Baker: State of the econ­omy is strong

County in de­mand with 33 project deals val­ued at $23 mil­lion

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

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 Colony South Ho­tel in Clin­ton. Baker an­nounced that the county is strong and is in de­mand with 33 eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment projects val­ued at $23 mil­lion. Nearly 4,000 jobs will be re­tained and 3,300 new jobs will be cre­ated as a re­sult of the Baker ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts, ac­cord­ing to his pre­sen­ta­tion.

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