The Greater Washington Partnership announced Monday a regional blueprint for inclusive growth designed to boost the economy of the Baltimore-Richmond region for the next 10 years.
The GWP’s inclusive growth strategy council is co-chaired by Sheila Johnson, founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts in Middleburg, Va., and Jason Wright, president of the Washington Commanders.
Johnson and Wright seek the input of entrepreneurs and business leaders of color on how economic growth in the Baltimore-Richmond area can benefit all communities.
“We have the tools in the Baltimore, Washington, and Richmond areas to create economic growth for everyone, but too many people are being left behind,” Wright said. “Our lives aren’t lived in silos and our blueprint can’t be either.”
The Baltimore, Washington and Richmond metropolitan areas constitute the third-largest economy in the country behind the New York and Los Angeles metro areas. Johnson, who joined GWP to bring the Olympics to the region, said even though that campaign didn’t succeed, the foundation was laid for regional business leaders to work together on broader issues.
The GWP will focus on analyzing, coming up with recommendations and, if possible, implementing plans in the areas of education, health equity, infrastructure, workforce, access to capital, and affordable housing.
Johnson said the GWP’s work in the affordable housing area would be a benefit to her.
“I would really like to hire people but one of the biggest hurdles is affordable housing,” she said. “People would like to come to this area but the cost of housing is really expensive.”
Wright said some of the prime cities in the region have liabilities but hidden assets, also. He pointed out Baltimore, which has been recognized by economic development experts as having a large population of impoverished people.
“Even though there are people who are struggling in Baltimore, the city has one of the best health care centers in the world in Johns Hopkins,” Wright said. “We will work with local leaders to utilize their assets to grow the area’s economy.”
Both Wright and Johnson praised the GWP’s $4.7 billion effort over five years to support minority, women and veterans’ businesses to spur the economy. They expressed a desire to see minority businesses participate at every level in the building of large-scale projects such as the new Commanders stadium.
“Minority inclusion is the prudent thing to do for the region,” Wright said.