Inclusion | Opportunity | Innovation

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

Community Meeting on Bicycling in Bethesda – Nov. 1

ROCKVILLE, Md., October 25, 2017—Montgomery County Council Vice President Hans Riemer and Council President Roger Berliner, the County Planning Department, the County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) will host a community meeting on Wednesday, November 1 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. to discuss bicycling issues in and around Bethesda. The meeting will be held at the Jane E. Lawton Community Center, which is located at 4301 Willow Lane in Chevy Chase, MD 20815. RSVP Here »

County officials will update the community on alternate routes to the Georgetown Branch Trail and the latest plans for a low-stress bicycle infrastructure in and around Bethesda. Officials will be available to answer questions from the public.

The County Council recently adopted a bold new vision for Downtown Bethesda that includes many transformational changes to the area’s bicycle infrastructure. The plan supports the development of “low-stress bike networks” that are safer for bicyclists of all ages and skill levels as well as a new development mitigation policy that requires developer payments for all modes of transportation, including biking. In addition, the nearly complete Bicycle Master Plan will be making recommendations on bicycle infrastructure, routes, and parking in Bethesda.

The County also is working closely with stakeholders to identify alternate bicycle connections between Silver Spring and Bethesda in the wake of the closure of the Georgetown Branch Trail for the construction of the Purple Line. The County invites residents to learn more about these opportunities and challenges and to share their perspectives at the meeting.

“I am committed to creating the safest environment for cyclists of all ages and all skill levels,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “With the recent closure of the Capital Crescent Trail, this is an important time for a community discussion about the future of biking infrastructure in the affected areas. The changes recommended in the Bethesda Sector Plan, the Bicycle Master Plan, and the ongoing discussions about alternative routes to the Georgetown Branch Trail all are pushing the County in the right direction. But we need to get it right. That is why I am looking forward to hearing from the public, as the County considers ways to make bicycling a real option for more residents.”

Council President Berliner explained that, “When the Council passed the Downtown Bethesda Plan, we did so with the aim of creating a truly walkable and bikeable community – one that embraces a multimodal approach that encourages people to get out of their cars, reducing congestion and our carbon footprint. The closure of the Georgetown Branch Trail to allow for construction of the Purple Line and the completion of the Capital Crescent Trail has made it clear that we need the bike infrastructure recommended in the Downtown Bethesda Plan more than ever. I look forward to hearing from the County Department of Transportation, the County Planning Department, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the community on November 1 as to how we can make our bicycle network the best it can be.”

To RSVP for this community meeting, visit:
http://councilmemberriemer.com/bethesda-bike-meeting

To read more about the Downtown Bethesda Plan, visit:
http://councilmemberriemer.com/2017/08/a-bold-new-vision-for-bethesda.html

To see the Bicycle Master Plan, visit:
http://montgomeryplanning.org/planning/functional-planning/bicycle-master-plan/

For futher information or questions, please contact Tommy Heyboer at the Office of Council Vice President Riemer, at 240-777-7948 or Tommy.Heyboer@montgomerycountymd.gov , or Aaron Kraut in the Office of Council President Berliner, at 240-777-7962 or Aaron.Kraut@montgomerycountymd.gov .

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VA funds transportation. Will MD?

Virginia’s legislature just reached a deal to add $880 million per year to the state transportation fund.

How much money is that? For Maryland, it would be enough to build our Purple Line and Baltimore’s Red Line, fund badly needed improvements to Metro, build the Corridor Cities Transitway, and plenty more.

And without a funding increase?…. the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway will be cancelled.  

That’s why NOW is the time to speak out for a transportation funding solution for Maryland — your voice is needed. If thousands of Marylanders raise their voices, our state leaders will be more likely to act.



I am supporting Get Maryland Moving, a new statewide coalition that is calling for action in the legislature, which will be making a decision within weeks.

Why act NOW?  Because of the way that transportation is funded.  The Federal government will pay for half of the Purple Line and Red Line, but they have a fixed pot of money and it is almost gone.  In order to get our share, we have to put OUR half on the table first.

That’s the process: the state puts the money on the table first, the Federal government approves and matches, and construction starts. Without a state transportation funding increase, we can’t claim our money, the funds will be gone, and the projects will be dead in their tracks.



