Getting Montgomery County back on track
Nothing else works without a dynamic and dependable economy. Right now our economy is stalled. If we don't act now, we will face catastrophic consequences.
Without question, my top priority as County Council president will be to restart our economic engine and make sure it stays ignited.
Here's a startling fact: In the last year, 14,000 Montgomery County residents lost their jobs. What's more, our unemployment rate is higher than it has been in recorded history, and that number excludes those who have given up looking for a job or are underemployed.
This is a devastating blow, and it creates negative ripple effects across our county. We cannot afford to let jobs leave Montgomery County.
To keep our engine humming, we must find ways to attract and retain businesses that provide solid careers and good paying jobs for our residents. As part of the metropolitan Washington area, we are competing with some top-notch jurisdictions for coveted industries.
Our county is next to last in the region in job growth this decade, while Fairfax County has added nearly 43,000 jobs since 2001. We have too many assets to let Fairfax or any of our neighbors beat us when it comes to offering attractive job opportunities.
We have to become more competitive to entice biotechnology, clean energy, defense and government jobs, given our advantageous strategic location. That can stimulate our economy over the next few emergency years and establish vital business sectors for the long term.
We currently have initiatives under way to address these unprecedented economic problems, but many more aggressive steps need to be taken, across our economy and in full concert with our extraordinary business community.
That is why I am proposing that we create a completely new Economic Development Authority, on a magnitude and design that has not been aggressively pursued before in Montgomery County.
Dire times require bold solutions.
We need an infusion of new investments. We need to stabilize certain vital sectors, like retail and the construction industries. We need the banking community to reliably supply capital to small businesses.
We need to partner with the federal and state governments for building-block grants in such growth areas as health care, IT and energy. Our universities need to align their research and applied enterprises with the county's long-term economic development priorities.
We have to formulate workable enterprise zones for maximizing the entrepreneurial spirit. And our scientific laboratories should be ahead of the curve in uncovering the next wave of cutting-edge and market-ready technology.
Fundamentally, I am talking about a public-private partnership, which leverages the best minds, resources and institutions all aimed at springboarding our economy forward.
For the Montgomery County Economic Development Authority to be successful we need to empower it with decisive capability and have it led by business leaders. I am working with the county executive's staff, my council colleagues and leaders from our business community to develop the best approach to creating a meaningful authority.
For me, the economy is job one. We must get Montgomery County back on track.
Nancy Floreen, Garrett Park
The writer is an at-large member of the Montgomery County Council and was elected president of the council in December.