太子探花

Expanding the economy is Prince George鈥檚 Co.’s No. 1 priority. What鈥檚 hindering it?

Leaders in Prince George鈥檚 County, Maryland, have been warning that the upcoming budget process is going to involve hard choices that will leave lots of people unhappy. To provide more, the county needs to increase tax revenues.

But unlike most jurisdictions which see commercial tax sources generate a large portion of revenue, the county is overly reliant on its residents.

Fixing that has been a priority for years, and the urgency to accomplish that is only growing.

鈥淚f we continue with no changes, we’re headed for a $407 million deficit over the next five years,” warned County Council vice chair Sydney Harrison at an economic development briefing Thursday afternoon.

For nearly two hours on Thursday, the聽Government Operations and Fiscal Policy
Committee heard from the county鈥檚 top economic development leaders about the current challenges that exist and where opportunities lie in the future.

鈥淪ixty percent of our residents who are employed, who tend to be the highest educated and highest paid employees, pre-COVID numbers, have to leave the county for their employment,鈥 said David Iannucci, the president and CEO of the county鈥檚 economic development corporation.

鈥淭heir place of work is outside Prince George鈥檚 County. That is a higher percentage than our neighbors,” he added.

One big challenge when it comes to expanding the economy is also a sign of an otherwise stable economy 鈥 Maryland鈥檚 low unemployment rate, which fell under 2% at one point in late 2023.

鈥淎 lot of people would see this as an outstanding symbol of economic growth,鈥 Iannucci noted. 鈥淏usiness views those numbers and it鈥檚 telling them there鈥檚 no workers here for me. ‘If I move to your jurisdiction or I expand, I鈥檓 not going to find the workers I need.'”

He also cited housing and child care as other impediments for the county.

鈥淧eople are leaving because we鈥檙e identified as a high cost state. The lack of housing is a factor, middle class housing in particular, and child care is a new issue,鈥 Iannucci said. 鈥淢any women have left the work force because of the expense of child care.

鈥淭hese are factors that we have to understand as part of our economic climate,鈥 he added.

But the county鈥檚 economic team also said there was reason to be optimistic about the opportunities that exist now and will be coming to the county in the future.

Iannucci noted that while the county still has twice as many federal workers as federal jobs, the imbalance has been tilting in the county鈥檚 direction, ticking off the several thousand federal jobs that have either relocated or are in the process of relocating to the Suitland and Beltsville areas.

But he said the relocation of the FBI headquarters to Greenbelt 鈥 bringing about 7,500 FBI employees to that new facility 鈥 will be a game changer. And he urged the council to begin preparing, and trying to capitalize on their arrival, right now.

鈥淭he lucrative part for Prince George鈥檚 County 鈥 will be the private contractors who want to be associated with the FBI,鈥 Iannucci said.

鈥淛ust as Virginia has captured thousands, and tens of thousands, of jobs with federal contractors associated with the military complex there, that is our opportunity in Prince George鈥檚 County to capture the cybersecurity companies, the artificial intelligence companies, those in public safety, all those services that will support the 7,500 jobs. That is going to be our growth opportunity,” he added.

And unlike many other federal jobs, he noted, the FBI can鈥檛 do telework.

Iannucci also touted growth opportunity just a three-minute trip down the Metro’s Green Line from the FBI鈥檚 new home in College Park.

鈥淨uantum is one of the great opportunities for Prince George鈥檚 County. IonQ is the world鈥檚 best capitalized quantum computing company,鈥 Iannucci said, referring to a company that鈥檚 based in the University of Maryland鈥檚 Discovery District on Campus Drive, within walking distance of the College Park MARC and Metro stations.

鈥淲e have the opportunity to be, really, the Silicon Valley of quantum computing.鈥

With startup companies constantly spinning out of the university鈥檚 computing programs, he said the county needs to make the Discovery District as appealing as possible.

鈥淲e are in a world competition for leadership in quantum,鈥 he warned, and said it shouldn鈥檛 be just a county priority, but a state one too. 鈥淚t is that powerful an opportunity but it is not going to be given to us.鈥

Other efforts include research and development of microchips, which is also a big federal priority.

These days, about 32% of the county鈥檚 tax base comes from commercial revenues, up 4% from what it used to be. But other parts of the region have the opposite ratio.

鈥淲e鈥檙e one of the wealthiest counties in the United States 鈥 top 4%,鈥 Iannucci said. 鈥淥ur challenge though, we鈥檙e in a region where there are 20 counties in the top 2%.鈥

But when asked what the county was doing to think 鈥渙utside the box鈥 on other ways to lure business, Angie Rodgers, the county鈥檚 deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, pinned blame on the county council for making that too great a challenge right now.

鈥淚 will be honest, I am trying to figure out how we stop hurting ourselves on the things that we are trying to push forward,鈥 Rodgers said. 鈥淚t is difficult to think about innovating when really compared to a lot of our neighbors, when we think about land use and zoning and how we鈥檙e planning for space, when we think about the tools that we鈥檙e putting on the table. We are still treading water.”

For me, thinking outside the box these days is about pushing past that first,鈥 she said.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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