Mayor Vince Gray talks jobs, growth with D.C. business leaders

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Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer,Vincent Gray

Mayor Vincent Gray didn't break out any new major plans on Thursday at a gathering of D.C. business leaders, but rather reiterated his proposals to add 100,000 jobs to the city of 600,000 residents and to transform the District into "the largest technology center on the East Coast."

The mayor cautioned that one of the city's main challenges would be to match jobs with the skills of city residents, rather than relying on outside workers to fill the predicted openings.

The jobs estimates were developed in conjunction with the deputy mayor for planning and economic development and deans of local business schools as part of a five-year plan meant to bring $1 billion in new tax revenue to the District.

Whether the mayor's optimism about the city's future economic prosperity expressed Thursday will pan out is anyone's guess, but Gray told the group, made up mostly of members of Business Improvement Districts throughout the city, that the District would continue to improve.

For example, he said the unemployment rate has dropped from a high of 11.2 percent to 8.4 percent in November.

"It really is an exciting time of growth in Washington, D.C.," he said.

His remarks before the D.C. BID Council began with a full-throated call for statehood and a new star on the U.S. Flag. "We have a larger population than two states," Gray said.

He said that despite popular impression, the District funds 80 to 85 percent of its budget without help from the federal government -- with much of the remaining portion coming from federal funding also directed toward states.

To accommodate future growth, Gray said that the city's transportation system continues to improve and he said that street cars would begin running in 2013.

"We've got 56 miles of bike lines," he said. "We're going to go to at least 80."

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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