Advancing the New Economy in the District of Columbia
Remarks by Mario
Chairman, Morino Institute,
at DC Technology Council Inaugural Meeting
March 26, 1999
It is a pleasure to be here, to be
part of a new beginning in the District of Columbia, to support the efforts of Mayor
Williams to revitalize this great city, and to have this chance to support the leadership
of Marie Johns, Jay Young and the others involved in establishing the Washington DC
Technology Council, Inc. (http://www.wdctech.net).
past January, at the Potomac Conference organized by the Greater Washington Board of
Trade, I delivered a speech entitled, 2005: Digital Capital of the New Economy. In that speech
I stated my optimism for the future of Greater Washington and presented a vision for the
region. Today I would like to share a vision for the District and conclude with a call to
action for all who are interested in harnessing the region's economic force
information and communication for the District of Columbia.
A Trip to the Future of the Greater Washington Region
Let's jump forward to the year 2005, just six years from
now. Imagine that we are visitors to the region, about to take a tour of this 21st century
community, which, by 2005, has become one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the
world. Our aerial tour with our departure from Dulles Airport. It is hard not to notice
the expansiveness of this facility, now the hub of a world-class network of regional
As we clear the runway, we immediately notice the names of telecommunications,
Internet, and E-commerce firms and see a string of new corporate campuses. As we look down
at the Toll Road, the names read like a Who's Who of E-commerce. It is abundantly clear
that the efforts of recent years to make Virginia the "Internet State" have paid
Heading over the Potomac River into Maryland, as we look down, we see the brick and
glass buildings of more than 500 bioscience firms and research labs. Further on, we see a
concentration of telecommunications suppliers, satellite, wireless communications, and
spatial systems firms extending out of NASA Greenbelt, and a multimedia entertainment
strip with new media and content businesses in Silver Spring.
As we fly over the District line, we witness a heartening commercial and cultural
renaissance in the District of Columbia. We are told that for the first time in decades
more people are moving into DC than leaving it, and experts say its population will grow
significantly by 2020. Fueling this growth are clusters of new media firms and design
studios that have sprung up in Georgetown, Lafayette Square, LeDroit Park and Van Ness.
Along New York Avenue, we see a growing industrial corridor, and in NoMA, the area north
of Massachusetts Avenue, there is the further development of a telecommunications and
media complex that has been growing since Qwest Communications was founded here in 1999. A
bustling, high-tech community stands on the site of the old Navy Yard, while across the
river where St. Elizabeths hospital once stood, we see the early stages of an urban
village and Anacostias revitalized waterfront that promises sustained economic and
community growth in District's southeast.
As we tour our region, something else is evident. Throughout the region there is
vibrancy, as economic success has helped energize the region's cultural institutions. The
influx of young professionals has created a demand for new theaters, cinemas, galleries,
restaurants, entertainment centers, and museums. The universities are more naturally
integrated into their communities, adding to the quality of life in their surrounding
neighborhoods. The region is teeming with activity. People are out and about, yet
surprisingly our streets and thoroughfares appear less congested. The region is alive.
So in the year 2005, the New Economy is flourishing across the region, with greater
economic balance among Northern Virginia, Maryland and the District. Telecommunications,
the Internet, and E-commerce continue to be the driving force of our economys
growth, with bioscience poised to deliver the next wave in the following 10 years. A
healthy trade in exports in professional services and the knowledge industry continues to
grow rapidly, while international business in the region continues to expand.
The marvel is not only the booming growth that the New Economy has spawned, but also
the quality of leadership that has brought us to where we are in 2005.
PART II. Call to Action
The vision I have outlined for the
region is, admittedly, optimistic. And it should be. A rapid succession of events over the
past 12 to 18 months, including WorldCom's acquisition of MCI, AOL's buyout of Netscape,
and the Washington Post's front page series portraying the region as the "Digital
Capital" of the New Economy, confirm that this is a region of enviable potential.
Recognition is one thing. Fulfilling a vision, however, is quite another. In that
regard there is much we can do.
