Monthly Archives: May 2012

Business Leaders Focused on DC Development, Not Scandals

By Talib I. Karim, Tech & Health Writer

Business leaders see economic, real estate development as focus for District, not minor scandals involving Mayor, Council Chair (Photo/courtesy brightestyoungthings.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent revelations from a federal probe into the successful 2010 campaign of DC Mayor Vincent M. Gray (D), has dogged the veteran community organizer-turned-politician.  An investigation is also scrutinizing Kwame Brown (D) for leasing two costly SUVs in the days before he became Chairman of the DC Council.

While these stories may dominate the attention of mainstream media outlets, District business leaders have another focus, development.

According to the Gray administration, there is currently more than $60 billion in the District’s development pipeline for residential, commercial, retail and institutional projects.  This development is on pace with the trend over the past decade to ensure that development dollars are spread beyond the District’s downtown commercial hub into all sectors of culturally diverse DC, in line with the Gray “One City” theme.

The results have been astounding.

In just a decade, scores of new developments have cropped up around town, from the blocks of new businesses near the New York Avenue Metro Station (the North of Massachusetts Avenue (NOMA) district) to 14th Street/Columbia Heights project, and even the National’s Ballpark/Riverfront community.  With this development has come an infusion of over 50,000 new District residents, taxpayers.

Keeping up the pace of local development is what’s on the mind of Andy Shallal, a popular political activist, developer and owner of the popular Busboys and Poets restaurant chain.  Shallal, a Ward 1 resident, believes that scandals of politicians “are a mere distraction to issues that face Washingtonians; good schools, jobs, development…issues that pertain to improving the quality of life for all district residents.”

Shallal doesn’t completely dismiss the alleged missteps of local officials and understands that “such publicity cannot be good for the city.” Nonetheless, the noted restaurateur believes that extended media preoccupation of local scandal news amounts to “silly sensationalism” and could “set back any kind of further autonomy” that he and other activists and business leaders alike realize is essential for the District to truly prosper.

Darrin Davis, a young real estate professional and broker-owner of Anacostia River Realty, based “east of the river” views claims surrounding Gray and Brown as, at worst, “minor errors in judgment and shouldn’t be distracting from the city’s goals.”

For Davis, the real news is what’s in store for the District’s east of the Anacostia River neighborhoods, places he describes as “hidden jewels.”  Davis has recently seen new interest, particularly in Ward 7, by entrepreneurs and investors seeking to get ahead of the curve.  The fact that Ward 7 is home to three of the District’s top political leaders, Mayor Gray, Council Chair Brown, and incumbent Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D) is only a plus contends Davis.

The chance to spur development recently bought a delegation of District leaders to the International Council of Shopping Center (ICSC) convention in Las Vegas, considered by many as the world’s largest annual development industry networking and deal-making event.  Each year, the retail conference brings together more than 30,000 government officials, retailers, developers and other professionals from around the world.

At the ICSC conference, DC Council Chairman Brown, outside the microscope of DC mainstream news outlets, met with a variety of “retailers and developers to discuss various projects” in all of the District’s eight wards, said the first-term Council Chairman.  Now that he’s back, Brown hopes to take advantage of contacts that he and other local leaders made at ICSC to lure “retailers and developers who seriously intend to invest in the District.”

Brown is particularly bullish about development in his home Ward, noting several economic development priorities in Ward 7, such as the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor, the 4800 Nannie Helen Burroughs project, and the long-anticipated redevelopment of the Penn-BranchShopping Center.

According to Brown, Ward 7 and other underserved neighborhoods are perfect opportunities for developers.  Ward 7, in particular, Brown notes, includes more than 75,000 residents who all require basic services and amenities that currently are not offered, including grocery stores, restaurants, and entertainment options.  “In my view, smart investors will realize these gaps in the market and deliver these services to Ward 7 residents,” stated Brown.

There is a balancing act in promoting new business in the District, while making sure that development does not come as a detriment to local, home-grown enterprises.

To achieve this balance, Victor Hoskins, the Gray administration’s Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development leads a staff charged with ensuring a level playing field.  Hoskins and his team are supported by District laws that require at least 51% of jobs created by new development projects to be given to DC residents.

Hoskins’ team has also built a webportal for developers that “allows anyone interested in doing business in the District to determine what incentives they would be eligible for depending on their location within the District.”

In sum, the word on DC’s main street is development, not scandal.

