Policy Experts Forecast Future of Regional Economy

Posted: January 25, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Elena Barbre

School of Public Policy professors Stephen Fuller, Roger Stough, and John Petersen shared their specialized outlooks for the regional economy yesterday at the 10th annual “Forecasting the Greater Washington Economy: 2002,” a conference presented by the Mason Enterprise Center and the Center for Regional Analysis.

In his overview of the current area economy, Fuller emphasized that the national economy and the Washington economy are very different, and that federal spending and procurement are primarily what “makes our economy tick.” The increase in federal spending since Sept. 11 has made this region one of only two areas in the country where consumer confidence is up, he said. Federal spending, along with our technology, building industry, international business, and hospitality sectors, has protected us from recession in this area, he said, but he cautioned that “we aren’t recession-proof.” Fuller predicts an economic rebound for 2002 and 2003.

Stough reviewed the performance of the area’s technology sector, which he distinguished as “different than that of any other region in the United States.” He said the fact that 90 percent of this region’s technology employment is in the information technology, telecommunications, and management services sectors means we will outperform other technology sectors such as those in the Silicon Valley; Austin, Texas; and the Research Triangle, whose economies depend heavily on electronics. He estimates the Washington region’s ramp-up in federal procurement this year will create about 28,000 new jobs in the technology sector, spurring 4 percent growth for the sector.

Petersen, an expert on public sector finance, summarized recent financial trends in the region and discussed what to expect from state and local government jurisdictions over the next year. He stressed that local government is “very large” in this region, and is essentially self-financed from its own revenue structure, the biggest chunk of which comes from property taxes. Petersen sees no immediate fiscal crises in this year’s future, and predicts that property tax increases due to growth in assessed property value will offset slowdowns in other revenues.

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