College Park, MD – Tonight, before business leaders, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III delivered his first State of the Economy Address sponsored by the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center at the University of Maryland. Entitled “Beyond Potential: The State of the Prince George’s County Economy,” Baker outlined his vision of economic growth in the economy to create jobs and foster in a new era of economic prosperity for the residents of the county.
“I’m here to tell you that in our county, the state of the economy is good, but we have the plan to move it from good to great,” said Baker. “I want to move beyond talking about the County’s “potential” because the time for us to fulfill that potential is NOW.”
The speech further outlined the Baker Administration’s comprehensive economic development plans and correlations to academic excellence and public safety. Highlights included the current economic climate of the government; recent investment of the $50 million Economic Development Incentive fund; streamlining the permitting process; transit-oriented development plans for the county’s metro stations; forging regional partnerships; and addressing the sustainability of the hospital as well as environmental priorities of the Administration.
During the FY2012 budget, Baker proposed a $50 million Economic Development Incentive Fund (EDI Fund) to stimulate economic growth in the county to create jobs, assist in bringing smart developments into the county, and assist small and minority owned businesses. The mission and purpose of the EDI Fund is to help grow the commercial tax base of the county.
“For far too long we have relied on residential property tax. We need to turn to a different source of revenue. A revenue source we can grow with strategic investments and doesn’t burden our residents,” said Baker. “It is more evident now than ever that we need a strong commercial tax base and we need economic development initiatives that will grow that commercial base. That is why I have proposed the Economic Development Incentive Fund.”
At the conclusion of the address, Baker compassionately remarked, “The citizens of Prince George’s county have put their trust in me, and I hold that trust sacred. I have faith in the work we have done and in the work that we are about to begin. The business of Prince George’s County is business. Now let’s get to work!”
“The Prince George's Chamber of Commerce was proud to host County Executive Baker as he delivered his first “State of Economy” address,” said Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce President Rhonda L. Slade. “This event is a shining example of the positive changes and growth that can occur when the business community and county government work collaboratively. The Prince George's Chamber of Commerce stands ready to partner with County Executive Baker as we continue to advance the interests of business for a vibrant Prince George's County."
The Prince George's Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit alliance of over 900 businesses, representing over 300,000 employees, making it one of the largest chambers in the state of Maryland and the Washington Metropolitan region. Through its various programs and legislative agenda, the Chamber promotes an understanding of and appreciation for business, provides strong business community leadership, and sponsors programs of a civic, social, and cultural nature in order to improve the quality of life for Prince George's County residents and the business community.
Text of State of the Economy Address: “Beyond Potential”
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III
State of the Economy Address
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Thank you so much for that warm welcome. It’s an honor to be here tonight with you.
I have been to this dinner many times, but it is nice to be here as County Executive. I would like to thank Chamber President Rhonda Slade and the Board of Directors for their leadership. I look forward to working with them, and with all of you, to encourage smart, bold, and sustainable economic growth.
I also want to acknowledge my fellow elected officials who are in attendance tonight. In these Council Members, municipal leaders, State legislators, and federal representatives, we have allies at all levels of government. I want to thank them for representing our citizens so faithfully and well.
In these tough economic times we are all learning to do more with less and cutting wherever we can. Here in District 3, our County Council Vice- Chair, Eric Olson has taken this one step farther, by cutting his trademark ponytail.
Finally, I want to acknowledge a new guest at the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce Dinner, our host, Dr. Loh. As President of the University of Maryland, Dr. Loh has taken charge of one of three vibrant institutions of higher learning in this County along with Bowie State University and Prince George’s Community College. Dr. Loh has expressed an interest in being a partner with us in our economic development activities. These institutions are why Prince George’s County is the “brain trust” of the State of Maryland.
This is a difficult time in our nation’s economy… But, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that in our County, the state of the economy is GOOD.
We balanced our budget without raising taxes…
We have not laid off any employees…
We are not furloughing anyone…
And we have retained our AAA Bond rating….
Let me point out that of 3,000 plus counties in this country, only a hundred or so have a AAA bond rating.
The state of our economy is GOOD. But tonight I’m announcing that we are about to move from GOOD to GREAT.
Over the last 114 days, I have visited schools, communities, churches, and businesses throughout the County. I have talked with talented, hard-working people who care deeply about their neighborhoods. People who have grown up here and seen this county change over decades. And people like my wife and I, who settled in Prince George’s County to grow our family.
