A pair of loud alarm bells sounded last week for the Washington area’s economy, and political leaders from Richmond to Annapolis should take them seriously.
The warning of immediate concern came Thursday at an annual conference of 750 business and civic leaders in McLean. Economics mavens led by George Mason University professor Steve Fuller presented eye-opening data showing that our region has trailed almost every other major U.S. metropolitan area in job growth for the past three years. . .
“You’ve got all these shiny new restaurants . . . and therefore everybody thinks everything’s great,” said David Oberting, executive director of Economic Growth DC, a non-profit organization. “They just don’t see the underlying weaknesses.”
Cutbacks in federal spending are largely to blame, of course, and they can’t be helped. But it’s worrisome that no other business sectors have emerged to replace Uncle Sam as the region’s engine of growth.
The region’s top politicians ought to heed calls at the conference for a Washington-area summit to take steps to respond. . .
The other alarm, of a long-term nature, was rung in a study approved Wednesday by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. It showed how much the region is falling short in investing in infrastructure such as roads, bridges, sewers and the electrical grid.
The staggering figure, considered a conservative estimate: $58 billion over the next 15 years.
That’s how much we need just to “maintain” what government planners view as “critical” building blocks of the regional economy. The cost per resident would be more than $10,000 in extra taxes, user fees, tolls or other charges.
Again, evidence of trouble is all around us. . .
This shortfall in infrastructure spending is hardly unique to our region. The whole country is facing it.
Nonetheless, it’s striking that the report is so much at odds with current budgetary and political realities. . . .This is not a fun read, but everyone should take this article and the two recent events to heart and begin thinking about and doing whatever we can to reverse the situation. Nothing could be worse than not to have the economic growth we need to address the huge shortcomings in our infrastructure. Both need to be fixed now.