By Serge da Motta Veiga
The Greater Washington (or Capital) region has a population in excess of 6 million people with a diversifying business presence and a gradually shrinking federal government presence. Five counties across the region are among the top ten counties in the country for median household income. The region is also well represented among the most educated residents across the country. There has been good and steady growth across Greater Washington in the last decade, with the District of Columbia increasing from approximately 550,000 people in the early 2000s to over 700,000 residents today.
Surprisingly, although it is the capital of the county, there are many “sectors” other than the federal government that make up the business life of this region. The leading hotel companies in the world are based in Greater Washington – Hilton, Marriott, Choice, Ritz, Host and other ones are headquartered in and around Washington. Media companies including Tegna (formerly Gannett), PBS, NPR, Discovery, National Geographic, The Washington Post and others provide a very strong media presence. Technology, with an emphasis on cyber, is prevalent across the Capital region with Cyber Command in the state of Maryland driving a great deal of the direction for private companies. Tenable just issued their IPO and countless other companies have become prevalent in the growing field of cyber. No other area in the country matches Greater Washington’s abilities in this area.
As one could imagine, there is a large number of Millennials in this region. According to research, this area hosts the highest per-capita index of Millennials – higher than the San Francisco area, Austin and anywhere else. There is also a strong presence of the “Silver Segment” of those over 65 years of age. Increasingly, this demographic will become an important and lucrative consumer. Greater Washington is attractive to them because of the emerging conveniences associated with Metro, Uber/Lyft, food delivery services, Amazon Prime, access to universities, cultural venues such as the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Museums, professional sports and much more.
Metro is one infrastructure investment that bears special note. Dedicated funding has recently been secured for new rail car purchases, track work, safety improvements, new buses and even an extension of the Silver Line to connect another major airport (Dulles International). These investments will all combine to improve the system’s reliability and ability to spur development and support more job creation. In addition, the Purple Line is a light-rail system that is currently being built connecting major counties in Maryland to Metro, Amtrak and the MARC Trains. An enormous water quality improvement project has been delivering wonderful improvements through the new tunnel system.
Area airport traffic has been increasing each year for the past 10 years, with Southwest Airline’s #1 hub at BWI airport. Overall air traffic for this region competes with the top airports in the world and they are the lifeblood of tourism, cargo and jobs.
The Greater Washington area has been successful in generating and attracting new businesses to the region. Nestle moved its U.S. headquarters to the area just over a year ago. Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and countless other technology leaders have opened or increased their presence in Washington over the past few years, and Amazon recently selected the Greater Washington region as an HQ2 location for 25,000 employees earning an average of $150,000 per person.