A new report has found that the D.C. public-private nonprofit founded to woo retail businesses to the city generates nearly $30 million annually in tax revenue for the District, a number that could increase to more than $53 million when planned retail stores open.
The findings have given fuel to those who say the Washington D.C. Economic Partnership, which gets about $1 million a year from the city, is worth the investment. But others caution that the relationship between the partnership and retail revenue is not necessarily a straight line.
Nonprofits like D.C.'s partnership have become commonplace in major U.S. cities, said University of Baltimore economist Richard Clinch. They capitalize on the expertise and credibility of established businesses by having boards of directors largely filled by private-sector officials, he said.
The partnership is credited with helping to spark D.C.'s retail boom in the late 1990s. Clinch said that although partnerships like D.C.'s are more than worth a city's investment, new businesses drawn to the District today are a byproduct of that earlier boom.
"These types of things help ... in the early days," Clinch said. "Once you get a critical mass, these things tend to move along on their own."
Fern Barrueta, who was chairman of the partnership board in the late 1990s when it operated under a different name, said Monday that maintaining the partnership was important for sending a credible message to incoming retailers. "WDCEP tries to create the face of the city to retailers to show them this is organized and cared about," he said.
The report, written by Delta Associates, looked at the economic footprint of 92 retail tenants that worked directly with the partnership when they came to the city. It found that those retailers produce an estimated $1.1 billion in annual sales, including projections for 16 stores yet to open.