What we heard

Over the course of more than 25 discussions with 450+ District stakeholders, we heard important feedback and many great ideas. Below are some of the takeaways and themes from these conversations. Many of the ideas we heard evolved into strategy initiatives. However, some ideas did not turn into initiatives because they required further development, partners or additional resources. You can view these interesting but not-quite-ripe ideas here. If you have thoughts about how to move any of these ideas forward or new ideas, submit them here. The strategy team will review submissions regularly. 



The Economic Strategy Advisory Committee included public and private sector leaders who provided guidance at critical junctures in the strategy development process. In November 2016, we convened the committee to share what we heard from hundreds of stakeholders and solicit committee members’ bold ideas for action.


Wide-reaching ideas with the potential to affect a range of industries and communities.

Grow established and emerging sectors by leveraging the District’s competitive advantages

  • DC can diversify its economy by adapting existing capabilities to emerging sectors, such as the social impact economy and security technology. Particular areas of capabilities include: public policy, science/engineering, large scale project management, law, and cybersecurity.
  • Leverage the unique advantages proximity to the Federal government offers.

Create a more business-friendly environment in the District

  • Improve ease of doing business by streamlining DC government processes (particularly permitting and licensing) to be more customer-centric.
  • Facilitate innovation through the DC government by supporting forward thinking procurement processes and test-bedding technologies.

Develop and promote DC’s economic brand and local identity

  • Build on the strong sense of DC pride and bolster the local business community, including both longstanding businesses and startups.
  • Go to market as one region by cooperating with neighboring jurisdictions, building on respective strengths.
  • Take advantage of international business opportunities (e.g. professional services exports).

Find ways to better link District residents to opportunities

  • Create inclusive growth that gives DC residents a pathway to the middle class through workforce development, training, and vocational certifications for those without four-year college degrees
  • Ensure a pipeline between completion of higher education/ training and actual, well paying jobs

There are some key supporting factors necessary to fostering a healthy economy

  • Build on DC’s attractiveness as a place to live and create infrastructure – particularly affordable housing — that is able to support all age groups, from millennials starting families to boomers aging in place
  • DC’s infrastructure (public transit, air connections) has been a competitive advantage, but SafeTrack and traffic congestion are negatively affecting the business climate


Ideas to foster growth and opportunities in particular industries and business segments.

Local Economy

  • There are several barriers to entry for the local entrepreneurs, including: cost to start a business (time & money – various licensing and certification fees), lack of cash flow and access to capital (e.g. for businesses with less than 2 years of operation), and affordable commercial space and housing for employees.
  • Entrepreneurs need support accessing information, understanding risk, and with mentorship.
  • The District could support and market the local economy through a Buy Local Loyalty program or sponsor marketing with Destination DC (waive fees), and improve the ease of doing business through regulatory reform, tax incentives, and a “one door” easy access to information online.

Global Economy/Global City

  • DC should take a regional approach when engaging in the global economy, working with surrounding jurisdictions to consciously go to market together as one brand. This will require coordinated leadership and a shared vision.
  • DC has an opportunity to export professional services on a global scale.
  • DC could leverage embassies in the region to create ‘soft landing spaces’ for companies and trade delegations.


  • The District could incentivize and support building partnerships between large primes and small businesses
  • As the Federal government relocates, DC should identify ways to reuse vacant office space
  • DC government could partner with Federal Agencies to help build a workforce with relevant skillsets (e.g., technology and digital skills). This is particularly important as the Federal workforce ages.
  • Federal procurement and IT jobs are in high demand, so developing workforce training programs and certifications can help fill these roles for citizens without a four-year college degree

Health and Life Sciences

  • DC should collaborate with Virginia and Maryland as the Capital Biotech Region and consider competing together against Boston and San Diego
  • There is potential for DC to be an innovation and research hub for medical devices, genomics, health education, and pathology
  • The Hospital Association has been engaging with the District to align workforce development with vocational needs. These efforts could be expanded. (including the soft skills required to support low-income communities)

Professional services

  • Many employees want to work for a company that has an impact angle (even if it is a for-profit company), so the City could help play a coordination role for these individuals to support the community
  • Firms need an increasingly versatile, digitally fluent workforce
  • DC brand helps lend credibility to professional services firms working globally


  • The city can help facilitate partnerships between retailers, real estate developers, and communities to continuously improve the quality of life in the City
  • The “Made in DC” campaign should continue to be supported and further developed, particularly to increase DC’s brand as a retail and restaurant hub
  • The permitting process for bars and restaurants could be streamlined
  • Education is fundamentally important in attracting millennials to continue to stay in the District fueling retail
  • Local retailers need support in adjusting to the city’s changing demographics

Real Estate and Construction

  • A significant amount of Federal agencies and law offices are leaving the District – DC needs to figure out how to use and retool these spaces (especially given that startups are looking for smaller space)
  • DC should streamline permitting and licensing process, particularly as it pertains to commercial real estate, to better compete within the region
  • The commercial property tax assessment process should be more transparent
  • Healthcare infrastructure upgrades are a huge opportunity for real estate development

Media and Communications

  • DC could support connections between media companies to further promote collaboration
  • Coordination between procurement arms and schedules (e.g., CBE, DC Supply Schedule, etc.) could help smaller businesses in the creative economy
  • The District should identify spaces for creative economy players (e.g., facilities, broadband, infrastructure, etc.)
  • DC should develop and promote a brand that positions itself as more than government (e.g., using a SXSW-like event to put DC on the map for media)
  • DC could promote its universities’ PR, media, and communications programs to help improve the brand

Security Technology

  • The region should build a strong brand in security technology, going to market together. Specifically, DC could spearhead by hosting summits
  • DC could use its expertise in the policy and legal space to carve out a space in the security technology field
  • It could be beneficial to create a directory of companies similar to Maryland’s Cyber MD directory
  • DC could build relationships with global cities also focusing on security technology (e.g., incubator exchange programs, etc.)
  • DC could help companies navigate the government contracting process

Impact Economy and Social Enterprise

  • The DC government could help map and convene the impact economy ecosystem, adding coherence by bringing together organizations focused on creating different types of impact
  • DC could stake a claim on the brand of the impact economy, elevating its story to give the space legitimacy and better drive funding to organizations in this space
  • DC can help create opportunities to connect social entrepreneurs with funders in new settings, in order to help build trust between groups in a more authentic ways
  • DC could procure solutions based on problems, rather than through traditional contracting, in order to mobilize players in the impact economy that otherwise would not engage
  • There needs to be additional spaces for idea collision, building on efforts such as Halcyon, WeWork, Cove, etc.

Post-secondary Education

  • Enrollment caps pose constraints to some universities’ growth and requirements could benefit from greater clarity around definitions of students (virtual students / grad students often count as full time) and a more comprehensive view across departments about how to balance goals that may be competing.
  • UDC should continue to build relationships with employers, training students for specific job placements
  • A system-wide approach to building the talent pipeline and collaboration across institutions and across fields is essential
  • Universities should coordinate community engagement efforts in order to maximize impact


  • There is space in DC that can be repurposed for manufacturing but this would require rezoning
  • There are a variety of jobs within the manufacturing space from high tech STEM (e.g., computer assisted design) to skilled trades (welders and electricians)
  • DC should work with neighboring jurisdictions to find ways to share benefits of manufacturing (e.g., helping manufacturers find ways to manufacture both in DC / in the region, have storefronts in DC, hire a certain percentage of District residents for a ‘made by DC’ campaign – rather than ‘made in DC’)