Business school to focus on city economy

The dean of the GW School of Business and six graduate students will help steer D.C.’s economic future, looking to create jobs and spur city development, Mayor Vincent Gray announced June 6.

Gray called on area business schools to recommend the best mix of tax breaks and investments to help D.C. grow as part of its five-year economic strategy. Business school Dean Doug Guthrie will co-chair the strategy advisory group alongside David Thomas, dean of Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, which started preliminary research in April but did the bulk of the planning in early June.

The strategy group, separated into seven sectors including real estate and construction, will help the city decide how to allocate tax dollars to lure businesses to the area and build up industries, aiming to create the first economic strategy plan to take effect since Gray took office in 2010.

Leaders of business, politics and higher education, will help GW “walk the walk,” Guthrie said, in its marketing pitch to intersect business with society. The city is running a $172 million budget deficit, heightening the urgency for an economic plan to make sound recommendations for where to put resources.

“We need to have an institution that serves a community and thinks deeply about its ties to the community and how it’s connected to the rest of the world,” Guthrie said. “If we preach about the intersection with business and society, we should be doing that, as well, as an institution.”

The group will call on 16 area students – six from GW, five from Georgetown University, three from American University and two from Howard University – to interview local business leaders and conduct research to create an economic impact model for the city, using interviews and quantitative analysis to recommend future public investments.

Guthrie added that by aligning with business schools, the city will save money in mapping out its economic future in its $400,000 plan, which includes research and labor costs. City officials have said it would cost $2 million to use a private consulting firm.

Gray, an alumnus, has made it a point over the last two years to reach out to area universities to aid in the city’s economic and environmental goals.

“Together, they will help us survey our industry sector leaders and identify opportunities for the public sector and private sector, working in tandem to catalyze economic development and generate jobs,” Gray said June 6.

The team will also work alongside Victor Hoskins, Gray’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development, with whom Guthrie has also forged strong ties.

Hoskins has teamed up with GW in international projects, joining Guthrie and University President Steven Knapp in China last spring when GW established a partnership with the Suzhou Industrial Park.

Overseeing the city’s economic development adds to Guthrie’s hefty workload as business school dean. The school is knee-deep in its strategy to earn degree-granting status in China, launching an online MBA program this fall, outlining a strategic plan and undergoing an undergraduate curriculum overhaul.

“It’s a little bit of an extra burden, and it’s busy, but the ways in which it actually relates to our general mission and how it can be used for not just service for the city but as a strategic perspective, as a branding opportunity, it’s worth it,” Guthrie said.

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