Montgomery County’s economy hadn’t fully recovered from the Great Recession when the coronavirus pandemic started. We lagged in private employment growth and business formation. High-paying jobs have been replaced with jobs that pay lower wages. We have less taxpayer income staying in Montgomery County than we had 25 years ago. Yet our population has grown and so has the need for more public services. However, we’ve lacked a comprehensive economic strategy that recognizes these realities, and instead have increasingly relied on taxpayers to foot the bill. Simply changing who manages our economy has neither produced the results we need nor allowed us to reach our potential. Our county is built on a small and diverse business community, but if these businesses are going to survive the pandemic and recover stronger, our local government must change the way it supports them. We need to reduce regulatory burdens that prevent expansion and development, and provide small business owners a voice in their government.
Let’s give our local businesses the edge in procurement and invest more of our taxpayer dollars in them. Our procurement system needs to be overhauled to eliminate barriers preventing minority firms from accessing vendor opportunities. In 2018, I ran on creating an entrepreneurship center in Montgomery County and recently partnered with the Universities of Shady Grove to launch a new Entrepreneurship Lab that bridges education and economic innovation. But this is only a small part of my vision. We need to invest in making Montgomery County the Silicon Valley of the East by building on the region’s assets. Our hospitality sector will need government’s help to reinvent itself in a post-pandemic economy. We can’t afford to permanently lose these businesses or jobs. Technological advancements, innovation and the support of public-private partnerships will make retention possible. Montgomery County is losing out to venture capital funding that other municipalities have used to drive cluster development and create jobs in life sciences and information technology. We still haven’t demonstrated our commitment to startups. It’s time we shift our economic development incentives and resources to reflect the changing climate and become competitive again.
Montgomery County has a role to play in advanced immunology that could help lead our economy forward and create unprecedented job growth, building on the talent and infrastructure that’s already here. We need bold leadership and new ideas to invigorate our economy and ensure we maintain our position as the state’s economic engine and become the regional powerhouse we’re poised to be.