By Cary Hatch
Metropolitan areas around the country have been abuzz ever since Amazon announced that they would be looking to find a new home for their second headquarters. It’s as if the economic development Super Bowl is here and the Amazon trophy is the prize. The prize comes with a boost to your regional economy with $5 billion in investments and 50,000 new jobs, and for Greater Washington it could mean even more. Landing the new headquarters would solidify that this region has diversified its economy beyond that of just being the home of the federal government and would validate us as an entrepreneurial leader on the east coast.
The New York Times, and many others, have speculated that Greater Washington could be in the playoffs. But, if we are to compete for the big prize, our strategy must be regional.
Our collective assets enhance Greater Washington’s competitive position and our regional brand is the one we should be selling nationally and internationally to attract the talent and businesses that will help us thrive in the global economy.
Elected and business leaders both acknowledge the benefits of this collaborative approach. In fact, it was recently announced that DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will embark on a joint trade mission to Canada in September. But to truly sell Greater Washington as a whole it will require an increase in regional collaboration to move strategic initiatives such as workforce development, housing affordability, and Metro forward. Over the past year, the Branding Greater Washington Taskforce has taken the necessary steps to create the foundation for a new regional identity campaign, but the deployment of the full campaign has been delayed due to the Metro crisis. We cannot go to market with a product that is not ready for prime time. And, the longer it takes to be ready the more we risk falling behind the competition.
While competition among local jurisdictions is inevitable it is important to remember that our true competition is other metropolitan areas like Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Charlotte or Denver. A win for any Greater Washington locality will not only benefit us all, but it will require us all to work together to ensure we can sustain the economic development Amazon could bring. For example, it will require regional collaboration to ensure our transportation infrastructure can support the mobility of 50,000 new workers and keep housing costs at a level that enables current and future residents to maintain a high quality of life. To get to the end zone on Metro, housing affordability, and other regional issues, we all need to be wearing the same color jerseys.
If we can work together to enhance our region as a desirable product, we will be able to transform the image of the region into one that is less government-centric and positions the region based on its positive attributes such as its skilled workforce, high quality of life, cultural diversity, and the uniquely attractive business ecosystem created by our proximity to government, top universities and research centers, and major airports.
This is the goal of the Branding Greater Washington Taskforce.
As the Washington Business Journal’s Michael Neibauer stated on October 23, 2015, “The ‘government town’ perception lingers and it hurts. There is no brand. No team. It is every jurisdiction for itself. And, it’s not working.” Two years later, are we ready to try a new approach?
I hope so. Game on!
Cary Hatch is a native Washingtonian, brand advocate, and the CEO of MDB Communications, a fully integrated advertising, marketing and PR firm in Washington, D.C.
MDB is a Capitol Communicator sponsor and this post originally appeared the the Washington Business Journal.