Jobs: We can do this

Dear resident,

You may have seen the recent Washington Post stories about economic challenges facing Montgomery County. As Northern Virginia’s tech sector booms, our job growth is lagging.

We urgently need a new vision and action to grow our job base. We can do it — by understanding our strengths and investing in them.

Looking at economic powerhouses like Boston or the Bay Area, it is clear that research institutions — usually major universities — are driving innovation and economic growth.

That is why I am so excited about my recent engagements with our Federal research labs, such as the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and others. Keep reading >>

5 ámbitos que plantean impulsar la economía del condado de Montgomery

Estimado residente:

El condado de Montgomery es un lugar increíble. Hay muchos cambios positivos porque hacemos las cosas bien!

Claro que también enfrentamos algunos desafíos, particularmente en el área de desarrollo económico. Nuestro crecimiento laboral ha disminuido y si es que continúa disminuyendo y se convierte en una tendencia a largo plazo habrán consecuencias serias que enfrentar.

Por esta razón, estoy creando un plan de desarrollo económico que impulse la mejora económica de nuestro condado.

La necesidad es clara. Según el Instituto Fuller, en el 2018, Virginia generó el 71% de todos los empleos nuevos en la región de Washington. Hasta el momento, las cifras del 2019 muestran que Virginia está generando un porcentaje de empleos aún mayor que el del año pasado llegando a cifras de hasta un 90%.

Las cifras del 2018 y las de este año 2019 muestran un gran cambio en nuestro patrón histórico; ya que usualmente en Maryland se generan aproximadamente un tercio de los empleos del área de Washington. Estas cifras son sorprendentes y amenazan la sostenibilidad económica de nuestro condado. Siga leyendo >>

5 Point Plan to Power Up Montgomery County’s Economy

5 point plan to power up Montgomery County's economy

Dear resident:

Montgomery County is an amazing place. There is so much positive change here. We get so many important things right.

We are also facing some challenges, particularly when it comes to economic development. Our job growth has slowed and if the trend becomes a long term one, there will be profound consequences.

That is why I am working on an economic development plan — to help us power up.

The need is clear. In 2018, Virginia generated 71% of all new jobs in the Washington region, according to the Fuller Institute. So far, 2019 numbers show Virginia generating an even larger share of the region’s jobs, as high as 90%.

This is a huge change from the historical pattern, where Maryland generated about one-third of the jobs. For Montgomery County, it threatens our sustainability.

For the past year, I have been talking with business and education leaders about how to chart a better course. With a focus on public private partnerships to drive investment and policy, we can generate momentum and results.

Following are five policy areas that have risen to the top and that I intend to address in an ongoing manner as chair of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee.

Of course this list is not exclusive of other initiatives or economic development priorities. There are many others that we will be taking up, from 5g to opportunity zones to bus transformation to housing.

Nevertheless, these themes embrace multiple initiatives and have broad impact.

Hans Riemer's 5 point plan for job growth. 1. Purple Line Innovation District 2. North Bethesda economic development 3. Tech Talent Pipelines 4. More entrepreneurship from our federal labs 5. Transit for Upcounty and Across the River

1. Purple Line Innovation District

Recently PHED was briefed on the affordable housing goals proposed by the Purple Line Corridor Coalition, a community driven campaign. To fulfill that inclusive vision, which calls for securing at least 6,000 units of affordable housing in the County along the corridor, we will need to develop a specific plan, targeting housing finance to acquisitions as well as spurring redevelopment with high affordable requirements. That conversation is underway.

With a housing strategy under development, we must maximize the economic potential of the Purple Line. It is a perfect tool to grow our economy, by creating a thriving urban environment that is connected to some of the world’s most powerful research hubs.

With Bethesda and NIH on one end of the line, NOAA, Montgomery College and Silver Spring just a few minutes from the University of Maryland and its nation-leading computer science program, with NASA and FDA nearby, the anchors are there for a technology-driven science corridor.

The Purple Line is a great opportunity to form a bi-county economic development partnership to recruit companies to the corridor, and I am working on that now with Danielle Glaros, Prince George’s PHED Chair. You have seen the news reports that Northern Virginia jurisdictions are working together to attract companies. We can do the same.

We need to work with business owners and educational institutions to explore locating new research labs and facilities in Silver Spring and Bethesda. There are many possibilities, from a new university campus to incubator lab space.

Beyond marketing the corridor, we need to build walkable and bikeable communities there. We have a model bike network under construction in Silver Spring and another one planned in Bethesda that we need to complete urgently. We need great public spaces.

It’s an incredible opportunity. Let’s work together to make the Purple Line corridor an inclusive economic engine for our future prosperity.

2. North Bethesda Economic Development

Our County has an expansive vision for an urban corridor up and down Rockville Pike. But you wouldn’t know it from what you see on the street there, as the road hasn’t changed much from its suburban highway imprint. That mismatch between our vision and reality is holding us back.

