D.C. Suburb Puts Focus on Smart Growth

D.C. Suburb Puts Focus on Smart Growth

Think all suburbs are alike? Think again. Or, more specifically, think Montgomery County, Maryland.

For starters, the county has one of the most highly educated populations in the nation with more than half of residents over the age of 25 possessing a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Throw into the mix a thriving high-tech economy, solid real estate market, top-notch medical facilities and its location adjacent to Washington, D.C., and you have a unique community of more than a million residents that is unlike any other.

County officials now want to add another source of pride to the community — managing its growth in a smart way.

Choosing Smart Growth Over Urban Sprawl

“We have wonderful schools, wonderful green space, and one-third of the county is set aside as an agricultural reserve,” County Councilmember Roger Berliner tells Smart Growth America. “We have historically been a suburban community and are now experiencing the growth of urban nodes and the benefits of those nodes in areas like Bethesda, Silver Spring and Germantown.”

The goal, Berliner says, is for the county to shrink its carbon footprint by reducing the number of automobile commuters and create a walkable and bikeable community.

“At the same time, I would like to maintain the integrity and splendor of our wonderful residential neighborhoods,” Berliner says.

One of the key efforts towards achieving this vision is the White Flint Sector Plan, which would transform Rockville Pike, a large highway with suburban strip malls adjacent to a metro station, into a grand boulevard with transit options and green space.

That project currently is under construction.

Making Businesses Feel at Home

Of course the key to keeping commutes down and the economy up is promoting local business growth. Montgomery County strives to offer high quality office space, an expansive infrastructure, skilled workforce and access to private and federal decision-makers.

County officials even offer a program for businesses moving to the area that includes:

• Property selection and site tours to find the optimal location
• Market research on such factors as demographics and workforce availability
• Financing options including incentive programs, tax credits and job training assistance
• Ombudsman services with state and local agencies to ensure a smooth relocation process

There's even a team of business development specialists who will work with your company. Their fields of expertise include life sciences, IT, cybersecurity, and professional and financial services.

Berliner sees striking that right balance of community and growth as Montgomery County's strength now and in the future.

"It is not a conflict to preserve neighborhoods and also create urban nodes — they don’t conflict with one another, they help one another,” Berliner says.

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