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Once again, Vince Gray has bested Adrian Fenty. The Creative Economy Strategy for the District of Columbia Gray unveiled this morning bears more than a passing resemblance to Fenty’s 2010 Creative DC Action Agenda, but look closer: Gray’s plan is 22 pages longer than Fenty’s, has six more mentions of millennials, and has better stock footage of scenesters in office settings.
Less clear is exactly what the plan will accomplish. With less than half a year remaining in Gray’s lame-duck administration—-and the mayor unable even to successfully veto the D.C. Council’s budget—-it remains to be seen how the administration will attempt to achieve the three visions laid out on the strategy for D.C.’s creative economy: become a national hub for creative start-ups and entrepreneurs, become a magnet for creative corporations, and foster a resilient entrepreneurial local arts community.
The mayor’s definition of “creative” is expansive, encapsulating not only fields like food and the arts, but also jobs in bars, public relations firms, and polling agencies. Positions in the so-called professional services comprise nearly half of D.C.’s creative economy jobs, according to the strategy report.
The plan is considered an addition to the five-year economic development plan that the Gray administration released in 2012 with the intention to create 100,000 new jobs, add $1 billion in tax revenue, and diversify D.C.’s economy. The latter priority gained extra importance following last year’s federal government shutdown, which threatened everyday public services like schools and trash collection, as well as recent cuts to federal-government employment. “Actively expanding the District’s Creative Economy and reducing dependence on the federal government will help protect the city’s residents and workers from shifts in federal funding priorities,” the report states.
Gray’s plan, announced today by the mayor in conjunction with Interim Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Jeff Miller, was put together by assembling a creative economy strategy marketing team, who then interviewed more than 133 people in the fields identified to determine the best course of action for the District. The three visions laid out in the strategy are broken into 34 initiatives that Gray aims to implement within the next few years—-beyond the lifespan of his administration.
Some highlights of the 34 initiatives laid out in the plan include:
- Provide incentives for developers to build make/live space for use by individuals in creative organizations.
- Support the DC Tax Revision Commission recommendation to revise taxation of passive income to attract new venture capital firms to the District.
- Create a fund to provide micro-grants to creative initiatives that will yield significant and near-term positive outcomes.
- Provide seed capital for an education transition program to prepare established workers for new careers in the creative sectors.
- Refocus the current D.C. film incentive program to reflect changes in the industry.
- Include for-profit music in the mandate of the (already struggling) Office of Motion Picture and Television Development.
Few specifics are provided with regard to implementation or funding for these items. Anything requiring new funding, of course, would need to be approved by the D.C. Council, which has been less than cooperative with Gray in recent months, in areas from the planned streetcar to the D.C. United stadium deal. For an administration that’s prided itself on building up D.C.’s tech sector and diversifying its economy, the Creative Economy Strategy may be a final attempt by Gray to solidify his legacy in this area.
Chart from the Creative Economy Strategy