LARGO – The weather may be getting colder, but Jim Coleman, president and chief executive officer of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) thinks the county is hot, or “on fire,” actually. He said, economically, 2016 has been a good year for Prince George’s County. The biggest development project that came to completion […]
LARGO – The weather may be getting colder, but Jim Coleman, president and chief executive officer of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) thinks the county is hot, or “on fire,” actually.
He said, economically, 2016 has been a good year for Prince George’s County. The biggest development project that came to completion in 2016 was the $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor resort and casino, which opened Dec. 8. The resort employs about 3,600 workers and almost half of them are county residents. Coleman said the broader National Harbor area will see benefits from MGM as well.
“National Harbor’s going to see about 16,000 more tourists per day – that number’s probably already exceeded as well – because of the MGM,” he said. “And so we’re bringing a lot more money, people who are spending and having a good time. It’s benefitting our existing residents to have another place to be able to enjoy and it’s just been a wonderful, wonderful milestone for the county.”
Other county leaders, like County Council Chair Derrick Davis, also emphasized the impact the facility will have in Prince George’s County.
“You’re looking at almost 2,500 new jobs for Prince Georgians at a facility where the average salary is $60,000 a year. It’s absolutely a boom for the economy,” Davis said.
Coleman said the facility’s capacity to host large events is also a plus for the county. This year, the 66th annual Miss World pageant was held in National Harbor, first at the Gaylord and then at MGM. This was the first time the competition has been held in the U.S., and potential visitors and investors all over the world saw it and heard about Prince George’s County.
“More than a billion people saw it all over the world,” Coleman said. “You can’t beat that. We would have to pay $300 or $400 million for the advertising that we got for the weeks that they were here.”
Some other developments in the county that took steps forward this year are mixed-use projects around Metro stations (Suitland, Largo, College Park, Greenbelt and Prince George’s Plaza, West Hyattsville), restaurants and entertainment (Dave & Buster’s opening in Capitol Heights and a new Olive Garden is confirmed for Ritchie Station), and shopping areas like Westphalia and Woodmore.
“That’s the hottest, most successful shopping center in the United States, and people don’t know this.,” Coleman said of Woodmore. “The average shopping center brings in about $300 in revenue per square foot. He (owner Walt Petrie) is getting $600 a square foot. That is showing to the world that you can be successful if you come here to Prince George’s County.”
Coleman said there are a variety of factors at play in this success. Some of those are policies put into place by County Executive Rushern Baker, III, including starting an economic development incentive fund (EDI Fund) to provide loans and streamlining the permitting process so permits can be approved in 60 to 90 days.
“A lot of developers out there are saying, ‘you know what? You can keep all the incentives and programs, just approve my project so I can start charging rent,’” Coleman said. “Let them break ground and build and start charging rent before the market changes on them.”
The EDI Fund has provided about $9 million in loans this year. In its five years of existence, it has been responsible for 10,000 jobs and more than $900 million in private investment, Coleman said.
The EDC has also played a role in encouraging development. Coleman said 2016’s theme was “Activate Prosperity,” and it was a success.
“Our main focus was on how do we increase the median household income and create more jobs for our residents here in Prince George’s County,” he said. “And I’m pleased to let you know that we’ve created over 9,000 new jobs over the last 12 months – this is from the private sector – and the good news is that our median household income is at a record high, nearly $77,000, and that’s $5,000 up versus the prior year.”
In addition to new jobs and projects, the EDC focused on retaining the existing employers in Prince George’s County. Coleman said the EDC reached out to the top 500 employers and all of them are remaining in the county next year, with 184 of those actually planning to expand.
“They have confidence in the business community that things are going to be secure here and it’s worth the risk to take out debt or to build and be able to expand and hire more people. And that says a lot about the county. So that has been stellar,” Coleman said.
The EDC has also worked with county residents to help them get the training they need to fill available jobs. It had about 50 events in 2016 to connect employers with jobseekers, including matchmaking days with nine federal agencies who had procurement opportunities to offer local firms.
He said veterans and those returning to the workforce from incarceration are two major groups the EDC is focused on helping. Operation 500 kicked off in 2016, which is a push to find high-wage jobs for at least 500 of the county’s 3,100 veterans out of work. Four job fairs were held so far, with a final push planned for January. The workforce development staff, including Pete Goodson, is also working on helping residents just released from jail find work through training and supports for employers. Coleman said 2,000 residents have been helped over the past four years.
“That’s a major win. It’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of at the EDC, that we’ve got angels on our team creating those kind of miracles every single day,” he said.
Other EDC events included the first Kidpreneur Day, which Coleman described as “like an MBA course” where 100 children learned how to make a business plan, pitch their business, network and more. The EDC and Baker also went on an exploratory mission to Cuba with 43 business delegates. Although the U.S. still maintains an embargo against Cuba, limiting business options, Coleman said the county wants to be first in line if that is lifted.
“There’s so much opportunity,” Coleman said. “Ten years from now it’ll be too late to say ‘well, I think we should go down to Cuba.’ Guess what? Prince George’s County is already down there.”
Baker agreed, saying, “Getting people to know Prince George’s County as opposed to just being a part of the Washington, D.C. area, I think, will pay dividends for us.”