In North Bethesda, large employers are making investments in new office markets and vibrant communities. We can support them by enhancing Metro stations and rebuilding Rockville Pike to become a walkable, transit-oriented community.

Let’s start by building a new entrance to the White Flint metro. That has been a big battle for two consecutive capital budgets. Alongside Councilmember Andrew Friedson, I am a strong supporter of the project as well as remaking the intersections in that area so that they are safe and walkable.

With that in motion we also need to add add street furniture and art and design and actually create the vision that we are trying to market. North Bethesda can become a thriving urban center.

We have a lot to do to make North Bethesda into the dynamic office market that we have envisioned it to be to support our future growth. Let’s get going.

3. Tech Talent Pipelines

In today’s tech focused economy, companies chase talent and talent drives growth. Montgomery County is a talent factory thanks to our superb schools, higher education programs, and highly diverse community. But we can and should do more.

In our bid for Amazon HQ2, Maryland and Montgomery County pledged a major education investment to support Amazon’s job growth. Maryland and Montgomery County should follow through on that vision regardless of Amazon’s location, because it will help our County attract and retain technology focused companies, and support our residents and growth going forward.

Montgomery County and Maryland education leaders need to design more degree programs that are aligned with the emerging needs of our growing employers, through collaboration with the Universities at Shady Grove, Montgomery College and the University of Maryland, all workforce development powerhouses.

Meeting to develop new Cloud Computing Degree program

I convened a meeting with the Universities at Shady Grove, Montgomery College, KID, and Amazon to form a partnership for a new Cloud Computing degree program. The goal is to build a tech talent pipeline for cloud computing sectors.

The New York Tech Talent Pipeline initiative is another great model that should be duplicated. Bringing companies to the table with higher ed partners, they provide workers with no-cost training in tech specialities. We can do that here.

To diversify the pipeline, Montgomery County needs more STEM programs in schools and an ambitious apprenticeship program. Montgomery County should build off of its successful Summer Rise program, championed by Councilmember Craig Rice, to make internships year round. CareerWise Colorado is a great model to replicate.

And Councilmembers and the County Executive are working together on the possibility of a new KID museum / skills center and STEM school facility in Silver Spring, where we can model talent pipeline programs that promote equity.

Our first joint committee meeting of the PHED and Education Committees this year focused on the Tech Talent Pipeline. We are moving forward.

4. More Entrepreneurship from our Federal Labs

Finally, we need to focus on leveraging the tech resources we already have — some of the world’s most powerful research institutions — NIH, National Cancer Institute, NIST, to name a few.

These labs pack the same research power as America’s top universities. But universities have evolved into economic development engines more successfully than these Federal labs, thanks to deliberate strategy and policy making that supports entrepreneurship.

NIH spends more on research conducted here in Bethesda than it sends in grant money to all of the research institutes in Massachusetts, which fuels the vibrant Boston bio health sector. While NIH does spin off benefits to our growth, the state and county do not do nearly enough to leverage the opportunity.

To fuel our growing biohealth sector, we need to triple down on programs that support entrepreneurship in our community of NIH and National Cancer Institute scientists and visionaries. With NIST we can promote cybersecurity entrepreneurship. With FDA we can focus on medical devices; with NOAA, climate science and geographic and weather tech. That’s just a sampling.

At the highest level, reforming federal policies that keep innovations and scientists inside the labs must be an ongoing priority. We need to bring business and education partners together to advocate for commercialization strategies, whether federal legislative reforms or local talent partnerships.

I recognize that the payoff from a more intensive focus on leveraging labs would be long term. But it is a very realistic way for us to foster our own thriving economy.

5. Transit for Upcounty and Across the Potomac

Gaithersburg (a biohealth powerhouse), Germantown, and Clarksburg are envisioned as employment hubs. But companies are increasingly seeking transit-served locations with walkable amenities, which we need to expand Upcounty. That is why I am advocating for:

  • The Corridor Cities Transitway
  • BRT on 355 to Clarksburg
  • BRT on 270 to Northern Virginia, as I have proposed to be added to the 270 managed lane plan
  • Monorail to Frederick and Tysons, which I am exploring with the High Road Foundation
  • MARC integration with VRE, enabling a one-seat ride from UpCounty to Crystal City

For the Upcounty areas to continue to thrive, we must connect them better by transit.

A spirit of public private partnership
These themes are not exclusive or comprehensive; there is more that we need to do in a variety of areas. These are, however, five areas that I plan to continue developing.

With our recent joint meetings with MCEDC, featuring the voices of our business leadership, the PHED committee has embraced a spirit of public private partnership in our economic development strategy.

Let’s keep listening and keep working together to get better results.

