We’d like to thank Charles Lindsay, Councilmember Marion Barry’s economic development adviser for sitting down with us last week. It was an interesting conversation and there are significant things happening in Ward 8 these days. Most of our conversation centered on mechanisms for capitalizing on the momentum that exists in Ward 8 and the use of incentives to accelerate future growth. The idea of declaring all of Ward 8 a special economic zone is worth considering.
Ward 8 could be declared a Special Economic Zone for a specific amount of time, say 15 years. Residents, workers, existing businesses, and new businesses that might move to Ward 8 or be created there would all receive preferential tax treatment for the 15 year period. Property taxes could be frozen. If you live in Ward 8, the top individual income tax rate could be cut to 5%. If you live elsewhere in the District, but work in Ward 8, you could get the same 5% rate. If you both live and work in Ward 8, your rate could be even lower. Taxes on businesses could be reduced and a restaurant opportunity tax credit could be created for anyone opening a restaurant in Ward 8. Tax incentives could also be used to drive an acceleration in real estate development. You could cut sales taxes on goods and services sold in Ward 8 as a means of increasing consumption.
The idea is to make it less expensive to live, work, and run a business in Ward 8 and let economic incentives do their work. This would be an expensive proposition, but if your goal is to increase economic opportunity and reduce the 22% unemployment rate in Ward 8, an aggressive package of incentives is the best way to accelerate growth and accomplish that goal.