Baker: State of the economy is strong
County in demand with 33 project deals valued at $23 million
Highlighting the current state of the economy, job creation and workforce development that has taken place in the county over the last year, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) gave his fifth annual “State of the Economy” address to local business leaders, economic development experts, elected officials and residents on April 13 at the Colony South Hotel in Clinton.
The event was hosted by the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) in partnership with the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable. This year’s presenta- tion emphasized the investments that the Baker administration has made in the county to bring forth high-growth opportunities for local businesses and residents. Baker highlighted the areas the county plans to focus on over the next 18 months, provided an update on key projects currently under development and announced a major project regarding future development around the Capital Beltway.
According to Baker, the county has been in great demand over the last five years thanks to the renewed interest created by the county government and business community. The county has $7 billion worth of growth and development in the pipeline, an effort that is changing perceptions and
getting people to look at Prince George’s differently.
“But now is not the time to slow down or let up,” Baker said.
“Part of what’s going to make this county move forward is having advocates that believe wholeheartedly in what we’re doing,” he said. “At the time that I became county executive, the normal course of things was simply not enough and to be totally honest with you, it was not acceptable. I knew that in order for us to truly change, we needed to take bold and innovative steps.”
In order for Prince George’s to remain competitive, Baker said the focus has to be on making the county attractive to potential investors whether they be businesses or families. The county is now positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that were always there because economic development, crime reduction and school system restructuring strategies are working, he said.
Fortunately, the county has experienced exponential growth as a result of the Baker administration’s efforts in helping to activate prosperity and accentuate valuable opportunities, he said. The catalysts for this growth included instilling integrity and confidence in county government by implementing ethics reform; streamlining the permitting process and establishing an agency specifically designed to address permitting, inspections and enforcement; launching the Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative; establishing the $50 million Economic Development Incentive Fund; and appointing a highly accomplished chief executive officer to improve the county’s school system performance, according to an EDC press release.
“All of these efforts were done to reposition this great county to take advantage of the opportunities that I knew were there, that I saw and you saw everyday,” Baker said. “But most importantly, the main reason why we did things things is because it is all of our jobs to deliver services and ame- nities that will make living, playing and working in this county equal to, or I dare say, better than any place in this jurisdiction.”
Baker said economic development is important because it generates revenue, allowing the county to better fund its schools, provide public safety, health and human services, transportation and other key services.
“I don’t want us to miss a single opportunity or to be overlooked ever again. This Washington region is going to grow in the next several years and despite what some people might say, I think we’re in a great position to get that growth right here in Prince George’s County,” he said.
As part of the county’s $50 million Economic Development Incentive Fund, Baker said Prince George’s currently has 33 deals valued at $23 million that will translate into a total capital investment of $623 million.
“That means we’re retaining 4,000 jobs in our county and we will add 3,300 more jobs,” he said. “We did it by expanding our commercial tax base and making very tough decisions with limit- ed resources. As a result of those decisions over these last five years, we’re experiencing an increase in our revenues. This new revenue is helping us shrink our deficit; in fact, the 2017 budget was the smallest deficit that I faced since I’ve been county executive. … This year, because of that, we’re going to be able to invest more into opportunities [and] areas that have the potential to grow but need a little jumpstart.”
Some of the new projects that are getting a jumpstart in the county include a new Dave and Buster’s opening April 25 in Capitol Heights, a mixed-use Melford Village development in Bowie featuring 2,500 residential units, new town centers in Laurel and Suitland, redevelopment of Kingdom’s Square in Capitol Heights and a new Whole Foods Market located at the Riverdale Park Station.
“Things are happening in Prince George’s County because we prepared ourselves to seize the opportunities. I don’t think any of us, I know I couldn’t have imagined that we would have made this much prog- ress this fast,” Baker said. “Whether it’s the anticipation of the Purple Line that’s coming in, the Regional Medical Center, the MGM National Harbor or the possibility of the [Federal Bureau of Investigation] FBI coming here, we are in demand.”
Baker also announced that the county government’s operations will relocate to downtown Largo — including his office — to make it more convenient for residents.
“We want to send the signal to businesses and families that we’re serious about downtown Largo, that we’re committed to creating a great place to work, transact business, live and shop. We have an opportunity to make downtown Largo our version of Rockville with metro access and walkable landscapes for workers, residents and customers,” he said. “The real excitement will start in 2017 when the county’s investment in downtown Largo will become more evident.”
When it comes to the overall state of the economy in Prince George’s County, Baker said it is strong.
“Throughout the county, you’re seeing development in areas that you wouldn’t have seen five years ago. If we get the FBI, it’s game over,” Baker said in an interview.
For County Councilwoman Karen R. Toles (D), whose constituent areas include Suitland, she said she is pleased to hear about the new changes and is excited for what’s to come next.
“When you can take an older community and revitalize it, that is leadership,” she said. “This community deserves it and we are in such a great place to make it happen.”
For County Council Chairman Derrick Davis (D), he said the economy is like a cycle that goes through a recession and a recovery. But in times of recovery, it’s always good to have plans that can be executed.
“Recession always comes after recovery and recovery always comes after recession. So what we want to do is make sure that we’re strong in the face of recessions while we’re celebrating the opportunities of recovery,” Davis said.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, standing center stage, gives his 2016 ‘State of the Economy’ address to a packed room of local business leaders, economic development experts, elected officials and residents on April 13 at the...