D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray launches plan to create 100k jobs

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Photo - D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (Examiner file photo)
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray debuted a sweeping strategy Wednesday that he said will generate 100,000 new jobs within five years, a goal that would require the District to stretch beyond its historic economic growth trends.

"My vision for the District is to develop a new economy that is creative, diversified and capable of preparing our residents to compete in the global marketplace," Gray said. "This strategy will take us well on our way to achieving that goal."

Gray's plan hinges on six "bold visions" for the District, including the development of an internationally recognized medical center at the McMillan Reservoir site and the emergence of D.C. as the East Coast's pre-eminent technology hub and "the top North American destination for foreign investors, businesses and tourists."

Gray's 52 specific proposals are equally wide-ranging, covering matters like zoning, the creation of a citywide Wi-Fi network and the development of a hospitality education program.

Although the District can implement many of Gray's ideas, other proposals rely on action from external forces like the federal government and private companies.

And the D.C. Council has in recent months demonstrated that it's willing to push back against Gray's economic development agenda, which the mayor views as a key component of his legacy. In September, it rejected Gray's proposal to give certain technology companies tax breaks, an idea that appeared again in the strategy Gray released Wednesday.

But beyond any political resistance, the principal obstacle to the plan's success could be the District's own economic history.

During Gray's 22-month tenure, the city has added about 1,000 jobs a month, and the District's median annual growth rate since 1950 is less than 1 percent.

Under Gray's strategy, however, the District would see its job figures swell by more than 1,600 each month, which would lead to an annual growth rate of 2.5 percent.

Economist Anirban Basu said that although the District has posted strong job growth in recent years, Gray's new goal could be too high.

"If the District is able to grow as much over the next five years as it has in the last five years, that'd be a huge victory," Basu said. "That'd be the equivalent of the Redskins winning a Super Bowl."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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