residents who pay among highest federal taxes in the country.
Create Department of Homeland Security (DHS) job and community incubation zone working group. This is a Vince Gray priority and it will require understanding the full panoply of jobs and opportunities at DHS. This opportunity presents a once-in-a-generation chance to provide jobs and to incubate local and small businesses that can provide services to DHS and its workers. This incubation zone working group, led by the Deputy Mayor will partner with federal, public, and private sector stakeholders to ensure a comprehensive approach is brought to this project. The Deputy Mayor will recommend a plan for identifying and supporting local entrepreneurs, revitalizing nearby neighborhoods, including developing workforce housing, within six months of taking office. This working group will be recruited and convened as part of the Economic Development Task Force and Jobs Summit during the fall of 2010.
Supporting the District’s Diverse Industries
While the federal government has a large presence in the District, we are fortunate to have other strong industries that help sustain our economy and tax base. Vince Gray understands how important a diverse business community is to the well-being of the District. He will work closely with these industries and bring them together to achieve common goals and create stronger markets to achieve his vision for a city that works better together.
More than ever before, the District is primed to become a national leader and incubator for business in the new economy. Vince Gray will ensure that all leading and emerging industries get the support they need.
As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Energize the District’s Creative, Arts and Entertainment Industries. Creative industries are vital to the District’s economy and in the generation of new, good-paying jobs. The District’s creative economy includes: marketing, architecture, fashion, the arts, design, film, music and video production, software development, information technology services, publishing, television, digital media and new media. Our arts community, from THEARC (located east of the Anacostia River) to the Shakespeare Theatre and to the Fringe Festival, provides important opportunities for residents to create, work, and be engaged in the arts. We also have an opportunity to create arts and entertainment zones around important community assets like the Verizon Center and Nationals Stadium. As Mayor, Vince Gray will ensure that one of the Industry Advisory Councils is made up of leaders from the arts, media, sports, cultural, and university communities to develop policies to better support the creative industries.
Grow and Support the Hospitality, Convention, and Tourism Economy. Over the past fifteen years, the District has been transformed into one of the premier capital cities of the world. We now stand proudly with London, Rome, and Paris as one of the finest global destinations. Nevertheless, this progress is in jeopardy due to the current administration’s lack of interest in tourism. In 2007, direct spending by travelers to DC generated $5.5 billion dollars in receipts and provided over 71,000 jobs. The Fenty administration’s inattention has slowed the progress made during the Williams administration. Hotel occupancy, restaurant revenue, and museum attendance are all down. This trend began in 2007 before the economic crisis and promises to continue without the kind of strong leadership that Vince Gray can provide. As Mayor, Vince Gray will work with the private sector (banks, venture capital funds, foundations, the United Way, individual investors) to create a Hospitality Investment Fund. The fund will provide early stage investments in the hospitality, convention and tourism industries.
Revitalize Hospitals and the Health Industry. As one of the city’s largest employers, District of Columbia hospitals employ approximately 30,000 people, including over 6,000 DC residents, who are on the front lines of quality healthcare delivery. Our hospitals are vital components in the healthcare safety net. It is critical that each hospital remains viable, particularly the only hospital east of the river, United Medical Center which is now owned by the city. The success of UMC is critical and it must improve the quality of care for District residents to regain the trust of the community. The current administration has not focused on the industry in a way that serves all residents equally. As Mayor, Vince Gray will ensure that an Industry Council will be comprised of hospital and healthcare leadership to develop ways for more DC residents to work in the industry, to explore ways for the District to become a national leader in research, and to excel as a provider of healthcare. Vince Gray pledges to support the Allied Health Programs being developed in conjunction with the Community College of the District of Columbia, and he will mandate that Student Success Teams from CCDC provide information to high school students describing opportunities in the healthcare field.
Making Transportation and Infrastructure Work for Residents
Economic development will struggle without having the right transportation and infrastructure in place. When transportation policies are guided solely by concern for capacity and ridership numbers, powerful economic development opportunities are usually squandered. The real test, from an economic development perspective, is how infrastructure investments, including transportation policies and decisions, are integrated into a vision for economic growth to build a stronger District economy.
Transportation is more than connecting points on a map. It is about creating attractive places where our citizens work, shop, and go for entertainment. Carefully designed, pedestrian scaled streets are integral to the high quality of life all District residents deserve.
In the District, we also have a critical need to get our citizens to places of employment – both in the city and in the surrounding jurisdictions. Meeting this need cannot be undertaken by the Department of Transportation working in isolation. It’s also noteworthy that the transportation industry itself offers a source of good-paying jobs for District residents.
As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Assess the current transportation infrastructure in areas of high unemployment and underemployment. As Mayor, Vince Gray will require the Directors of the Department of Transportation, the Office of Planning, and the Department of Employment Services to determine the adequacy of transportation in areas of the city experiencing high rates of unemployment and underemployment. The Directors will be tasked with providing specific recommendations on how best to improve the transportation infrastructure for residents in these neighborhoods in order to travel to places of employment.
Assess how well the transportation system is serving the needs of District visitors. As Mayor, Vince Gray will determine, in consultation with the hospitality and tourism industries, how well the current transportation system is meeting the needs of visitors to the District and initiate changes and improvements where needed. The Circulator has proven to be an invaluable resource for the hospitality and tourism industries and deserves continued support.
Bring the best thinking and analysis to the issue of a streetcar system for the District. As Mayor, Vince Gray will develop a comprehensive and thoughtful plan for the District’s streetcar network. The plan’s alignment will promote economic development and will be based on realistic funding sources, including private sector participation, and will be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and other land use policies.