Let's look now specifically at the District of Columbia. Today, Washington, DC
substantially lags behind Northern Virginia and Suburban Maryland as a driver in the New
Economy engines of InfoComm and Bioscience. Yet, the District possesses many assets that
can be the foundation for its future growth.
- The District offers the urban lifestyle that is so essential to the vibrant, growing
entrepreneurial community in the strategic industries of the New Economy.
- The District possesses the world's largest and richest repositories of information and
cultural objects, and enjoys an enormous talent base to exploit these resources.
- The District is home to the Federal Government, its agencies, and labs as well as an
international community of global institutions, foreign missions and embassies.
- The District is the core of a region that has a multicultural population and spectacular
cultural, historic, and natural resources, including world-class attractions, rivers,
mountains, and parks that enhance our quality of life.
These assets have been outlined in a strategic plan for the City. This plan provides
the backdrop for the new economic commission and endorses the formation of this DC Tech
Council that we celebrate today.
The District could be poised to enjoy a renaissance beyond anything many of us could
imagine in our wildest projections. There are a series of positive economic and social
forces that, when combined with the speed of the New Economy and the Internet, will create
a momentum and critical mass of activity to bring about rapid and profound change.
These forces include:
- A recognition that our nation's capital should assume the preeminent stature befitting
the capital of the most powerful country in the world.
- A change in leadership, led by Mayor Williams, ushers in a renewed optimism and
increased capacity for the future of the District.
- An enhanced commitment to regionalism across Greater Washington is causing the broader
business community to recognize the importance and support for developing a strong urban
center at the region's core.
- A severe regional transportation problem opens up an opportunity for the District to
become the vibrant urban center where people will want to work, learn, and live.
- The Internet, telecommunications, e-commerce, and new media content offer new economic
opportunities and introduce new options to solve the traditional challenges the City has
- And, in a time when branding and "eyeball aggregation" are defining
characteristics for success, the District's national and international visibility offer
the Federal Government and industry players a great stage on which to perform and display
The obvious objectives for the DC Tech Council are to attract and develop the
workforce, increase access to capital, and recruit anchor businesses to locate in the
District. These are all reasonable and traditional goals. I encourage you to be more
visionary. The DC Tech Council has the unique opportunity of starting with a clean slate
no legacy, history, or impediments. I urge the DC Tech Council to become an agent
for change in the District of Columbia, to refashion the District as a model "digital
community" and the heart of the region that will be the Digital Capital of the New
The DC Tech Council can and must become an important voice advocating for how
technology and, more specifically, the Internet can advance the interests and mission of
this great city and its residents. I suggest a ten-point call to action:
- Become Advocates for the New Economy. Define and communicate the importance of the
New Economy to enable people throughout all levels of the District to understand why
digital infrastructure, digital products, and a futuristic outlook are critical. Create an
educational campaign that advances the vision of the District as a Digital Community and
then coalesce all of the sectors and organizations in the District around a single image
and message a "Get Digital!" campaign.
- Bring Elected Officials and Public Policy into the New Economy. We need
to work with political leaders to act on substantive investments in strategic areas such
as infrastructure, digital government, basic research, and professional development within
our educational systems. We must work with and bolster our legislators to ensure they
understand and enact legislation that supports the New Economy and the entrepreneurship
that drives it--and hold them accountable for these outcomes. In particular, tax
incentives need to be considered to stimulate the development and deployment of
technology, encourage entrepreneurial start-ups, and create incentives for workforce
training and advance development of technology company-clusters and incubator facilities.
- Make Regionalism a Core Principle. The Greater Washington region will
best succeed by recognizing that the whole regionwhat was once proposed as the State
of Potomacis far greater than the sum of the parts of Northern Virginia, Maryland,
and the District. And, the District must work with its counterparts in Northern Virginia
and Maryland, as well as insist that they invest in the District as the region's urban
core. The New Economy is not about existing jurisdictions and boundaries. We must come
- Connect the Last-Mile District officials, the business sector,
and community leaders must advocate for increased competition for telecommunications in
local markets to push low-cost high-bandwidth connectivity. Actions must open the market
to more companies to provide this crucial resource to tens of thousands of homes, home
offices and small businesses.
