Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker finally signed into law his largest piece of legislation to date; the $50 million Economic Development Incentive (EDI) Fund.

“Together, united as One County, working together as the executive and legislative branches, we have made a bold declaration to the state, region, nation, and the world that, ‘Prince George’s County means business,’” said Baker in a statement. “With the EDI Fund, we are going to employ by creating new jobs and retaining current jobs in the County. We are going to develop new business opportunities, incubator companies, and small and minority owned businesses that will lead to new industries in the County.”

The signing of the bill was a long fight as Baker and the Prince George’s County Council took months to negotiate the terms of how the fund would be dispersed and what stipulations it would have.

There were no disputes at the signing ceremony, however, as Baker and his counterparts on the council touted the possibilities the fund could bring.

“We are confident that our work together to enhance economic development in the County will support the kind of development both the Council and County Executive agree needs to happen,” said Council Chair Ingrid Turner, D.- Dist. 4. “This is a plan that sets a clear vision for development opportunities and policies that will strengthen our communities with redevelopment and revitalization initiatives.”

Despite that optimism, the reality of the situation is that some funds need to be generated swiftly for the county. The county executive and some members of the council are open to exploring slot machines in the county for the first time in the wake of the economic downturn.

“We’re in a revenue-constrained situation,” said Councilman Mel Franklin, D.-Dist. 9. “It isn’t good enough to simply say; ‘Hey, we’ll find it from somewhere else.’ I’m looking for somewhere else right now. When you find it let me know. We are dealing with a post-recession economy that’s slowed job growth.”

Slots would give Prince George’s an identity it doesn’t want according to other members of the council, including Andrea Harrison, D.-Dist. 5, who says the county “can do better” than slots. Even Franklin said he would rather the county be aligned with another type of industry.

In announcing the move of Coastal International Security to Prince George’s County, Franklin said he wanted to the county to become the hub for the security industry.

“We want security to be a niche industry for Prince George’s County,” said Franklin. “We’re going to be a regional leader in the security industry.”

The Office of the County Executive says the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Finance will provide monitoring, tracking and reporting procedures for the EDI. Any disbursement over $250,000 would have to be approved by the council and any business receiving funding would be required to show that financial obligations to the county, state and federal government are up-to-date.


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO