Updated: Feb. 11 at 9:56 a.m.
This post was written by Hatchet reporters Robin Eberhardt and Yueding Wang.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments agreed to set up a task force that will include a group of D.C. area universities in discussions on how to increase economic growth in the region.
The regional government group discussed ways to improve economic development in the D.C. metropolitan area at the council’s Board of Directors meeting Wednesday afternoon. University President Steven Knapp and John Cavanaugh, the president and CEO of the Consortium of Universities in the Washington Metropolitan Area, spoke at the meeting about how D.C. area universities contribute to the area’s economy.
Knapp, who was named chair of the consortium’s Board of Trustees over the summer, asked the metropolitan government to more effectively utilize university resources to improve economic development in the region.
Here are the main points of the the discussion:
1. Universities are key to the D.C. economy
Knapp said universities in the consortium contribute $15 billion to the area’s economy. He said students coming from outside the region and from other counties are forms of export because they pay for tuition and living expenses in the area and increase tourism revenue in D.C.
“Two-thirds of students who attend consortium universities are not from the D.C. region prior to enrollment, which itself is an important economic growth because they spend money as soon as they arrive there,” Knapp said.
Knapp said GW also contributes to the region’s economy by participating in the D.C. I-Corps program, which to trains scientists on how to better make their inventions into successful products for real customers.
“We’re turning that around and getting the scientists speaking in advance to potential customers,” he said.
Roger Berliner, the chair of the regional council, asked for the consortium to pay more attention to community colleges with large student populations, instead of focusing on private D.C. institutions.
“From our perspective, I have to say when we look at the economic development, and work opportunities in particular, it is the community colleges that we’re asking to step up to do this very important work,” Berliner said.
2. Lifting enrollment caps
Knapp said the maximum enrollment and employment caps in D.C. limits the productivity universities could have in creating and marketing inventions. He mentioned the opening of the Science and Engineering Hall more than a year ago, and said that if the caps were lifted, more employees and students could capitalize on GW’s resources and add to D.C.’s economy.
“If we can get those caps lifted, we can bring more graduate students in here who would help produce more inventions,” Knapp said. “I can tell you that would be an economic engine for this city and for the wider region because some of those companies would be founded right here in this region.”
3. Helping the economy through exports
Berliner, the regional council chair, announced that the consortium partnered with the Council of Governments and the Greater Washington Board of Trade to look at ways the groups can bring in more exports to help the economy. The group became the 29th member of the Global Cities Initiative, which discusses ways to improve the regional economy.
“It is the very first time that all three of our associations have worked together to really sit down and say “let’s see what we can do to grown regional economy with the focus on export,” Knapp said.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet misspelled the name of the organization that held the meeting. It is the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, not Government. We regret this error.