- Make the District Government Digital. Business and community leaders
must lobby Federal and District officials heavily for appropriations to digitize the
delivery of government services. The District government must use the Net to enable
citizens to process permits, file their taxes, seek out specialized information, and reach
out more effectively to local and federal lawmakers, agencies, and other voters. Make
government services directly accountable to the citizens. This modernization will, in
turn, drive process re-engineering to further streamline government services, lower costs
and improve service.
- Nurture Local Growth Foster growth from within and build on the
assets that are already here, the cultural institutions, the multiple teaching hospitals
doing state of the art research and pioneering new surgery, and the many universities.
Nurture a climate conducive to innovation encourage businesses of similar focus to
reside in clusters, create e-commerce hubs for small businesses, leverage the labs in the
region's universities, and encourage incubators in areas of dense population and traffic.
Stimulate the netpreneurs those starting new media, telecom, Internet, e-commerce,
and content businesses. Grow the workforce by strengthening technology education for
people already in the workforce who want to gain new skills, for people who want to make
the transition from welfare to work, and for those who are currently in school who want to
pursue careers in technology.
- Leverage the Federal Government Presence. Encourage the Administration
and Congress to appropriate research funds to groups in the District's universities and
labs. Similarly, work with the agencies DARPA, NASA, NIH, and others to
create pilots and test-beds in the District for education, research, healthcare,
e-commerce and other areas that will stimulate growth and innovation. Secure their support
to drive technology skills development programs at places like Southeastern University,
UDC, Link & Learn, Friendship House, and other viable sources in the District.
- Change the Culture Create a "digital culture" here in
the District. Advance netpreneurs as the vanguard of this new culture. Make all facets of
the District rethink how they do business from health and human services to
transportation. Create a new position in the Executive Office of the Mayor charged with
making the District Government digital, in mind and deed. If Barbados, a country with a
population of 260,000, can be so bold to invest $175 million to ensure that every
school child has access to, and learns how to use the Internet, then we must be as
- Refocus Technology and Education. Ensure that the educational system,
at all levels, is fostering the development of skills for the New Economy. Recognize that
this work will not be best accomplished by focusing on filling classrooms with PCs and
Internet connectionssomething that too many from the technology sector advocate. We
must advance more basic solutions: Improved professional development and support of
teachers, better models for parental engagement, alternative sources for education, and
more effective leadership in education. If you do but one thing, change the allocation and
investment in technology in support of education and ensure that from this point on, 70
percent of every dollar directed to technology is invested in developing our teachers,
administrators, and youth leaders.
- Connect People, Not Institutions
Take the bold step to connect the people, not the buildings and organizations. Let's set a
goal that 100 percent of all teachers in the District will have access to, and a
demonstrated capacity in, email and the Internet. Set the same goal for ALL District
employees, leaders of community-based groups, health care workers, and others. And, let's
track our progress and hold our programs and officials accountable.
a remarkable opportunityone that is so good, so rich, so exciting, that it is
difficult to fully comprehend. We are blessed with a future that other regions envy and
the District can and should be at the core of this opportunity. The District can be the
urban center of a region-wide explosion in InfoComm and bioscience, the economic backbone
of the New Economy. The District can be the Digital Capital of the New Economy.
But, as we all know, there are two distinct worlds in the District of Columbia. As we
consider the enormous opportunity of the New Economy, we can never forget there are many
people in the District not included. Thus, our vision will only be complete when we use
our newfound wealth, talent, and technologies to solve the vexing social problems that
have long plagued our City. It is then that we will have written our own proud page in the
history books as the District becomes the digital community for all people.
These are all the reasons the DC Tech Council is so important and why you must be a
leadership organization in helping shape the region's future. In so doing, you will
advance the interests of your high-tech membership and provide them a way to become more
engaged in their community.
The Potomac KnowledgeWay is proud to be a charter member of the DC Tech Council and,
along with the Morino Institute, stands ready to work with and support the Board and its
My thanks to Marie Johns and Jay Young for allowing me to be a part of this morning's
program, and my congratulations and best wishes to you both and to all who have
contributed to creating the Washington DC Technology Council.
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