Lex­ing­ton Park of­ten on lists of wealth­i­est cities

On­line data is ac­tu­ally us­ing en­tire county as fi­nan­cial bench­mark

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JASON BAB­COCK

Ev­ery now and then, an­other web­site in­cludes Lex­ing­ton Park on an­other list of rich­est cities in the United States, which raises ques­tions in many lo­cal peo­ple’s minds.

Some peo­ple think of blight or crime or pub­lic hous­ing when they think of Lex­ing­ton Park, not an af­flu­ent city.

“We do have some wealthy peo­ple” liv­ing in the Lex­ing­ton Park ZIP code, said Chris Kase­lemis, di­rec­tor of the St. Mary’s County Department of Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment, but there are also peo­ple liv­ing there in need or in poverty.

St. Mary’s County has a U.S. Cen­sus Bureau des­ig­na­tion called the Lex­ing­ton Park Metropoli­tan Sta­tis­ti­cal Area — an ur­ban­ized area of at least 50,000 peo­ple.

But that metropoli­tan area in­cludes the Lex­ing­ton Park and Cal­i­for­nia area, and in­cludes me­dian in­come data for the en­tirety of St. Mary’s County, said

Adam Mawyer, eco­nomic devel­op­ment spe­cial­ist.

Based on Cen­sus Bureau data from 2011 to 2015, the me­dian in­come in St. Mary’s County was $86,987 — higher than av­er­ages in the state ($74,551) and the na­tion ($53,889).

So when var­i­ous web­sites make lists cit­ing the wealth of Amer­i­can cities that in­clude Lex­ing­ton Park, they are re­ally cit­ing the wealth of St. Mary’s County, eco­nomic devel­op­ment staff said.

“They’re not re­ally be­ing done at the lower level. It’s usu­ally be­ing done at the metropoli­tan area,” Mawyer said.

There is only one in­cor­po­rated town in St. Mary’s County, and that is Leonard­town. Lex­ing­ton Park is a ge­o­graphic area, not a town or a city.

But de­spite the mis­lead­ing on­line lists, the me­dian in­come data is still good news for St. Mary’s, staff say.

“Hav­ing high-pay­ing jobs is great,” Kase­lemis said. “Here you get the scenic beauty in a ru­ral area and get high-pay­ing jobs. It’s the best of both worlds.”

“While there is a great deal of wealth, there is a great deal of poverty as well” in Lex­ing­ton Park, Mawyer said, “and that needs to be ad­dressed.”

In Lex­ing­ton Park, 13 per­cent of house­holds are be­low the poverty rate, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­sus Bureau, com­pared to 6 per­cent in St. Mary’s County over­all, 7 per­cent in Mary­land and 11 per­cent in the United States.

Naval Air Sta­tion Patux- ent River and its en­gi­neer­ing jobs drive up the me­dian in­come in St. Mary’s, Kase­lemis said. The county needs to see more man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs to ben­e­fit other seg­ments of the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion though. There are pri­vate firms in those ar­eas that are ex­pand­ing such as J.F. Tay­lor, CTSI, Engility and Plat­form Aero­space, Kase­lemis said.

The Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land also has a new trades cen­ter in Hugh­esville to of­fer vo­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties, Mawyer said. Jobs in heat­ing and air con­di­tion­ing, nurs­ing and other spe­cial­ized trades can be lu­cra­tive, he said.

While some in­comes are high in St. Mary’s County, so is the cost of liv­ing and hous­ing prices.

The cost of liv­ing in St. Mary’s is only 1.3 per­cent cheaper than the na­tional av­er­age, data shows, but it is 16.3 per­cent higher than the na­tional av­er­age to rent here. A one-bed­room apart­ment in Ab­berly Crest in Lex­ing­ton Park, for ex­am­ple, costs $1,300 a month to rent.

“If a lot of that money is go­ing to rent, you’re not be­com­ing more wealthy, so that’s be­com­ing an is­sue,” Kase­lemis said.

Gov­ern­ment can only do so much to pro­vide af­ford­able hous­ing stock. “It’s re­ally mar­ket-driven,” he said.

De­vel­op­ers are go­ing to build homes that they can sell and in St. Mary’s, they can sell more ex­pen­sive homes.

“They build what the mar­ket de­mand is. Homes sell here,” Kase­lemis said.

Again, NAS Pax River in­comes af­fect the St. Mary’s County hous­ing mar­ket, as does the Washington, D.C., mar­ket, which is also ex­pen­sive.

STAFF PHOTO BY JASON BAB­COCK

Lex­ing­ton Park of­ten shows up on on­line lists as one of the na­tion’s wealth­i­est cities, but the data these web­sites use is typ­i­cally de­scrib­ing the me­dian in­come of all of St. Mary’s County. Lex­ing­ton Park is not an in­cor­po­rated town.

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