Health care, hospitality and the tech industry are the keys to the District’s future, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said in his State of the District address Tuesday.
Gray said the city has enjoyed tremendous growth in a tight economy, but that the wealth had been spread unevenly.
The District, Gray said, is the “No. 1 place for young professionals to move, No. 1 in foreign real estate investment, No. 1 for the number of fast-growing private companies, No. 1 in metro household income and No. 1 for quality of living in the Mid-Atlantic region…and just recently we announced that we ended 2011 with one of the largest budget surpluses in our history – $240 million.”
And, the mayor noted, the District added 9,500 jobs in the last year and expect to add another 45,000 by 2015, “but the problem is that while all of this economic growth is good for the city, some of our fellow Washingtonians have not yet benefited from the economic turnaround. They still struggle to find a job, put food on the table and pay the rent.”
To counter that, the mayor said, “my plan for building ‘one city’ focuses on three priorities: creating a new economy for the District that is growing and diversified, ensuring that District residents are prepared for the jobs of the new economy, and improving the quality of life for all.”
He said the city must become less reliant on the federal government and real estate development “that too often in the past was ad hoc and reactive.”
Instead, Gray said, the city must focus on existing growth industries, particularly health care and hospitality, and growing the District’s tech sector.
“In fact, we want to be the tech destination city on the East Coast, a rival to Silicon Valley for talent and fast-growing businesses,” Gray said.
The mayor identified the east side of the former St. Elizabeth’s Hospital as the perfect location for a new tech campus.
A combination of tax breaks, improved broadband coverage and other incentives would be used to achieve these goals. Gray said he also plans to bring more international investment to the District and would be taking several economic development trips in the coming months, starting with China.