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To contact the writer, email him at tkarim@teclawgroup.com.

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Dean Garfield Lays Out Tech Industry Blueprint for Jumpstarting U.S. Economy

By Talib I. Karim, Tech & Health Writer

For version published in the Afro American, visit:
http://www.afro.com/sections/news/afro_briefs/story.htm?storyID=74963 

Writer William Faulkner in a 1958 interview said, “Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” In 2012, Dean Garfield, is employing this sage wisdom to assist the nation’s top tech firms create innovations and jobs to boost the country’s economic engine.

Garfield serves as president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), which represents the country’s largest tech-sector companies, including the likes of Apple, eBay, and Google. According to noted attorney David Honig, who leads the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, Garfield is achieving his mission while also prodding Silicon Valley firms to increase the diversity within their ranks.

For some, Garfield may be viewed as the tech world’s Barak Obama. Like President Obama, Garfield is a super-smart, east coast-educated lawyer, with joint advanced degrees in law and international affairs degrees from NYU and Princeton University, respectively. After school, Garfield worked as a litigator for top law firms in New York and Washington, D.C. Later, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), tapped Garfield as its vice president of Legal Affairs, where he helped shut down early online music sites such as Napster that were blamed for illegally downloading millions of sound recordings.

Garfield’s successes for the record industry caused the Motion Picture Association of America to lure Garfield from D.C. to California to serve as the group’s executive vice president and chief strategic officer. There, Garfield employed his anti-piracy expertise to challenge illegal copying of film works while directing the film industry’s efforts to better utilize internet-based technologies.

Together with his wife Chanda (a Howard alumnae and fellow lawyer) and two children, Garfield lives on the other end of 16th Street from the Obama’s, near a neighborhood known as D.C.’s “Gold Coast.”

I caught up with the busy Garfield and here’s what he had to say.

AFRO: What is the mission of ITI?

Dean Garfield: Much of what we do is to create an enabling environment through quality for our companies to be successful. We try to break down barriers that get in the way for our companies to compete effectively, or to breed new opportunities and markets for those companies. That ideally will allow companies to be more successful and create more jobs as well as continue to reshape society in ways.

AFRO: As the president kicks off his official re-election campaign; what grade would you give him for his work in creating opportunities for the tech sector?

Dean Garfield: I would say that there are areas where there’s been significant progress. Specifically, I point to his [the President’s] focus and emphasis on skilled labor, getting more people proficient and interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). I think they have built some really solid-state public-private partnerships there, the investments they’ve made in research I think will help…in the long term. There are also important areas where we didn’t see any full progress and hopefully there will still be opportunity for that to happen. The big example is mobile broadband: that’s the invisible infrastructure that allows all of us to be really and highly efficient as we travel around, whether by bus, rail or airplane. There is a dire need for more spectrum in our country. So there are identifiable successes but there are also areas that need real attention.

AFRO: The president has touted trade agreements with places like Korea as victories while unions and others view these as bad deals, particularly for workers and since they erode our manufacturing base and ship jobs outside the country. What’s your take?
Dean Garfield: My take is that we live in a world where 95% of the world’s population is outside our borders and owns 75% of the world’s earning power. So, the only way we can create a success story for U.S. businesses is to ensure they have access to those markets. If you are building glass that will go into mobile devices in Asia, then you’re not going to ship that glass from New York to Asia, you’re going to create a facility where you can manufacturer glass there in Asia. But dollars are earned from these products wind up here in the United States.

So there is no doubt in my mind that creating new markets and opening up existing markets for the US companies is in our best interest. That is not saying that there aren’t more steps that the country can take to encourage more manufacturing here in the U.S. I think that they are related but just different issues.

 

Afro: You represent the world’s top tech firms like Apple but who manufacture many if not most thier products outside the country.  This creates an imbalance of foriegn currency reserves, which makes these countries like China wealthy.  Why don’t your firms simply bring thier manufacturing facilities back to the US to give jobs to our nation’s citizens so they can purchase more of the products your firms sell, and thus grow our economy?

 

Dean Garfield: This is not a new phenomenon.  Over the last 40 years, there has been a decline in the nation’s manufacturing sector.  What are other countries, whether places like China or Singapore, doing that the US is not.  There are some real things being done that the US should emulate.  Most of those markets are working hard to ensure there are people with the skills necessary to fill the positions necessary to support the manufacturing sector.  Most of the jobs in our sector are high-skilled.  A lot of countries are investing to help develop those skills or attract people with those skills.  Other countries are also creating tax politices that attract companies to create manufacturing facilities.  Three, other countries are creating a regulatory enviornment that is limited.  In other countries where there are regulations, they are not a maze.  I think we need to figure out what steps we take to reverse that trend.

