By Adam Pagnucco.
Yesterday, Greater Greater Washington (GGW) wrote a long essay about Council Member Marc Elrich, who is running for Executive. GGW has many disagreements with Elrich about smart growth and housing and mostly concentrated on those issues. But the essay contained this quote from an interview with Elrich.
Broadly, Elrich isn’t convinced Montgomery County needs to add many new homes or residents, or jobs. Many people with jobs in Bethesda or DC are now living in Frederick County and other outlying areas and driving through Montgomery to get to work. We asked Elrich what he’d do for these folks, and his answer was, “I prefer to put jobs in Frederick.” He’d encourage the growth of both households and jobs to happen there, and in Prince George’s County, and elsewhere.
Elrich has disputed quotes before and we will see if he disputes this one. But if the quote is accurate… well.
The chart below uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to compare growth in total employment in Frederick and MoCo from 2001 through 2016.
Frederick’s job creation record is clearly better than MoCo’s in both absolute and relative terms.
Now let’s use BLS data to compare growth in establishment counts in the two counties.
Frederick beats MoCo in growth rate and, over the last decade, in net new establishment count too.
Let’s bear in mind the relative size of the two counties. Frederick has about a quarter of MoCo’s population. Yet, Frederick has created a larger absolute number of jobs over the last fifteen years than MoCo and had a net gain since 2006 while MoCo had a net loss. In terms of establishments, Frederick created more than double what MoCo did over the last decade despite being much smaller.
Now let’s recall the research we did three weeks ago on taxpayer migration. MoCo is often compared to Fairfax, but the truth is that we have lost more taxpayer income to Frederick than to Fairfax over the last decade.
Between 2006 and 2016, MoCo had a net outmigration of $582 million in real adjusted gross income to Frederick.
The greatest losses to Frederick occurred during MoCo’s home price boom of 2002 through 2007. MoCo home prices are rising again so let’s connect the economic dots. Suppose we cut off housing construction in the ways Elrich described to Greater Greater Washington. Unless there is a recession – which would bring a different set of problems – a housing shutdown in MoCo would cause more home price and rent hikes, exacerbating our already oppressive cost of living and pushing some folks into Frederick. Once in Frederick, some of those people would start businesses, hire people and create more economic activity there. That’s great for Frederick and it’s part of the explanation for the growth they have seen in the last fifteen years. But what exactly does that do for us?
Look, folks – with surging needs in schools, transportation and everything else and with maxed out county debt, we have a lot of bills to pay. There are two ways to do it. Option one is to grow our commercial tax base and create jobs, thereby generating more tax revenue. Option two is more big tax hikes which will further strain the cost of living.
If we have a County Executive who is fighting to put jobs in Frederick and NOT in MoCo, which option do you think our county will pick?
Disclosure: the author supports Roger Berliner for Executive.