The District of Columbia had a $109.4 billion economy in 2012. An astounding 35% of that economy was derived from government spending. The national average for the 50 states is about 11%. The District desperately needs to diversify its economy away from the federal government. Technology is the best path to achieving that goal for a couple of reasons:
Every high-paying technology position that’s created in the District subsequently leads to the creation of five related support positions such as waiters and landscapers. Technology is based almost exclusively on intellectual property and intellectual capital. This keeps startup costs low and operating expenses reasonable. It also doesn’t take up much space. The District is confined to 67 square miles of real estate and we are densely packed and getting denser.
Economic Growth DC plans to facilitate the growth of the District’s tech sector in a number of way. They are:
1) Policy advocacy and legislative opportunities. EGDC is primarily an advocacy organization, so we’ll be at the Council and in front of DCRA and other executive branch agencies promoting policies that are conducive to the faster growth of the technology sector.
2) Venture capital firm engagement and recruitment. EGDC believes that in order to exponentially grow the amount of venture capital invested in the District, we need to have the largest venture capital firms on the ground here pursuing investment opportunities. EGDC plans to spend part of its time recruiting the very biggest names in venture capital to the District.
3) Additive manufacturing. The District will never be a manufacturing hub. Our geography doesn’t permit it. However, we are in a position to capitalize on the birth of new industry: 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing is an industry exploding all around country. We’ve recommended the District legislate ways to make it easier to start and build an additive manufacturing business in the District. It could provide tax incentives for the purchase of what is sometimes expensive pieces of equipment and it could make special provisions for the establishment of such businesses.
4) Technology business recruitment. We focus on making the District a better, easier and less expensive place to do business. These elements are a critical component of being able to recruit existing businesses to the District. We have the most highly educated workforce in the country. The amount of brainpower here is immense. Companies should want to tap into that as we make the District a better place to do business.
5) Building a pipeline of talent. In our conversations with technology entrepreneurs, they already talk about a shortage of top technology talent. They are having a difficult time recruiting coders, software engineers and other types of technology professionals — who also happen to be the people who start companies. This fall, our foundation will begin a program called Code4Life. It is an after-school basic computer programming class. Students will enter the program in 6th grade and remain there through high school. Our plan is that graduates from the program will be so skilled that there will be technology companies interested in hiring them immediately.