Early Briefing: Raising Our Tech IQ
* Columnist Steve Pearlstein lists several projects in the works that could unlock Washington's tech potential.
The University of Maryland has snagged an important anchor tenant for its new research campus at College Park: IARPA, which will do for intelligence research what DARPA did for basic research in the defense arena and which should attract dozens of private contractors into its orbit.
In a few weeks, Virginia Tech will announce its intention to build a new research center in Arlington, in collaboration with the National Science Foundation, where it will conduct cutting-edge research in bioinformatics, biomedicine and management of the national energy grid. Virginia Tech already offers more than a dozen graduate programs at campuses in Alexandria and Falls Church, but the new research center represents a conscious strategy on the part of President Charles Steger to increase his university's footprint in the Washington area.
Even more ambitious is a plan being put together by Johns Hopkins, along with the University of Maryland and Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, to create a 600-acre "life sciences city" in Shady Grove. It would be home to an expanded hospital complex, government and academic research labs, biotech companies and incubators, and a range of academic programs. But it would also include housing, retail and restaurants, parks, and public transportation infrastructure to transform what is now a collection of office parks into something more like an urban academic community.
At the center of the effort are 108 acres of cattle farmland, known as the Belward Farm, that Hopkins purchased nearly 20 years ago from Elizabeth Banks for $5 million. As part of a new master plan for the area, the state and county have agreed to make changes in plans for a new highway and transit line to accommodate the new complex. When completed, the project would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new private investment, create space for tens of thousands of new workers and students, and be home to thousands of new residents.
The theory behind the Shady Grove "life sciences city" is that the most vibrant tech clusters are those in which students, teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs and government officials can easily and informally rub shoulders, exchange ideas and hatch bold, ambitious plans. That's what makes places like Cambridge and Palo Alto so successful and so attractive, and what's largely been missing from the local tech scene.
And just this week, five universities announced the creation of the Chesapeake Crescent Innovation Alliance, with the idea that by collaborating and sharing resources, they might be able to attract funding or engage in research that no one institution could do on its own.
* The spike in fuel prices is hitting the Washington region's tourism industry during the heart of the high season, pummeling vacationers and the companies that cater to them. Official numbers won't be available for months, but warning signs have been spotted.
Some travelers are cutting their trips short and have less money to spend. Tour bus operators and sightseeing boats struggle to maintain prices even as their costs increase. One rental car company is offering free gas to keep people driving as the specter of $4-a-gallon fuel begins to reshape the way we spend our time off.
* Federal data show that Virginia's economic growth slowed in 2007, mirroring a trend in various other states.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Statistics said Virginia's gross domestic product grew about 1.9 percent in 2007, slowing from 2.2 percent in 2006. The gross domestic product reflects the value of goods and services produced in a state, the Associated Press reported.
The bureau said the state's gross domestic product was about $321 billion for 2007, up from $315 billion in 2006. The state's per capita GDP rose to $41,617 in 2007 from $41,222 in 2006, ranking the state eighth overall in per capita GDP.
The data also show that real GDP growth slowed in 36 states last year as declines in construction, finance and insurance restrained growth.
* More after the jump on a new Metro station for Alexandria, the fight over Clarksburg development, the appointment of people to oversee Prince George's struggling hospital system, and the dismissal of a former chief financial officer's lawsuit against Sunrise Senior Living.
* Alexandria officials are moving closer to adding a Metrorail station on the Blue and Yellow lines near the Potomac Yard development. It would be the first station built in the region since 2004.
The station would be on the east side of the $2.6 billion Potomac Yard development, between the Braddock Road and Reagan National Airport stations.
Earlier this week, the city Planning Commission approved higher-density projects at a town center near the proposed Metro station. The approval, along with an analysis that showed future tax revenue could help finance the $150 million station, has made the station more likely.
* Three years after residents of Clarksburg Town Center found irregularities in their northern Montgomery County development, angry residents say things still aren't being built the right way. And the developer, Newland Communities, is complaining that the residents group is part of the problem.
The disagreements are the focus of dueling lawsuits filed recently over efforts to create a walkable downtown in Clarksburg Town Center. The community is one of several planned developments in an area near the Frederick County border that is expected to grow to about 13,000 homes.
* Prince George's leaders have chosen a lawyer and two financial gurus to represent the county on an authority designed to seek new owners for the county's struggling hospital system.
County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and County Council Chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) said yesterday that they have chosen former Prince George's chief administrative officer Kenneth Glover, former county budget director Thomas M. Himler and Stan Brown, people's zoning counsel for the county.
The group will be joined by three members selected by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and a member chosen jointly by the Senate president and speaker of the House of Delegates, none of whom have yet been named.
The hospital system, anchored by Prince George's Hospital Center in Cheverly, is owned by the county and managed by the nonprofit Dimensions Healthcare. The authority will solicit bids from health care companies interested in taking over the system from Prince George's and Dimensions.
* A lawsuit brought by Sunrise Senior Living's former chief financial officer against the company has been dismissed, and neither side is discussing the outcome.
Bradley Rush's lawsuit, filed in September, came as the McLean-based operator of retirement communities grappled with accounting problems that eventually led it to lower earnings by $173 million from 1996 through 2005. A special board of directors committee ultimately determined that "inappropriate accounting" had occurred over a two-year period from the summer of 2003 through the end of 2005, and the company subsequently let go three senior executives, including the president,
Rush was suspended and terminated before that, in the spring of 2007, after the company decided he had failed to adhere to Sunrise's document retention directives, the company said at the time. Sunrise said it had asked employees on two occasions to retain documents about specific accounting issues in anticipation of a review.
Rush sued Sunrise for breach of contract and other claims, saying that the company "initiated a public and private campaign" to defame him "directly and through innuendo" by making it appear he was responsible for the accounting troubles. Rush said senior management pressured him to complete a review of the company's accounting irregularities because Sunrise was looking to be acquired. His suit asked for $13.5 million in lost compensation and other damages.
The company said the suit lacked "both factual and legal merit."
"The litigation concerning Sunrise and Mr. Rush has been dismissed," the company said in a statement. "We have no additional information to share on this matter."
Rush's attorney, John Dowd of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, did not respond to multiple messages left with his secretary.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Greta Swinnen Crais | June 18, 2008 8:51 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.