This is our last best chance, maybe for a generation, to get these great projects going in Maryland.  And without them, we are guaranteed to fall behind.

The need for action couldn’t be any greater than it is right now.

Sincerely

                                                                             

Progress on the Purple Line

This year’s draft County Council budget represents an important victory for one of the county’s top priorities: supporting the Purple Line.

The Purple Line is a light rail (not Metro size) project linking Bethesda, Silver Spring, theUniversity of Maryland, and New Carrollton. The State has been responsible for planning the project, and recently the federal government auth

While the Purple Line is a State-funded project also seeking federal funding, the County has an important role to play in making it happen. The County’s 1988 acquisition of a train-track right-of-way between Bethesda and Silver Spring was a vital contribution to the Purple Line’s alignment. In addition, the County has committed to build a new entrance for the Purple Line at the Bethesda Metro Station as well as completing the Capital Crescent Trail and Silver Spring Green Trail alongside the rail route.orized funds for its design. The expectation is that if federal construction funds are approved on a timely basis, then ground will be broken in 3 years.

The new Bethesda entrance is an important project on its own merits because of the frequent escalator breakdowns at that station. Those breakdowns cause intolerable conditions for Metro users and it’s unclear when WMATA can fully remedy them. In the short term, I have worked with my colleagues to call on WMATA to improve its communication with passengers and to provide better transportation alternatives when the escalators fail. In the long run, a new entrance will be very helpful.

The new entrance is also an integral part of the Purple Line project. One of the virtues of the Purple Line is its ability to link both ends of Metro’s Red Line (as well as the Orange Line in New Carrollton and the Green Line in College Park). In Bethesda, a seamless transfer requires new station capacity. In the last capital budget, the Council programmed $53.7 million in construction money to build it. This was a strong signal to both the federal and State governments that Montgomery County was committed to the Purple Line and was willing to put its own money down to get it, just as the State is doing with planning funds.

To my surprise and dismay, in his recommended capital improvements program the County Executive Leggett recommended delaying all construction money for the new entrance to Fiscal Year 2019 or later. The Executive told the Council that since the federal government had not yet approved construction funds for the Purple Line, the County should budget no money for related projects. Furthermore, he argued that the County’s commitment of money for the Bethesda entrance would have no bearing on whether the state and federal governments would fund the Purple Line.

The County Council unanimously disagreed. We want the Purple Line. It is an important investment in the future of our economy and our community. And we believe that withdrawing funding would send a signal to our partners in Washington and Annapolis that we will accept delay for the project. So every member of the Council voted to put the south entrance construction money back in the budget. See below for a great video that showcases what the Purple Line will do.

A related project is the Capital Crescent Trail. The State and County both recognize that a completed, paved pedestrian and bicycle trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring is a necessary complement to the Purple Line. Prior to this year, no Executive or Council had ever included funding for the trail. This year, the Executive did not recommend paying for it. But the Council unanimously voted to approve $49.5 million to build the trail. The project will be a largely 12-foot-wide hard-surface hiker-biker path with connecting paths, a new bridge over Connecticut Avenue, a new underpass beneath Jones Mill Road, supplemental landscaping, and lighting at trail junctions, in underpasses, and at other critical points. The County is still exploring how to cross the trail at or under Wisconsin Avenue, and we are not giving up on a tunnel. The trail is scheduled to begin construction in Fiscal Year 2016, again the same tentative date as the Purple Line.

Another related project is the Silver Spring Green Trail, an 8-10-foot-wide path that will run along the north side of Wayne Avenue between downtown Silver Spring and Sligo Creek Park, and in the same right-of-way as the Purple Line. For this project, the Executive also recommended delaying funds to Fiscal Year 2019 or later, but the Council has restored its funding to the Fiscal Year 2016-2018 time-frame, consistent with the Purple Line’s current schedule.

Ultimately, the Purple Line’s fate depends on whether federal and State funding will be available. But the County Council has taken a stand that the County will do everything in its power to make sure that the Purple Line – and the Capital Crescent and Silver Spring Green Trails – will be built. You have my commitment that I will push to make them a reality.