|Pri. Geo.'s County, Maryland General Plan|
I had the opportunity and pleasure to speak with Mr. David Iannucci, Assistant Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Economic Development and Public Infrastructure in the Office of the Prince George's County Executive. I asked him a few questions; the "virtual" interview follows:
Thompson: There are many ways to measure change when it comes to economic development and growth. The 2002 General Plan laid out goals for development in the three county tiers which were not met in the developed tier and surpassed in the other two tiers. Are these good indicators of how well the county is doing? Are there other metrics that tell a more useful story?
IANNUCCI: "While the 2002 General Plan described goals for the allocation of development among the three County tiers (33%/66%/1% projected in the developed, developing, and rural tiers, respectively, vs. 18%/79%/3% reality) the statistics do not take into account the total amount of development that actually occurred in Prince George’s County. Despite its many resources and advantages, the data is clear that overall, and relative to other jurisdictions in the metropolitan area, there has not been enough development – read job growth – in Prince George’s County. That in the essence is why County Executive Baker has focused on economic development and growing the commercial tax base. Many are familiar with the fact that 60% of Prince George’s County residents who are employed have to leave the County each day for their jobs.
The 2002 GP called for improving Prince George’s County’s jobs to population ratio, which was at 38% that year, to 53% by 2025. This important measure gives a sense of how many jobs are actually located in a jurisdiction compared to the total population of that jurisdiction, and is an indication of economic strength. By way of comparison, Howard County’s ratio is about 52%, and Montgomery County’s is over 45%. Ten years after the 2002 GP called for increasing Prince George’s County’s 38% ratio, it stands at 37%. Another measure of this is total jobs in the County: in 2000, when the County had 800,000 residents, there were approximately 300,000 jobs in the County. Twelve years later, with a population of 863,000, we still have only 300,000 jobs in Prince George’s County. (We peaked at about 318,000 in 2007-2008.) With 63,000 new residents over 12 years, we have not one single additional job to show for ourselves. Collectively, this data is a story of a jurisdiction lagging in economic growth.
What that means to me is that it is not a matter of their being too much growth in the developing tier relative to the developed (largely inner beltway) tier, it is a matter of there not being enough growth, or new jobs, in the developed tier itself. It is wrong to set this debate as developed vs developing tier in this County. If Prince George’s County had experienced the type of growth that we should have in the developed tier, and the developing tier numbers had stayed flat, magically the 2002 GP goals might have been met. It is a matter of our TOD and Metro station opportunities, our gateway communities, and our inner beltway growth opportunities missing out on growth, not a matter of there being too much growth in the suburban areas outside the beltway."
THOMPSON: What tools are available to local governments to help "steer" development? Are there any advantages to negative or restrictive regulations over positive or enabling polices or vice versa?
IANNUCCI: "Prince George’s County Executive Baker has recognized the need for a multi-pronged strategy for addressing this situation. His Deputy CAO Carla Reid is focusing on reforming and streamlining the permit and regulatory processes that are frequently cited by developers as impediments to new projects and opportunities in the County. He successfully pushed for the creation of the $50 million Economic Development Incentive Fund (EDI Fund) to address capital shortages and provide gap financing for projects that here to now have been stymied. CE Baker is also seeking authority for a new economic development tool for Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) to add another tool to the toolbox to spur development in TOD and revitalization areas. These type of positive incentives can play a vital role in spurring growth in the developed tier, where all agree it is inherently more expensive to build on than in a greenfield site. These incentives can allow the County to close the gap on development costs and provide the incentive for projects and jobs in our older communities and our TOD sites. Using these tools, the County can create market conditions that favor growth where we want it. Some advocate creating negative incentives for projects in the developing tier as a way of pushing the growth to the developed tier, but the reality is that the two are not connected. Stopping or limiting growth by negative incentives outside the beltway will not add one new job inside the beltway unless the financial incentives for that growth are there – unless the numbers work for the project standing alone. Prohibiting Konterra type of developments would not have any effect on promoting growth inside the beltway: growth there must itself financially makes sense for the private sector."
THOMPSON: What are Mr. Baker's strategies for economic development?
IANNUCCI: "In addition to the changes and new tools discussed above, the County Executive has talked of clear priorities for all County agencies and organizations and how they allocate their resources. Again, TOD opportunities, gateway communities, and the developed tier are critically important. The County Executive also recognizes that much of the job growth that we need will come from our small and minority businesses, which employ local residents and spend money locally. We want to build an economic strategy around the presence of our 17 federal facilities, and our outstanding institutions of higher education, including the State’s flagship university. We are also focusing on GSA and other federal tenants for Prince George’s County’s Metro stations, which collectively have more land development opportunities than any other jurisdiction in the region. With 25% of the federal workforce, but only 4% of federal office space, Prince George’s County should not have to explain to the federal government why this situation must be righted. We will make the location of a new high security campus for the FBI Headquarters one of our highest priorities, and have no doubt that the superior locations for this facility exist in our County."
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