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GREENBELT — The Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce (PGCOC) held a State of the Chamber breakfast where panelists and members of the chamber discussed the effects Amazon’s headquarters in Crystal City would have on Prince George’s County and its small businesses on Feb. 27.
“When you look at Prince George’s County, we have county transportation that goes right through Northern Virginia, we have the housing, we have some of the best IT companies in the northeast region, and we have a workforce that is ready to take on many jobs that will emerge because of Amazon,” said PGCOC President David Harrington.
The meeting, which took place at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt, brought together a large group of PGCOC members and local leaders for breakfast followed by a discussion led by Harrington and three panelists.
Prince George’s Economic Development Corporation President David Iannucci, Assistant Director of Arlington Economic Development Alex Iams and Manager of Engagement & External Affairs of the Greater Washington Partnership Stephen Harrington were the panelists.
The hour-long conversation centered around how Amazon will shape Prince George’s County, how the county can prepare for it and how it will benefit from the major corporation in the area.
Iams detailed how preparing for Amazon’s arrival is the main focus of his organization at this time and how it will be of a great benefit to the plan to revamp Crystal City because back in the early 2000s the city was in the process of losing 13,000 jobs and vacating 3.1 million square feet of office space.
“We’ve actually lost 24,000 federally-related jobs in the Crystal and Pentagon City area since 2001,” he said. “So we have quite a bit of a capacity, and that was central to our argument for Amazon and our discussions with the community and the region about why this will fit.”
Although the company will be located in Virginia, Stephen Harrington said that Amazon would “change the trajectory of the region.”
Iannucci added that Prince George’s County would see the benefit of the 25,000 jobs that will come to the area over the course of a few years.
The three of them spoke about how Amazon has the potential to bring a diversification of the region’s economic base into Prince George’s County as well as Virginia.
It can also bring in new talent, develop and ecosystem of higher education and bring in new employers and entrepreneurs.
But for that to become a reality, one of the things that Prince George’s County needs in order to keep up is transit-oriented development.
Iannucci said that the New Carrollton, College Park and Greenbelt areas are examples of the kind of the transit-oriented regions that Prince George’s County needs to create more.
One reason that Crystal City was desirable to Amazon was because of the transit and Iannucci said Prince George’s County needs to also think about creating an attractive location for workers to live in with a walkable metro.
According to David Harrington, only “sixteen percent of workers will live in Arlington” which means that Prince George’s County can take advantage of developing areas such as New Carrollton, Suitland and Seat Pleasant, which touts itself as a “Smart City of Excellence.”
“We need communities in which people can quickly get to where the amenities they need, health care and housing and jobs in a way that is efficient,” said Stephen Harrington.
Amazon was originally going to create another headquarters in New York but pulled out of the deal in mid-February due to push back from the residents that included anger over the amount of money that the state would give to the company and the uncertainty that the jobs would go to the people who need them.
The Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANDH), which advocates for affordable and equitable housing for New Yorkers, said in a statement that the money would be better used if it went toward affordable housing, good jobs, schools and infrastructure.
“While Amazon is set to receive over 1.75 billion dollars in subsidy, it has promised very little to New Yorkers. The creation of a $15 million workforce development center without guaranteed jobs for residents renders that investment as effective as the city’s pre-existing HireNYC program,” the group said.
“The new job creation touted by both the State and by Amazon does not guarantee that those jobs will go to the communities that need them most.”