Over and over again, I’ve heard citizens use one word to describe economic development in Prince George’s County: “POTENTIAL.” I’m sure you’ve said it many times yourselves. You know, better than anyone, that there is incredible promise in our business community.
In January, President Obama visited Thompson Creek Windows in Landover, bringing national attention to a local business success. I had the pleasure of being there with the President and Thompson Creek’s President Rick Wuest at the facility. Rick and his team are making a difference by providing their customers with high quality products and services. Thompson Creek is also an example of a commercial enterprise that has created quality jobs in our county. They employ over 300 people and plan to grow to 400 employees by the end of the year. But Prince George’s County is home to many Thompson Creeks.
We are home to an educated and dedicated work force. We are home to Andrews Air Force Base, Goddard Space Center, Beltsville Agriculture Research Center (BARC), the Washington Redskins, and Six Flags to name a few. We are also home to some of the region’s most transformative projects such as National Harbor, Konterra, and the Hyattsville Arts District that will be opening a Busboys and Poets soon.
Recently, we also became home to a new Wegman’s. This company saw the potential of Prince George’s County. They invested in our residents, and we have rewarded them for it. By some measures, the Prince George’s County Wegman’s has performed 30% better than the company’s other stores.
Just last month I went to the grand opening of a new TGI Fridays in District Heights. This restaurant was Jackmont Hospitality’s highest grossing store in their first month in operation. Another example, T.D.P., LLC a small, Largo-based, minority, woman-owned business that plans to grow from 7 to 33 employees this year.
When businesses invest in Prince George’s County, we deliver.
Our community is diverse, innovative, and nearly 900,000 individuals strong. Our residents are hardworking, successful people who want more and deserve more. More retail options, more job opportunities, more choices for how and where to spend their money. They should never have to drive outside the county to shop or eat.
The market is here, the resources are here. And the business community you represent is already strong, smart, and growing.
But tonight, I want to move beyond talking about the County’s “Potential.” Because the time for us to fulfill that potential is NOW.
The road ahead of us looks promising, but it won’t always be smooth. We eliminated a budget gap in FY 2012. But we face more challenges in FY 2013 and beyond…largely because of a decline in home assessments.
A home is meant to be a source of security and stability but in recent years, too many Prince Georgian’s have seen their homes devalued. This affects not only the well being and stability of the residents; but, it hurts the County’s budget as well. It also highlights something we all have known for years: we rely too much on residential property tax income.
We need to turn to a different source of revenue- one that can grow with strategic investments. It is evident now more than ever: we need a strong COMMERCIAL tax base. And we need economic development initiatives that will GROW that base. As business people, you know that growth requires investment. That is why I have proposed the Economic Development Incentive Fund.
The EDI FUND is a $50 million investment that will encourage development, create jobs, and grow our commercial tax base. It was designed to attract developers and big companies, but it will also nurture the small businesses that are so fundamental to our economy and society. And the most important part of the EDI FUND and it bears repeating-- it will create jobs, jobs, jobs, and more jobs.
It sends a clear signal that Prince George’s County is serious about economic development. We’ve set the bar high, and we aim to meet – NO – exceed expectations. I look forward to working with the Council on this initiative. I am counting on their support.
Going forward, we will need EVERYONE in our County to collaborate–
Within my administration, we are re-aligning our 12 county departments and affiliated agencies related to the development process under one Deputy Chief Administrative Officer. These agencies will be working with a fantastic group of individuals. It is my pleasure to introduce the group that we have assembled as our Economic Development Team: Carla Reid, David Iannucci, Aubrey Thagard, and Gwen McCall.
I have charged this team to: increase and retain jobs, attract the right businesses and projects to our County and to shepherd projects through the permitting process. We have long heard complaints about how the permitting process takes too long. I want you to know that I hear you...and we’re going to do something about it.
I have given our economic development team the task of re-engineering the permitting process. The new process will move applications faster and give our customers greater certainty and clarity. Once we’ve fixed the process, the Economic Development Team will carefully shepherd projects through it, so that development happens quickly and smoothly.
We have many opportunities for growth in this County. One of our top priorities will be maximizing the potential at our metro stations. I’ve charged the Economic Development Team with implementing an aggressive transit-oriented development program. Prince George's County’s 15 Metro stations haven’t had the same kind of transformative development we’ve seen elsewhere in the region.