Provide incentives for the use of electric vehicles.
As Mayor, Vince Gray will explore various incentives to help District residents purchase electric cars, including possible tax credits. Vince Gray will also explore best practices to place and pay for charging stations.
Positioning the District as a Leader in the Green Economy
Vince Gray will work to create green jobs for District residents, strive to cut energy costs for both residents and businesses, improve our natural environment, reduce our carbon footprint, and make the District of Columbia the model of a strong, green, urban economy.
The building blocks for the District’s green economy are strong. In large part through Chairman Gray’s leadership, the city has one of the country’s leading green building laws, the framework for a sustainable energy utility, the potential for transformative energy efficiency financing, and a number of local firms poised for growth. Yet the executive branch leadership needed to take the District to the next level has been lacking –Washington, DC has the potential to be a model city for green economic growth.
As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Facilitate worker-owned, green-focused businesses through the creation of the District Green Initiative. The Gray Administration will develop a District Green Initiative (DGI) to create green jobs, especially in neighborhoods that historically have been overlooked when it comes to economic development. Modeled after a growing number of worker-owned cooperatives in other major cities, DGI will create thousands of green jobs and build financial security for worker-owners. DGI’s mission will be to:
Establish a robust Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) with predictable and consistent funding from the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund. Under Vince Gray’s leadership, the DC Council approved landmark legislation creating a Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) in 2008. The idea was to utilize an already-existing special assessment on electric utility bills – directed to the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (SETF) – in order to finance operation of the private, independent contractor (the SEU) so that it could then carry out innovative and market-based programs designed to reduce the city’s energy consumption.
Unfortunately, the current administration was inexcusably slow in releasing the RFP for the SEU contractor – with the program now more than a year behind schedule.
As Mayor, Vince Gray will fast-track the program, ensure the creation of green jobs for city residents, and fulfill the original promise of the SEU.
The Vince Gray Administration will also ensure that funds dedicated to the SEU remain intact and used as intended. Regrettably, the FY 2011 budget recently submitted by the Fenty administration attempted (an action ultimately amended by the Council) to re-direct these funds to the District’s general fund and other projects – which flew directly in the face of the underlying policy rationale for the utility bill assessments and threatened the future of the SEU program. Vince Gray will ensure that adequate funding is kept in place.
Establish Home Performance with Energy Star Program. The home performance industry – with residential energy efficiency improvements at its core – has lagged in the District of Columbia. As Mayor, Vince Gray will institute a Home Performance with Energy Star (HPwES) Program to jump-start this industry, creating green jobs for District residents and reducing energy costs for District families. Several important elements and benefits of the HPwES Program are:
Enhancing the District’s Status as a Global Financial Center
As the current financial crisis continues, the District of Columbia has become the epicenter of America’s global economic response. As this financial crisis shows, the U.S. government has a strong interest in preventing systemic financial problems. The auto, insurance and finance industry bailouts, plus new federal government regulations across the entire spectrum of the national and international economies, have moved many of the nation’s financial decisions from Wall Street to Capitol Hill.
Vince Gray recognizes that this new economic reality creates tremendous potential for the District of Columbia to emerge as new global financial center. To help realize that potential, Vince Gray is working with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to push for federal legislation entitled “The DC National Disaster Insurance Protection Act (H.R. 5762)”.
The bill would position the District as an international financial center by ensuring that catastrophic insurance reserves are available in the U.S. to cover losses from natural and man-made catastrophes. The bill amends federal tax law to make the District a special tax jurisdiction where catastrophic insurance reserves and the investment income from these reserves, will be exempt from federal taxes. Under current federal law, these funds are subject to federal taxes, which have led property and casualty insurers to hold billions of dollars in reserves in foreign jurisdictions, such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, where they are not subject to U.S. federal taxes.
As Mayor, Vince Gray will:
Work with Congresswoman Norton, other members of Congress and the White House to assure the legislation is signed into law. In this way the legislation will spur direct and indirect economic development in the District and across the region. Companies keeping their reserves in the District will be required to have a physical office here and employ a certain number of District residents, leading to new jobs, increased income, sales and property tax revenue.
Work with affiliated businesses such as lawyers, accountants, actuaries, bankers, insurance consultants, and support personnel to assure the District provides the needed services required of these new insurance companies. This coordination by the District’s government will ensure that District residents get a fair share of the jobs created by this legislation and that we maximize the tax revenue generation opportunities.
Work with the District’s Office and Tax and Revenue to assure the District charges an excise, premium tax, or fee on the catastrophic funds as other sovereign jurisdictions have done in the past (part of the proposed legislation). In this way, the District would derive increased tax revenue from the banks holding the funds. The bill would be a financial boon to the District, retaining funds here, where they would fuel the local economy. This bill also would help protect individuals and businesses with property and casualty insurance, as well as U.S. taxpayers. But most importantly, this legislation will create new jobs for District residents, both professional and service-support jobs for these new insurance companies.
Vince Gray’s vision for economic development and job creation is to better connect residents to job opportunities and get the District’s economy back on track. This vision will engage all key stakeholders, from business owners to organized labor, to residents looking for work. Vince Gray will make certain local businesses have the tools to help them grow, while also ensuring the District government catalyzes resources for small business incubation and ensures our residents get the jobs they urgently need.
After nearly four years of limited vision, stunted growth, and an unequal playing field, it is time for the District to realize its full potential. This economic development and job creation plan will commit the Vince Gray administration to real change, including:
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