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Economist: Montgomery County failing to create jobs

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Local,Business,Maryland,Rachel Baye

Montgomery County has created no net new jobs in the last 10 years, although the Washington area has had some of the strongest job growth in the country, according to local economist Stephen Fuller.

And over the last 20 years, job growth has grown a meager 15.4 percent in Montgomery, compared with 57.5 percent in rival Fairfax County and 31.7 in the Washington area, said Fuller, director of George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis.

Montgomery's economy also grew slower than the Washington region's, growing by 87.3 percent in the last two decades while the region's grew 99.5 percent. Fairfax's grew by 132.5 percent, Fuller told the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday.

Also in Montgomery
• County Executive Ike Leggett sent a letter to the County Council President Valerie Ervin, D-Silver Spring, urging the council to vote on his proposed youth curfew before its December recess.
Leggett blamed an anti-loitering bill proposed by Councilman Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville and the curfew's most vocal opponent, for the delay.
"It's time to recognize the introduction of the loitering bill for what it really is -- a stall tactic intended to confuse the debate on the curfew bill and delay action on the curfew bill," Leggett wrote.
• The council repealed its Renewable Energy Tax Credit program. As a result of the county's $400,000 cap on the program, there is a six-year backlog of residents waiting to receive their tax credits. New applications for the credit will not be accepted.
• The county Department of Finance is having trouble completing its accounting for the last fiscal year.
As a result, Director Joe Beach asked the council's Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee for $400,000 to pay accounting firm Clifton Gunderson to help the county meet state and federal deadlines.

Overall, Northern Virginia makes up about 45 percent of the region's economy, while suburban Maryland has been stagnant at just over 30 percent for 20 years.

Suburban Maryland's economic struggles are reflected in the area's ability to pull itself out of the current recession.

Job growth in Montgomery and Prince George's counties began to recover in August 2010, three months after it did in most areas, but the growth has remained stagnant for the last five months.

"Basically, it's lost its momentum," Fuller said.

Fuller pointed to federal spending as an indicator of economic growth. The region received $169 billion in federal money in 2010, of which $33.5 billion went to Fairfax while $20.7 billion went to Montgomery. Between 1990 and 2010, federal payroll grew 170 percent in Montgomery and 230 percent in Fairfax.

However, the federal government's influence on the area will shrink in the decade to come, he said. Federal spending currently makes up just under 30 percent of the county's economy but is projected to shrink to about 24 percent by 2020. The same trend will be seen throughout the Washington area, he said.

"Non-local business -- which has not been what we are good at -- is going to be really important," he said. As more businesses decide to do international work from the Washington area, Montgomery County should try to recruit them.

But selling itself has not been one of Montgomery's strongest abilities, the council members said.

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Examiner Archives
  • Mont. County not business friendly enough (10-25-11)
  • Fairfax, MontCo compete for jobs using vastly different budgets, strategies (10-15-11)
  • Montgomery tries to stop jobs slide  (7-25-11)
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