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Tech companies spent over $342M on lobbying while laying down stakes in DC

Some of the world’s biggest companies are working to establish a larger footprint in the district and surrounding areas, according to a new report by real estate firm JLL.

The United States Capitol Building in DC on Jan. 29, 2024. (Robb Hill for Technical.ly)

As policy and discussions concerning artificial intelligence regulation evolve at the federal level, so does the presence that the industry surrounding this emerging tech staked out in the nation’s capital. 

In its first DC-focused technology report, global real estate services company JLL found that tech firms are spending tremendous time and money on Capitol Hill while moving into office spaces in the city. 

DC has been a vibrant tech ecosystem for a long time, said Tammy Shoham, JLL’s director of research in DC. But what stood out to her was the development of the tech market in the city. For example, there’s a projected nearly 8% increase in tech jobs in the city by 2028, according to the report. 

“What we see going forward is this tech coming to DC to lobby, and staying to grow,” Shoham told Technical.ly.

In 2023, tech companies spent $342.1 million on lobbying efforts — a 40% increase from what they spent in 2020

Also, companies, nonprofits, trade associations and other groups collectively spent $569 million on AI-related lobbying in the first three quarters of 2023. In the first quarter of 2022, 127 entities lobbied on these matters. In the third quarter of 2023, that number rose to 323. 

A bar chart displaying how much different entities spent on lobbying on issues related to AI by quarter.

Companies, nonprofits, trade associations and other groups are increasingly spending to lobby on AI-related issues. (Courtesy JLL)

“It’s an incredible amount of money and people and resources,” Shoham said. 

With this amount of lobbying comes tech companies filling up local office space. 

Most of the companies new to the DC market since 2020 are in spaces smaller than 10,000 square feet, which suggested to Shoham that their DC locations are smaller divisions of the company, likely focused on government affairs. The seven multibillion-dollar newcomers JLL’s report highlighted include social media juggernaut TikTok, which established an office in 2021, and Nvidia, which opened its outpost in 2023. 

But about 40% of tech firms in DC have a space with more than 10,000 square feet, indicating that those companies in bigger spaces do more than just lobby. Several of the Big Tech firms are hiring for software engineer and product management positions, which Shoham said signals the space is also being used for tech work.

Out of this report, the lobbying boom’s effect on the city stands out to Shoham. 

“I think the lobbying is certainly a takeaway,” Shoham said. “For me, the thing that brings that together is a quote from [Canada’s Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau that says, ‘The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again.’”

A bar chart displaying how much different entities spent on lobbying on issues related to technology by year.

Lobbying by tech companies has continued to increase over the past decade. (Courtesy JLL)

This report arose out of JLL wanting to understand which entities are occupying the city and why certain sectors, like tech, have the presence they have. The research itself began with one overarching question: How much was each industry spending on lobbying? Shoham found that the tech sector came out on top. 

Shoham pulled data from various sources including OpenSecrets to track lobbying, PitchBook to analyze venture capital funding and Lighcast to monitor job postings in DC. Shoham also drew from JLL’s own data on leased spaces in DC. 

JLL, like the companies featured in its report, has major stakes in the DC region’s tech ecosystem. Its work in life sciences, as well as prior involvement in real estate transactions for aerospace giant Northrup Grumman and online review platform Yelp, underscore its weight in this world. Given the firm’s position, Shoham said JLL worked to provide a report that was defensible — and not a tool in its own marketing. 

“We’re just reporting the numbers,” said Shoham. “We’re calling it as we see it.”

“We are a client-first organization and the success of our clients is our success. Therefore, we strive to provide them with the most useful and unbiased information so that they can make informed decisions about their real estate, location, and talent strategies,” added Julia Georgules, JLL’s head of Americas research and strategy, in a statement. “Providing anything less than the best information possible would put our clients at risk and thus JLL and for that reason we collect, validate, and analyze only the most trusted data sources to ensure that our research contributes to JLL’s client-first ethos.”

Read JLL’s DC tech report in full

Companies: JLL

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