 

Our companies have to be responsive to share holders.  They cant do something that’s not in the overall health of the companies.  Yet, folk who sit at the helm of these companies are human beings who want to see this country get stronger.  To the extent that they have a partner in the US government willing to work with them and take the steps that other countries are taking to attract thier investment, that sense of patrotism will always weigh in favor of this country.

 

What they need is a partnerships that will make those decisions a lot more easy.  I would say…make it a close call.  Look at the countries that are attracting US investment.and replicate that, so its a close call for CEOs.  If its a close call then the overwhelming instances the US will win out because these people want to see the US do well.

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The writer can be reached at tkarim@teclawgroup.com.


 

DC, Maryland Health Centers Win Millions from Obama Health Law Grants

By Talib I. Karim, Tech & Health Writer

DC-based Unity Health Care, a recipient of the Obama health center grants this week cut the ribbon for a $20 million health facility in Southeast, DC (Photo/courtesy Unity Health Care)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently, President Obama’s administration awarded grants of over $728 million for the renovation and construction of health centers around the country.  DC andMaryland centers snagged more than $15 million for projects designed to boost local government’s ability to care for low and mid-income patients while creating jobs in the process.

The funds were made possible by the Affordable Care Act, described as the President’s signature legislative achievement, currently being examined by the U.S. Supreme Court, which in weeks, is set to rule on whether the law should be upheld.

“We don’t have time to wait,” to determine how the Court will rule on the law said Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council.  Instead, the President is moving ahead to ensure that the public enjoys all the many benefits of the landmark health reform law asserts Muñoz.

One significant benefit under health reform, carved out and championed by Congressional Black Caucus and progressives in Congress, was $11 billion for community health centers.  These facilities, located in urban and rural communities alike, are designed to offer comprehensive, culturally competent, health care services to communities and vulnerable populations that lack access to quality health care.  By definition, these centers are community-based and serve individuals and families experiencing homelessness, those living in public housing, immigrants and many others.

Over the next five years, the community health center provision of the Obama health law divides its funding up by setting aside $9.5 billion to build new or expand existing health centers, and $1.5 billion to help maintain and renovate current community health centers.

In addition to expanding health care access, the funding is also designed to create jobs, according to White House officials.  The numbers back up this claim.  The Obama Health and Human Services department reports that President’s health care law has funded as many as 190 construction and renovation projects and helped open up 67 new health center sites across the country to date.  Through 2014, the law aims to fund more than 485 new health center construction and renovation projects.  It’s predicted that in total, community health center funding will pave the way for 457,300 jobs by 2015.

When its all said and done, the $11 billion invested by the government is expected to generate $54 billion in economic activity, in two ways.  First, health centers employ people in the communities they serve, including entry-level workers taking people right off the unemployed rolls.  Second, health centers purchase goods and services from local businesses, which leads to even more job growth according to thinkprogress.org, a blog of the progressive Center for American Progress Action Fund.

An example of the direct impact of the funding on local communities can be seen in the efforts of Community of Hope, one of the six DC and Maryland non-profits winning health center grants.  Community of Hope got a half-million dollars through a grant targeting existing health centers seeking to address pressing facility and equipment needs.  With the money, the non-profit intends to invest in equipment and renovations for its newly acquired Family Health and Birth Center located at 801 17th Street, NE,  near the old Heckinger Mall said Kelly Sweeney McShane, the group’s executive director.  “We want to buy an ultrasound machine, phone system, and more exam tables,” states McShane.  “We also want to configure space [of the center] so we can see more patients…and give [patients] more privacy,” McShane adds.

And even though it’s a relatively small pool of money, McShane hopes to spend as much of it as possible with small, community based, and disadvantaged businesses.  “We’re currently taking bids for a general contractor for this project,” noted McShane.  With this and the larger multimillion 50,000 square foot facility planned for Ward 8, McShane says her group is committed to spending as much of 40% of the overall construction dollars with community-based businesses.

If the health law prevails, communities can expect another round of funding for local health centers in June.  According to the US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), up to $150 million will be available to support approximately 220 new full-time service delivery site(s) for the provision of comprehensive primary and preventive health care services including oral and behavioral health services.  Groups interested in applying for health center grants can visit http://bphc.hrsa.gov/about/howtoapply/index.html.

