Early Briefing: Local Economy Faces Trials

Neil Irwin and Dana Hedgpeth take a look at the local economy, which has been largely insulated from previous economic downturns, protected by business activity tied to the federal government. But, they write, this time local companies -- and residents -- face trials unlike any in at least a generation.

The struggle reflects the fact that the private sector has grown more quickly than the government, changing the area's economic makeup. But while housing prices have fallen, they haven't been hit as hard as some other parts of the country. And employment is largely holding up. But, they write, the local pain is sufficiently severe that executives are questioning what has long been an article of faith: That Washington is protected from the vicissitudes of the national economy.

There are hot spots, though. Steve Hendrix reports that health care, engineering, biotech, and software and network design are hot and some could grow hotter. Stimulus spending will give contractors a boost, and some lobbying firms and trade associations are beefing up their staffs to fight for a piece of federal spending as well. The military base realignment will also create jobs locally, near Maryland's Fort Meade and Virginia's Fort Belvoir.

Washington telecom insider Julius Genachowski, a friend from law school and founder of the LaunchBox start-up incubator, was named chairman of the Federal Communications Commission after weeks of specuation.

JER Investors Trust of McLean said it intends to commence a public offering of $150 million of its common stock. The commercial real estate finance company expects to use the net proceeds of the offering primarily to invest in senior investment-grade commercial mortgage backed securities, according to a statement. Shares fell by more than half yesterday, or $1, to close at 88 cents.

By Terri Rupar  |  March 4, 2009; 7:30 AM ET  | Category:  Economy Watch , Morning Brief
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