Jobs: We can do this

Dear resident,

You may have seen the recent Washington Post stories about economic challenges facing Montgomery County. As Northern Virginia’s tech sector booms, our job growth is lagging.

We urgently need a new vision and action to grow our job base. We can do it — by understanding our strengths and investing in them.

Looking at economic powerhouses like Boston or the Bay Area, it is clear that research institutions — usually major universities — are driving innovation and economic growth.

That is why I am so excited about my recent engagements with our Federal research labs, such as the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and others. Keep reading >>

Moving Montgomery forward with technology

One of my top priorities on the County Council is to develop new technology initiatives that can drive growth in our local economy as well as strengthen the transparency and accountability of government.

If you read my new white paper on Moving Montgomery Forward with Gigabit Speed Networks, you will get a sense of why I think new technology initiatives are so important for our county.

To spur economic development in key sectors of Montgomery County’s economy, my white paper proposes the more effective utilization of ultra high-speed (100+ gigabits per second), ultra reliable, and ultra secure data networks in the county’s centers of research and economic activity — our innovation districts. These districts include White Oak, the Great Seneca Science Corridor, Bethesda and Silver Spring. What makes these districts so attractive for investment and job creation is the presence of federal agencies, such as the FDA, NIST, NIH, NOAA, a significant private sector toehold, and highly educated resident base focused around the life science, earth science, biotech and cybersecurity industries.

The specific challenge for the County is to form collaborative partnerships with the major federal institutions, non-profit, and private-sector companies to leverage these ultra high-speed connections. Specifically, the County will need a better understanding how federal agencies, such as the FDA and NIH, could use the next-gen applications made possible by the ultra high-speed networks. Then, the County should use these partnerships to attract businesses to build those applications in each innovation districts. The challenge is great, but the rewards could be substantial for the continued growth in the County’s economic base.

If you would like to dig a bit deeper into these exciting concepts, I invite you to read the white paper on this interactive website:

Moving Montgomery Forward with Gigabit Speed Networks

I am also thrilled to share a landmark new development in financial transparency for the county — the launch of our new online budget tool that is already becoming a national model. The tool is powered by raw data from dataMontgomery, an initiative called for in the Open Data Act of 2012, which I authored.

Some of the key highlights of the new budget tool include:

  • Allows residents to digitally navigate the current and past budgets with interactive graphs and charts.
  • Enhanced search capability and optimized for mobile, tablet and desktop.
  • Translatable into more than 90 languages.
  • Future modules of the tool will include spending and procurement data.

As the Council’s Lead Member for Digital Government, I am pleased to see the Montgomery County Executive–in collaboration with the private sector open data company, Socrata–develop an innovative tool that will help residents better understand our County’s budget and finances and more effectively participate in the decisions our government makes. We are working to replace the lengthy paper budget books and endless PDF files that have provided all of our budget information for years, with web-based tools that allow residents to see spending patterns and priorities over time, crunch their own numbers, and hold government more accountable.


I look forward to hearing your thoughts on both of these please initiatives. Please do email me at to let me know what you think!

NIST testing new technology on energy efficiency right here in Montgomery County

Did you know that buildings consume as much as 1/3 of all our energy? We need to reduce energy consumption in our residential and commercial buildings if we are going to address climate change and the problems it creates, like Superstorm Sandy.  

Right here in Montgomery County, the federal research agency NIST has built the country’s premier lab to test home energy efficiency technology. Using Obama Administration stimulus funds, the lab is a house designed to consume zero total energy in an environment that replicates the energy consumption of an average American family. The purpose of the lab is to allow NIST to install new technologies that are developed in the private sector or public sector and test their results for energy consumption.

Recently, I took a tour of the lab at the suggestion of not only the director of NIST, Patrick Gallagher, but also Marilyn Balcombe, with the Gemantown Gaithersburg Chamber of Commerce. A local Montgomery County company, Therrien Waddell, was the prime construction contractor for the job and we are very proud of their remarkable work.  

NIST Labs’ Energy Efficiency Home Tour – October 31st 2012 

As I took the tour, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman next to me, Chris White. It turns out Chris is a NIST employee who worked on the project. In addition to his work at NIST, he is an avid beekeeper and keeps proactive on the zoning code rewrite issue (trying to ensure the new zone for the county does not prevent beekeepers). He is also a 15 year veteran of the volunteer fire department, station 11. We talked about beekeeping, the zoning code rewrite, the volunteer service, and home energy efficiency.  

If you wonder what it is that moves me about serving as your County Council member, this experience sums it up. In fact, we have had significant progress on other initiatives that focus technology and constituent engagement, so definitely stay tuned for more announcements next week….