Testimony of Kevin Clinton
COO, Federal City Council
June 3, 2021
Budget Oversight Hearing:
Committee on Business & Economic Development
Chairperson Kenyan McDuffie
Good morning, my name is Kevin Clinton and I am the Chief Operating Officer of the Federal City Council. It’s my pleasure to testify in support of several investments put forward in Mayor Bowser’s FY22 budget.
Over the course of the last year, the Federal City Council has held meetings with local and national experts as part of our District Strong webinar series. These sessions culminated in a two-part mini-series on the keys to a strong and equitable recovery.
Through this process, we zeroed in on the investment that would be most critical to priming DC’s equitable recovery. And while I’m not here to testify on these items today, I would like to say that Mayor’s budget investments in areas including the digital divide, child care, K-12 education, career pathways and work-based learning, along with multi-modal transportation access and affordable housing will be critical to ensuring an equitable recovery. None of us will have succeeded if a recovered DC looks the same as the DC that existed before the pandemic.
But on the economic recovery side, her budget strikes the right balance—avoiding any tax increase, lower business fees in some cases, while at the same time using federal aid to make one-time investments that will kickstart economic growth.
Today I’m here to testify about DMPED as its own agency. I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge DMPED’s great work on the recovery. During a difficult year, DMPED has worked tireless to stay connected to DC employers, particularly those most vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic, and to understand their needs and to design recovery programs to avoid the worst possible pandemic outcomes.
You are receiving this budget at an uncertain time. We don’t precisely know how downtown will look next year or the year that follows. We don’t know how often federal and other DC workers will telework. And we don’t know how all these trends will impact DC jobs and tax revenue.
Now more than ever we need to be investing in the future growth engines of the economy while we ensure that the proceeds from that growth are more equitable distributed.
This is why we were pleased to see three investments in the Mayor’s proposed budget.
The first is the new Employment Center Vitality and Local Job Creation fund, which is designed to help DMPED attract high-impact employers to the District.
The second is investments in enhanced placemaking through Business Improvement Districts (BIDS). Anacostia will be on the path to an arts district, the golden triangle an innovation district and the southwest an autonomous vehicle district.
The third are the business and professional license fee reductions. This will lower the barrier to entry for startups and low-income residents, as well as lower the cost of doing business for everyone.
The regional and national competition for employers and talent is fierce. DC has a great product to sell with wonderful neighborhoods, a highly educated workforce, an improving education system and great leadership. But we lack the tools other jurisdictions have. Virginia provides more incentives for employers to relocate there. DC has higher commercial taxes and more expensive commercial real estate, making it a tougher sell for employers.
We’ve all learned how easy it is to telework. We need to give employers a more carrots to come back to commercial corridors—to exciting arts, transportation or innovation districts. Those corridors will attract excitement, buzz and capital, which will then lead to business activity, tax revenue, and most importantly, jobs for DC residents. Finally, we need to give DC’s flourishing entrepreneurs a better bridge to transition from startup to sustainable, and lower fees will help.
It’s an open secret that DC startups generally head out to Reston or Tysons once they reach a certain size. This new fund will help DC keep more innovative businesses here and even the playing field with the suburbs in the competition for employers.