Prince George’s Council Addresses Economic Development

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The Prince George’s County Council took on economic development Tuesday, looking for ways to improve the county’s viability for economic growth at length.

The discussion opened with a look at metropolitan business plans, led by the Council of Governments and the Brookings institute in an effort to get the county on board with joining with other jurisdictions in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to develop the entire region as a job creator.

County council members were receptive to the presentation, but many had concerns about the direct impact the county, which, so far, has been left out in the cold in much of the region’s economic development.

Council Chairwoman Ingrid Turner, D.-Dist. 4, suggested the county consider having a similar, but separate regional business model for just Prince George’s since the county has 27 municipalities, each with different demands.

“We have, in a sense, what many areas could call a region where we have competing demands because we have all 27 municipalities also competing for economic development in what they call their area or their regional piece,” Turner said. “I like the idea of what you’re talking about – a plan of Prince George’s County incorporating all of our municipalities.

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Amy Liu, co-director and senior fellow at Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, warned about the perils of focusing too much on one jurisdiction instead of cooperating with others to achieve the same result. Liu told a cautionary tale about the Kansas City metropolitan area where the city of Kansas City and suburbs in Kansas spent millions of dollars to trade roughly the same amount of jobs.

Between May and September of this year, the state of Kansas spent $46 million to pull the AMC movie headquarters from downtown Kansas City into Overland Park, Kansas, and it took 400 jobs with them. In retaliation, Kansas City spent $12 million to take Applebee’s’ headquarters from the suburbs and move it into Kansas City for 397 jobs, Liu said. “For $60 million in taxpayer money no net jobs in the region and for the taxpayers on the Kansas side; you spent over $40 million for a net three jobs.”

In other action, the council passed County Executive Rushern Baker’s $50 million Economic Development Incentive (EDI) Fund. The council and Baker have been at odds over the fund for months regarding what parameters would be placed around the bill.

Baker says the bill signals a new day for Prince George’s County in letting people know that the county is serious about doing business.

“This bill is a groundbreaking investment in our development and in our future. It is also a significant commitment, which required proper vetting, informed inquiry, and many contributions and suggestions from the Council, the community, and businesses,” said Baker. “I believe that by working together, we have ensured that the Fund is flexible and clear enough for the business community while still subject to the proper checks and balances. I am proud to say that there has never been a County spending program with the same degree of oversight and transparency requirements as the EDI Fund.”