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.

More entrepreneurship from our federal labs

We are fortunate here to have some of the world’s most powerful research institutions in our Federal labs. They are for us what Stanford, Harvard, or MIT are for their regions — organizations where experts conduct research leading to breakthroughs, startups and job growth benefiting individuals of a variety of backgrounds and skills. They are developing cures and saving lives.

Our labs are our superpower. We need to use them!

That is why I am proposing important new programs to bring brilliant people and ideas from our public labs to our private sector, a “tech transfer” connection that will benefit all of us.

Last September, I convened a Council economic development committee roundtable on tech transfer with leading experts. Building from that conversation, I am advancing initiatives such as:

  • Providing entrepreneurship training for researchers and post-doctoral students at the National Cancer Institute and other NIH institutes
  • Working with the Maryland Commerce Department to embed economic development staff with the Carderock surface naval warfare systems laboratory
  • Working with NIST on an economic development partnership
  • Partnering with business leaders on Startup challenges leveraging inventions from federal labs that will otherwise remain undeveloped
  • Helping researchers and fledgling Montgomery County entrepreneurs prepare applications for federal, state and local grants to start companies
  • Integrating labs more closely with our education partners such as the Universities at Shady Grove, Montgomery College, UMBC, and UMD
  • Connecting more MCPS high school students and local college students to internship and career mentoring opportunities within Federal Labs

Together with my Council colleagues, our economic development corporation, and our county executive we can follow through on all of these ideas.

The payoff from a more intensive focus on leveraging labs will be long term, not overnight. Nevertheless, the labs are a huge and underutilized power source right in plain sight.

In the light of regional trends that are years in the making, we need to focus on the long term, setting ourselves up for future success by building on our strengths.

There are many other things we must do to improve our economic outcomes – ease the housing shortage, improve the reliability of our transportation network, build talent pipelines for our growing industries and remove aggravations in our permitting process.

But we can’t lose sight of where of where growth actually comes from: innovation and entrepreneurship.

We are an amazing County and we have what it takes to continue to thrive! We can do this!

Thank you for reading. Let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions.

Sincerely,

Hans Riemer Signature

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

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