Job growth has been stagnant in Montgomery County over the past few years. What would you do to encourage increased job growth?
Most job growth comes from new businesses expanding in the location in which they were founded. Surveys indicate that the quality of life and the quality of public goods in an area – including transportation systems and schools – matter far more when businesses are making their initial location decisions than the taxes and other financial incentives they might be offered.
While there is a lot about the economy that is beyond our control – there’s no silver bullet for job growth – there is much that the county can do to create the conditions for businesses to start and thrive. To the extent that we have cumbersome and inappropriate regulations, we need to change them, and to the extent that regulatory costs are excessive, we need to lower them. More importantly, I would focus on incubating new local-grown businesses, nurturing their growth, and improving the county’s economic infrastructure. Other jurisdictions have creative small business incubators and we can learn from their successes to grow a stronger local economy. The empty spaces in shopping centers and office buildings were once filled with small businesses, and we need to nourish a new generation of entrepreneurs to refill them.
The bus rapid transit (BRT) system proposal that I initiated and have been advocating for during my time on the County Council also holds real potential as a tool for job growth. Businesses have made an issue of the lack of transit as an impediment to growth. If we want people to create startups or expand existing businesses, we need entrepreneurs to feel confident that their employees have a reliable way of getting to and from work, that their customers can get to their stores, and that they will be able to transport the goods and services they need to stay in business.
A well-implemented BRT system would reduce future congestion and move more people than roadways alone, making the county a more attractive location for businesses of all sizes. It would greatly benefit residents as well.
We also need to work with the school system, including Montgomery College, to make sure our students are prepared for jobs that don’t necessarily require a four-year degree but do require post-high-school education. And we should expand apprenticeship programs in cooperation with the building trades organizations that need the next generation of skilled workers.