Regional group working on solution to DC’s image problem

Although the greater Washington region is one of the best places in the country for small businesses and entrepreneurs, many across the country — and around the world — tie their perceptions of the region to political gridlock and dysfunction.

The problem for advocates of the region is how to pitch the capital region to entrepreneurs.

“This is an opportunity and a moment in time when we desperately need to redefine ourselves — not just to our own communities, but to outside the country,” marketing expert Cary Hatch told What’s Working in Washington.

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“We’re looking to elevate the profile and stature of the region to get people to consider this region in a different way,” she said. Hatch’s latest task is managing the Rebranding Greater Washington Taskforce.

Hatch said one of the aims of the rebranding project is to drive people to start businesses and families in the area.

“Greater Washington is often perceived to be a place of gridlock, partisanship and political dysfunction — an image that hindered the area’s strong bid to become host the 2024 Olympics and detracts from all that this region encompasses and offers,” said the CEO of MDB Communications.

“In reality, we are much more than just the federal city. Stretching from D.C. into parts of Maryland and Virginia, Greater Washington is a region … and a strong one at that,” Hatch said.

The Rebranding Greater Washington Taskforce’s aim is to create a regional brand that transforms the image of the region into one that is less government-centric and enhances the region’s reputation as a good place to start a company, build or expand a business, learn, and have a high-quality of life.

Regional leaders including the 2030 Group, Akridge, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and ULI Washington are the driving force behind the effort and have worked closely with international branding firm, Interbrand, and over 160 stakeholders to develop a new identity campaign.

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Just last week, Nestlé announced it would be moving its headquarters from California to Greater Washington in large part due to the region’s highly educated and talented workforce.

For female entrepreneurs,  D.C. is the best in the nation, according to Hatch.

“Most people don’t realize that there are more female executives in the greater Washington area than anywhere else in the country,” she said. “I think it’s a very diverse community, not just women. It’s people of color, it’s immigrants. Despite what you hear on the news, this is the location that welcomes talent. If you have talent to bring, if you have energy and if you have passion, this is the place where people come to make history.”

In 2016, the region was voted the fittest city in the U.S. and Bon Appetit named D.C. its 2016 restaurant city of the year.

The capital region is home to more of the fastest-growing companies in the nation than any other region. Greater Washington has it all, now we need to sell that image to all.