I welcome your feedback at councilmember.riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Thank you,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Chair, Planning, Housing, & Economic Development Committee

Council Update — Veirs Mill Plan and tech talent

Dear Resident,

The Council is in regular session this Tuesday. View the agenda.

The Council will receive an overview of the Veirs Mill Corridor Plan, an area stretching about four miles from Wheaton to Rockville. The area was once agricultural until a growing federal workforce and postwar boom drove the construction of workforce single-family housing. This pattern of development in the area has largely remain unchanged to this day.

The Veirs Mill Corridor Plan aims to strengthen these communities by increasing transit connectivity, improving the safety of all users of Veirs Mill Rd, particularly pedestrians and bicyclists, and supporting limited redevelopment opportunities in the corridor. Of particular importance, the Plan makes way for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line envisioned for Veirs Mill Rd. Additionally, the Plan will be the first to explicitly embrace Vision Zero principles, intending to support the County’s goal of zero deaths on our roads by 2030.

Read the Plan.

The plan’s public hearing will be on January 29, 2019 at 7:30pm, but you can also share your input on the plan by writing to the Council at county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov or using the hashtag #VeirsMillPlan2019 on social media.

Following are some other highlights of the Council’s week:

Discussion on the tech talent pipeline
Council economic development and education committees will convene a discussion on how the County can improve its tech talent pipeline.

As Amazon establishes its second headquarters in Northern Virginia and tech jobs grow in our region, we need to make sure that companies growing in Montgomery County have access to the talent they need and that all of our young people, regardless of zipcode, have access to jobs.

Many of these jobs don’t require a PHD or even a bachelor’s degree but rather an associates degree or certificate. An effective “tech talent pipeline” will require close coordination between business, educational institutions (MCPS, Montgomery College, USG/UMD), non-profit organizations, and County Government.

FY19 Savings Plan to be approved
The Council is poised to approve a $45.7 million reduction in spending for the current fiscal year. Council committees reviewed the County Executive’s recommended reductions and largely concurred with the recommendations. A decline in 2018 revenues necessitated the reductions in spending.

Council weighs in on proposed state legislation
County staff will brief the Council on state legislation relevant to the County. The Council will weigh in on legislation covering topics including drug overdose and infectious disease clinics, e-scooters, and forest conservation.

State grant to improve retention of first-year teachers in Title I schools
The County received a $500,000 state grant to administer a program that provides personalized training opportunities for first-year teachers in Title I schools. The program gives the teachers improved teaching and learning skills as well as a better understanding on how to connect with the students and families they serve.

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Councilmember, At-large

Montgomery County Council’s Top Ten 2018 Accomplishments

Here is my list of the Council’s top ten accomplishments during my year-long term as Council president, a position for which I am grateful to my colleagues for electing me.

10. Convened the Council’s first emergency session to respond to the GOP Congress’ Tax Act, passing legislation to allow County residents to prepay 2018 property taxes in 2017 and maximize their State and Local Tax deductions.

9. Approved funds to support organizations that provide legal assistance to county residents who are in deportation proceedings. Grants have been provided to Kids In Need of Defense, which helps children that have been separated from their families, as well as HIAS and other groups.

8. Funded a revised stormwater infrastructure program that will ensure efficiency and affordability while maximizing environmental benefits. Negotiated a solution to overcome an executive veto. Also approved a ten year update to the County’s Water and Sewer Plan.

7. Supported the County’s bid for Amazon HQ2, including a zoning plan to streamline the process for corporate headquarters to locate in the County.

6. Approved a zoning change for the Agricultural Reserve in the County enabling business owners there to operate wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries.

5. Adopted a visionary Bicycle Master Plan to guide the future of biking infrastructure in the county; and added funding for a Bethesda protected bike lane loop, in addition to the Silver Spring protected bike loop under construction.

4. Approved a zoning change to support additional wireless infrastructure (4g leading to 5g) in downtown and commercial areas (consideration continues on residential areas).

3. Supported major capital investment in WMATA. Locally funded new pedestrian access entrances for White Flint and Forest Glen Metros. Successfully advocated to expand rush hour service from Grosvenor to Shady Grove; similar expansion on Glenmont side is under study by WMATA.

2. Enacted legislation to increase affordable housing in the County by increasing the minimum percentage of Moderately Priced Housing Units (MPDUs) that are required to be built in new residential developments from 12.5 to 15 percent in high income areas of the county. Modernized the MPDU ordinance generally and established a clear MPDU incentive structure for bonus density.

1. Approved a $5.6 billion Fiscal Year 2019 Operating Budget without raising taxes. The Budget fully funded the Board of Education’s request for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), including an additional $3.3 million for expanded pre-k programs — raising the two year total of early education expansions to over $7 million and creating more than 650 new full day pre-k slots, for a total of about 3,200 children attending publicly funded pre-k programs. The Council also added Excel Beyond the Bell after school programs at two additional Elementary School.

Bonus: Did it all in an election year!