Creating Greater Shared Economic Prosperity

If I have the privilege of serving as your next County Executive, my top priorities will be improving our economic competitiveness, creating more jobs, and bringing about greater shared prosperity. 

Nothing is more important than creating greater shared economic prosperity if we are to create a “more perfect Montgomery County”, a county that maintains our high quality of life and makes progress on some of our most pressing needs such as school and transportation infrastructure and our growing income divide.  Addressing these issues will require resources we must obtain without raising property taxes.

My record on creating a more favorable economic climate has led Montgomery County Business Hall of Famers, past presidents of local chambers of commerce, entrepreneurs of the year, minority business leaders, and green business leaders to endorse me.

Realizing our economic potential will require a multi-prong effort, including:

Supporting Small Business

Small business is big business in Montgomery County.  Helping small businesses thrive is what motivated me to introduce legislation that created both the Small Business Navigator and the Business Solutions Group in county government – making life easier for small businesses.

When we adopt new programs and regulations in our county, we need to make sure we are doing so in a manner that won’t create obstacles for small businesses.

We must give small businesses a fair shot at contracts with county government. Our procurement process is well-known for being challenging to deal with, and there are too many instances in which Montgomery County small businesses are passed over for bigger, out-of-town competitors.  The buy local campaign must include county government.

I will initiate a top-to-bottom review of our regulatory processes that impact businesses in our county. We need to make sure that we are making it easy, not hard, to do business in our county.

Building on our Strengths

A successful economic development effort will build on our county’s strengths.  We have companies with global reach in Montgomery County.  We are home to giants in the hospitality industry, bio-science, health care, and insurance world.  We have extraordinary government assets:  NIH, FDA, NCI, DOE, NIST, and the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) to name just a few.

I will be a full partner with our Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation in order to ensure that our county capitalizes on its unique assets.

I will be our Marketer-in-Chief, promoting the extraordinary virtues of our county in order to attract more world class companies.

Creating An Ecosystem that Supports Innovation Companies

For far too long, we have been a “company town” dependent on the big employer in the region – the federal government.  That has never served us well, and it serves us less well in the Trump era.  We must diversify our economy.

We have extraordinary assets – a smart and skilled workforce, transit, vibrant urban amenities, a diverse population, national business leaders, and an awesome quality of life that led to us making Amazon’s shortlist for its HQ2.

Whether we ultimately land Amazon, it is important we realize it charts our path forward.  The innovation economy is the future, a future we must embrace or we will fall back.  Embracing an innovation economy will require us to double down on creating an eco-system in which innovation and entrepreneurship thrive. 

What are the fundamentals of an innovation economy? A skilled workforce, which is why I will continue to champion workforce development and creating STEM labs; world class transit, which is why I will continue the fight to fix Metro, build the Purple Line & Bus Rapid Transit and supporting Ride On Extra; affordable housing, which is why I will seek to increase our funding for the Housing Initiative Fund to $100 million by the end of my first term; vibrant urban centers, with world class architecture, that attracts millennials and businesses like Marriott and Fox 5 to Bethesda; embracing innovation, which is why I will increase resources for the Office of Innovation in county government that I helped create.

As County Executive, I will double down on each of these areas critical to our county’s economic future and greater shared prosperity.

Supporting Our Immigrant Business Community

Immigrant-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of the county’s economy.  Often, these businesses need only a little help to get started.  That is what motivated me to lead the effort to create our county’s first microloan program, modeled after successful programs around the world.

I will expand upon the microloan program by providing more funding and technical assistance so that all entrepreneurial-minded residents are given an opportunity to succeed and prosper.

Continuing to Build a Green Economy

As a community on the leading edge when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change, Montgomery County is uniquely positioned to nurture and attract businesses that will develop the products to help us – and the world – reach these goals.

As County Executive, my administration would accelerate our local sustainability efforts, including supporting the efforts of Bethesda Green and others who create “green hubs” – incubator programs that help launch entrepreneurs seeking to care for our planet.

Ending the Department of Liquor Control’s Monopoly

The restaurants that help create vibrancy in our county’s economy have long been stymied by excessive prices and poor service from our government-operated Department of Liquor Control.  This government monopoly is the only such system of its kind in the country.  I have fought monopolies most of my life.  They are rarely in the public interest.  That is true here.  Our system is anti-consumer and anti-business.

As County Executive, I would move to end DLC’s monopoly and work with the state to share the economic benefits in order to recover lost revenue and keep our budget whole.

Fighting Poverty and Income Inequality

We are a tale of two counties.  Our County is blessed with great wealth.  We also have growing poverty.  We need to face this reality unflinchingly.  And we need to act.  I was pleased to have worked collaboratively to find a responsible way to increase the minimum wage in our county to $15, an approach that was approved by a 9-0 vote.  But as important as that is, we must do more.  What I love about Montgomery County is that we say “if not here, where.”  And in our county, the zip code of your birth must not determine your destiny.

Many of the ingredients necessary to grow our economy are also critical to creating greater shared prosperity – a world class transit system that doesn’t require workers to spend hours getting to work; a commitment to workforce training that provides the skills today’s workers need to get good jobs; and affordable housing.  But to make progress in alleviating income inequality and poverty, we have more work to do, including:

Parents need high-quality early childcare and education. We will have to make progress in both of these areas incrementally, and I am committed to doing so.

Our school system needs to evolve into a K-14 system and move more aggressively towards embracing a culture where students feel that they can follow a path that is right for them. College is not for every student, and we need understand, accept, and adjust for that reality. As County Executive I pledge to a significant increase in vocational training opportunities for high school students.

Our county has terrific non-profits like Interfaith Works and a Wider Circle, dedicated to tackling poverty in our midst. We need to ensure that they have the resources to do this work but we also need to own this issue as a county government.  As County Executive, I will develop a strategic and comprehensive plan within my first year to tackle the issue of poverty within our county.

If elected County Executive, I will work every day to bring about greater shared prosperity for all our residents, and I am confident that together we can.

Support Democrat Roger Berliner