Now is our time to change that. And we’re already on the move. WMATA has just named a development team for the New Carrollton Metro Station. Next in line are stations like Largo, Branch Avenue and Naylor Road. These stations will become growth centers that expand our commercial tax base, provide services AND, AGAIN, CREATE JOBS.
We have to understand the importance of prioritizing these areas; remember “regionalism begins at home.” We are also working hard on the Purple Line, which will generate still more opportunities for growth.
Investing in commercial growth improves our quality of life on two fronts: It brings us the commercial options we want and it funds the government services that we deserve.
That includes funding our school system, our number one priority. I am committed to funding K-12 programs, and my budget for FY 2012 contains $613 million from the county for education. Good schools don’t just build a better future for our kids. They build a better future for our economy. Through the EDI FUND, we are investing in commercial growth, which will expand our tax base and generate new revenue. With that revenue, we can start putting even more funds into our schools. Better schools attract more residents and more businesses, which generate more revenues that can go to education. And so the cycle continues.
Recently, we saw a 11% rise in elementary school readiness. One of the major reasons for this good news is our full day pre-K. This is why it is critical that we all understand that no matter where economic development is focused, we all benefit. It is often said that a “rising tide lifts all boats,” and we must keep this in mind.
But to keep this progress going, we need the funds. I want to acknowledge the man who is already doing so much to support our children, our Superintendent: Dr. William Hite. Every week, I visit our schools in this County..I see the amazing programs and talents of our children across this County. Our children can compete with children anywhere.
Economic development also means more revenue for public safety. Keeping citizens safe is government’s first responsibility. And as with education, the more we invest in public safety, the more we can attract businesses and residents to our County.
While we fix our eyes on our future, it is important that we not lose sight of what residents need right now. That is why my administration is proposing $15 million in funding for the Prince George’s Hospital Center, an amount that will be matched by the State. We are looking for a long-term strategy for providing accessible, high-quality health care for the entire County. But as we work towards that goal, we must keep our hospital doors open to citizens in need.
As we usher in a new period of development, we must be mindful of our responsibility to the environment. We are investing millions in measures like stormwater management. I also want to make things easier for the citizens who are trying to make a difference by biking or walking.
That’s why our budget includes $17 million for Green Street improvements. What we do for the environment in Prince George’s County affects the whole region. The lines that separate us from our neighbors on the map do not stop pollution.
Nor do those borders “fence in” the economy. Our residents don’t treat the borders like the “Berlin Wall,” and neither should we. Our fortunes rise and fall with the entire region. And what we do for our economy will affect the District of Columbia and our surrounding counties. That is why we can’t address our challenges with blinders on. We have to work with our neighbors in the District of Columbia, Montgomery County, Howard County, and Northern Virginia.
I am committed to regional collaboration. That means I will never disparage our neighbors in an effort to promote Prince George’s County. It also means that I will not hesitate to compete and make the strongest case for our County, in a positive and professional manner. And our neighbors know that a stronger Prince George’s County benefits us all.
We are poised to become a major engine of economic growth in this region. As neighbors, we have many shared interests. For example, 60 percent of Prince George’s residents commute to work outside of the county. That is not right, and it must change.
One way to fix this, is to increase the amount of federal office space leased in the County. Over a quarter of the federal workforce lives in our County, but we have only 3% of the leased federal office space. We must seize every opportunity to convince the federal government that moving to Prince George’s County is good for them and good for the region.
We will also be pitching Prince George’s County to the commercial world. Just under two months from now, we will be talking to businesses at the International Council of Shopping Centers about why they should invest in Prince George’ s County.
By placing our focus on economic development, we are protecting the health of our economy. Economic development isn’t about spending money on quick fixes. It’s investing in long-term solutions.
As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Put not your trust in money, but put your money in trust.” I am committed to that concept and I am committed to putting the trust back into this government. The citizens of Prince George’s county have put their trust in me, and I hold that trust sacred. I have worked, and will continue working, to make sure my administration is as honest, ethical, and hard working as our citizens.
I have faith in the work we have done and in the work that we are about to begin. Tonight, I ask for your trust, your guidance, and most importantly, your faith in this county and its nearly 900,000 citizens.
I say with confidence, the state of county’s economy can only get stronger and that our greatest days lie ahead. But I am not going to do this alone, you are not going to do this alone, we are going to do this together. The business of Prince George’s County is business - now, let’s get to work!
Thank you and God Bless Prince George’s County!