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Fuller: Greater Washington's economy is ‘being left behind’

Jan 15, 2015, 10:39am EST UPDATED: Jan 16, 2015, 2:09pm EST

Fuller Stephen

Stephen Fuller, head of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, said the region needs to act to bolster the economy as Greater Washington continues to lag all but one of the country's 15 other major metros, Philadelphia.

Staff Reporter- Washington Business Journal

The Greater Washington economy is at risk of trailing other major metros if there isn't more regional cooperation and diversification away from government-related business.

That's the message from economist Stephen Fuller delivered at Thursday morning's 23rd Cardinal Bank and George Mason University Greater Washington Economic Conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner.

"Time is of the essence. We are being left behind," Fuller, head of GMU's Center for Regional Analysis, told reporters during a Monday briefing embargoed until Thursday's presentation.

The long-term observer of the regional economy, criticized by some in the past for being too much of a cheerleader, has lately sounded increasingly dire warnings as he considers retiring or reducing his role in the next year or two.

"I have to say it one more time," he said Monday of those warnings.

Fuller said many local leaders and residents here are "in denial" about the fundamental problems of the regional economy. While they see construction, he added, they are blind to some of the weak underlying fundamentals.

Fuller and real estate developer Bob Buchanan, president of the 2030 Group, an association of Greater Washington business leaders trying to focus on long-term solutions for the area's economy, are considering calling a regional summit to focus on the issue. The university could be a potential organizer Fuller said, but dates and details remain sketchy.

The region is adding more low-paying jobs than high-paying jobs — an alarm Fuller has sounded several times recently. Here's the math, taken from his presentation: From August 2008 through February 2010 the region lost 177,700 jobs worth $28.4 billion to the regional economy. From August 2008 through November the region gained 242,400 jobs worth $27.4 billion. That leaves a gap of more than $983 million.

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