So, I was invited to attend the Washington Post live event sometime yesterday. The event is about economic outlook for the Washington Capital region. Because of my blogger thing, I got to sit in the same table with two of Washington’s famous journalists, Steve Pearlstein (Washington Post) and Mark Plotkin (WTOP). Though, not directly sitting next to them. But, close enough. Steve even asked me to help him pin his name card to his jacket. Hey Steve, that’s me that you asked for help.
This was a live event, on record, and streaming live. That means, though the attendees paid to get in, online – people can watch and participate – from the convenience of their place. The new way of conferencing with online and offline participation. Didn’t check if they have Twitter # (hashtag) for BofB (short for Business of the Beltway) running at the same time.
Event was moderated by Mary Jordan, who is the editor for Washington Post Live, joined by four panelists with diverse background. Two from government sector – Austan Goolsbee who is the chief economist on the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board and Virginia Governor, Robert McDonnell. One journalist, that is Steve Pearlstein, Washington Post business and economics columnist. (Though he covers economics issues, did you know that Steve Pearlstein never taken economic class? Yes, that was true). And one panelist from the private sector, Hilton hotel CEO, Chris Nassetta.
One of the attendees I talked to, Tracey White, VP Community and Government Relations share the news that HCA hospital group just received an approval from Loudoun County board of supervisors for brand new 164 beds Stonespring hospital at intersection of Gum Spring and Route 50 in Loudoun. Delivery date scheduled for 2015.
Another attendee gave the scoop about commercial real estate market how more and more companies are looking to set up shops in area that have metro access. If in the past, it’s all about car culture. Now that trend has shifted into take-the-metro-to-work culture. Green culture slowly catching up. One of her clients moved from Old Town, Alexandria to Ballston.
Okay, now I’m going to give you my take about the event.
Chris Nassetta said something very interesting about the state of the economy, in which he said that “U.S. is lagging against the world.” The US and international market is stronger than US. However, he’s still seeing deflation in prices (read: hotel speak for low prices) in many major markets.
Austan Goolsbee gave an honest assessment of the economy. He said “that unemployment won’t likely to come down next six months. Census will skew the numbers because of 350,000 census workers hired in May.” Here you have a situation, where unemployment numbers drop one month and then disappearing jobs the next month when census jobs are over. He says “pay attention to the private sector part.”
Gov. McDonnell said that “Virginia is opening up trade offices in India, China and the U.K.” You heard that Northrop Grumman is moving their headquarters from California to Virginia, right? He wants to have more like Grumman companies moving here.
Steve Pearlstein said the number that you have to remember is $3 trillion (with T). That’s the amount of money injected to the US economy with great share allocated to Washington DC region. If you want to know more about the share of Federal jobs in DC, the Center for Regional Analysis [pdf] has the numbers.
There was a question for Hilton boss – about the reasons why they moved from Beverly Hills – to Tysons Corner. Nassetta said there are 4 reasons: 1) cost structure, 2) tax structure for state and local, 3) eastern time zone and 4) talent pool. He added that DC has a lot of real estate companies.
Between Q&A, we had instant polling. This is a clever thing from engagement perspective. You got captive audience made up of mostly business people.
I got a feeling that being in Virginia, audience is a bit more conservative. So you get kinda mixed answers. Hey, this IS Virginia. Not surprising. I meant, for example, there was an online question on how money is well spent for Dulles metrorail. Golbee said yes. McDonnell said in part. Pearlstein said yes. Don’t remember what Nassetta said. (Note to Washington Post: maybe you should add Maryland to the mix, just to see it from a different ‘business’ perspective).
One encouraging outlook for the economy (from the polling). Employers were asked, next year if they expect to a) hire more people, b) keep the same number of people, c) shrink their workforce. Most said they will hire. Job seekers, take note of that..
To read play-by-play, check out the Washington Post Live, here.