Bailout Rescues Economy...In Washington, DC

We’re always looking for counter-narratives to the downer news we’re obligated to report as the world’s economy slides into a seemingly bottomless abyss. Over the weekend, we found a great one: Washington, DC is booming!

The front page of Saturday’s Washington Post carried the cheery headline “Wall Street Decamps to K Street for Work on Bailout.” The story below tells how the Federal government’s bailout plan is leading to a booming business for those exposed to the upside of lobbying for government largesse.

Some highlights:

  • Everyone is getting rich…in Washington. “Firms see this as a potential gold mine,” said Anirban Basu, an economist and chief executive of Sage Policy Group in Baltimore. For Washington, “that has to translate into business sales, high-powered restaurant meals, business suit purchases, and travel and luxury hotel stays. We often talk about D.C. being different economically than the rest of the country and this is perfectly true. I don’t see much evidence of a slowdown here.”
  • Lawyers and real estate brokers cashing in. “Commercial real estate brokerage companies have pulled lawyers and salesmen who usually put together deals on downtown offices to work out loans and foreclose on properties. Some have dubbed themselves the “TARP team” after the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program created to sort through assets.”
  • This is huge…for hotels. “Marriott International’s ExecuStay program, which rents apartments to business travellers for weeks or months at a time, is one beneficiary. PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young — two big financial advisory companies that have been chosen by Treasury to do bailout work — have booked dozens of units at Marriott’s 52 properties in the region, paying about $4,500 a month per apartment.

“Young Hill, general manager of the D.C. region for Marriott ExecuStay, said she’s had auditors coming in “to look at Fannie Mae staying with us, but that was nowhere near as big as this financial bailout mess. This is huge.” PriceWaterhouse told Marriott it would likely need to bring 300-plus people into the area and “they know they’re going to be here for a while,” Hill said. Some guests may stay for a few days, other for months.”

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