Economic Report Recommends County Establish $275 Million Job Creation Fund

An economic development report commissioned by a county business group recommends that the county establish a $275 million Job Creation Fund to increase competiveness with other jurisdictions and assist in the post-COVID recovery.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Post-pandemic Economic Leadership for Montgomery County” was conducted by Harpswell Strategies of Brunswick, Maine for Empower Montgomery. The organization describes itself as a non-partisan group devoted to expanding economic opportunities and enhancing living conditions in the county now and for future generations.

The report’s analysis shows that “the county’s share of regional employment and growth over the past 12 years has been steadily shrinking, putting pressure on its social safety net and overall prosperity,” according to a press release.

The report also “estimates economic underperformance is at least $37 million per year, a little less than the $42 million annual budget for libraries. The cumulative direct underperformance revenue impact from 2007 to 2019 is approximately $250 to $275 million.”

In addition, the combined state and local tax burdens are 10.1% higher than in Virginia, and that specific industries, including the professional, scientific, and technical services sectors, are particularly hard hit.

“As a businessman with a front-row seat to the county’s policies and impacts, it is clear that there is no sense of urgency for creating new jobs whether in White Oak, White Flint, Silver Spring, Rockville, Gaithersburg, or anywhere else in the County,” said Charles Nulsen, founder of Empower Montgomery in the press release. “Outside of downtown Bethesda, no other area is growing, and many areas are backsliding. Political indifference to this trend jeopardizes our expansive social safety net and our community prosperity.”

Nulsen is also president of Washington Property Company, a commercial real estate company that has built several apartment buildings in the Ripley District of Silver Spring, among other developments.

The 70-page report recommends that the Job Creation Fund consist of two programs. One would be a grant for reimbursing tenant improvement costs, the amount to be based on the class of office building. The second would focus on employment-based grants for new jobs.

“The fund should include flexibility to increase the [tenant improvement] incentive to up to $100 per square foot for tenants relocating from outside the region into Montgomery County trophy class office space,” according to the report.

The second would focus on employment-based grants for new jobs.

“Eligible employers would be those with an average salary of more than $100,000. The employment grants would range from $7,500 to $15,000 per job,” the report recommends.

In addition, these incentives could be combined with state programs to make an offer more attractive to interested businesses.

“We believe that establishing a Job Creation Fund is the most significant step that the County can take today to reverse the current cycle of economic underperformance,” the report concludes. “Early success of the program will help kick-start a new cycle—a dynamic cycle of economic vitality that ultimately will increase economic opportunity and prosperity for County residents and businesses.”

Graphic from Jobs, Jobs, Jobs report

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