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Washington Business Leaders Say Nation's Capital Recession-Proof

Despite warnings of dire consequences to the economy, the U.S. Congress was slow to act to shore up the financial system. Perhaps one of the difficulties was convincing lawmakers in Washington, D.C. that the crisis needed immediate fixing because life in the nation's capital is somewhat insulated from sharp economic downturns. VOA's Brian Padden talked to business leaders in Washington who say confidence in the local economy is strong.

In the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers were focusing on avoiding financial collapse. Across town at the Washington Convention Center, local real estate developers say it is business as usual.

Christian Amolsch with Studios Architecture is currently hiring people to work on multi-million dollar development projects for U.S. government agencies.

"From our perspective, it has been fairly insulated from the rest of the region at some level because of all the government business that exists," said Amolsch.

Real estate developer Gary McManus with Forest City Washington says he was able to get a $250 million loan to build an office complex because the local government is contracted to occupy much of the space.

"The first two buildings are completely leased, 500,000 square feet [46,000 square meters] to the D.C. government," McManus said. "That is a bright spot and it shows there is credit out there and good projects are moving ahead."

The Verizon Center sports arena revitalized D.C.'s Chinatown and boosted the city's real estate market. Business leaders say because of the federal workforce and federal spending in the region, the city is a good investment.

Washington is ranked second in the world in attracting foreign investors, and its office vacancy rate is only seven percent. Washington real estate broker John Germano says the pending economic downturn will not drastically affect the local area.

"Our vacancy rate, which is one of our metrics that we use, may climb in the worst instance in aggregate to 14 percent," Germano said. "There are many other markets in the country that if they ever got down to 14 percent they would be doing back flips down Main Street."

While some business leaders privately expressed concern about the long-term economic outlook, most here say the federal government insulates the nation's capital from the country's financial woes.