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The writer can be reached attkarim@teclawgroup.com.

Science & Engineering Festival Takes Center Stage in Washington

By Talib I. Karim, Health & Tech Writer
For version published in the Afro American, visit: http://www.afro.com/sections/news/Washington/story.htm?storyid=74859
 

Week of Washington science and tech events attracted thousands including youth, people of color (Courtesy Photo/ US Science & Engineering Festival)

Last week, hundreds of thousands of people attended a series of events in Washington focusing on science and science related fields. These events included a White House Forum on Women and Girls in STEM, a pair of health policy forums, and a science and technology festival.

The largest of the events was the science fest, officially dubbed—the Second USA Science & Engineering Festival. Founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Larry Bock, the fest drew an estimated crowd of over 300,000 to the Walter Washington Convention Center in DC.

How did Bock and just two other full-time staff manage this feat?

In the weeks prior to the festival events at the convention center, Bock and his small army coordinated hundreds of presentations by Nobel laureates and others in schools around the region.

The goal was to excite students, particularly those in low and medium income neighborhoods, about science and the festival by giving them a preview of what they could expect at the convention center events. This investment by Bock and his team paid off.

Attendees for the weekend Science Festival events were given their fill of fun activities geared for children and adults alike. Over 500 of the nation’s top science universities, organizations, and corporations participated in the festival, occupying the entire lower level of Washington Convention Center.

“It was impossible to see it all” said Antoinette Barksdale, who attended the festival with her daughter and a classmate, ages 8. Barksdale, a government civil rights attorney, and her crew were met by a mix of life science, aerospace, and robotic displays, games and experiments ranging from powerful microscopes aboard wind-powered school buses; to robots like R2D2, the Star Wars droid; to real-life jet and space crafts. “We spent three hours at the festival and were only able to see 25 percent of it. Even if I had all day, I could not have gotten it all in. You needed two days,” said Barksdale.

The US Science & Engineering Festival began as a regional science festival in San Diego, CA near Silicon Valley. According to Bock, one of his sponsors, Lockheed Martin, challenged him to take the event national by hosting it in DC. In response, “I said that Washington was not a science city, not like San Diego, boy was I wrong. In San Diego we had three universities participating, here in Washington, we had 150 universities,” Bock reflects.

“We did the first event on national mall, and this was the second. The national mall was the fantastic place to have it but it was very weather dependent. We were holding our breath to see whether people would come to the Convention Center for an event like this. We doubled what we did in San Diego,” Bock notes.

In terms of cost, Bock admits that he and his wife have been among the largest donors of festivals. “I contributed $150,000 and we raised $600,000 [more],” to pull off the San Diego festival, he said. For this year’s festival, which took a year to organize, the budget was $2.25 million plus $1.5 million in donated media support.

Bock’s commitment to inspiring people in the US about science and technology is a product of his own success. “I started out as a bright kid who didn’t make it into medical school,” says Brock. So, out of college, Brock went to work for an early pioneer in bio tech, Genentech, and saw it grow from 50 to hundreds in just three years. After cashing out of that firm, Bock spent 25 years building 30 companies worth $40 billion.

Once Bock recalls, he recruited a young engineer to his firm from China. After a few years, the company did well, and the engineer made $1 million in stock. Ultimately, the engineer left Bock’s company, went back home to China and opened a firm developing the same products as Bock; now he has 4000 employees.

“That’s when I knew he had to spread the word about science and technology to Americans,” Bock shares.

“You get what you celebrate. We celebrate pop stars and athletes and we generate a lot of people who want to be them,” adds Bock.

While African Americans are not generally known as science buffs, the majority of those attending the Science festival were people of color. Free admission to the festival was a big factor in attracting people who would not ordinarily attend science and tech events believes Bock (similar events typically cost $25-$100 per person).

The diversity of attendees gives Bock reason to believe that science and technology may lead to a cure for a disease, which some believe is contagious—racism.

At the White House STEM event, Facebook’s Director of Engineering, Jocelyn Goldfein acknowledged the power of technology in the fight against racism as evidenced in the Trayvon Martin story. “This is one of the things that’s humbling about being at Facebook…it’s a tool…and people of great courage, bravery, and integrity have spoken out and used this tool,” said Goldfein.