COLLEGE PARK – County officials reaffirmed their interest in the relocation of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) to Prince George’s after the agency announced it would survey land in Beltsville for their new headquarters.
During her State of the Union address on June 11, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks mentioned the possible relocation of the bureau, announcing that the move would cost $1.4 billion. Alsobrooks proclaimed that the interest from the bureau comes at a time as the county continues its expansive economic growth.
“It will employee more than a thousand people, and this is really exciting,” Alsobrooks said. “We are so good they decided to print money here.”
The BEP announced in April that it would be working together with the partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start evaluating a 100-acre parcel of land located on the USDA’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. It is currently housing a vacant lot and several abandoned buildings.
Director of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center Director Howard Zhang said that his organization is “enthusiastic” with the potential addition of the BEP onto the site and glad that it will become a more developed area than it is now with the abandoned building.
“The majority of our employees live in Maryland – 65%; and of those, nearly half live in Prince George’s County,” said BEP Director Len Olijar. “We are excited to partner with the USDA to assess this parcel of their existing federal land while reducing their excess footprint of unused facilities, and to partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Baltimore, who have extensive experience delivering large, complex federal projects like this one throughout the region.”
President and CEO of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation David Iannucci said that while it is at the early stages, the relocation move is “heavily weighted” in the county’s favor.
Currently, the BEP is conducting their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, an environmental study that will review if the land is safe for construction.
It is expected to take between 12-18 months, Iannucci said. If everything were to go according to plan with the project, construction is projected to start in 2024-2025 with the opening date for the new facility in 2031 at the earliest.
“Unless they found an explosive there from World War II, that is where they are going,” Iannucci said. “But NEPA studies are very serious and very complicated. There any historic structures are their archaeological structures or environmental or sensitive issues or species that are unique to that area.”
The BEP has two locations, their Washington, D.C. headquarters and production facility and another factory in Fort Worth, Texas. If Prince George’s County were to become the new home for the BEP, it would replace their two-building D.C. facility, which has been open since 1880.
According to the BEP, a new facility would be more cost-effective and improved safety measures than renovating. The new facility would house their whole operation for printing U.S. paper currency and host the production of other federal projects.
“With a large portion of the workforce already living in the county, it is already playing to our advantage, and the jobs (with the BEP) are interesting jobs like chemists, engineers, engravers and researchers… These people are taught these unique skills,” Iannucici said.”
This will be the county’s second attempt in trying to move a large government agency to the area following the failed FBI headquarters relocation to either Greenbelt or Landover. The six-year process concluded with the decision to keep the FBI in Washington, D.C. in their current headquarters, despite it being in disrepair.
Leaked emails and meetings with the General Services Administration (GSA) show that President Donald Trump got personally involved with the project and was one of the reasons why the planned relocation for the FBI Headquarters was nixed.
Then-County Executive Rushern Baker III went to Capitol Hill and lobbied “over 20 times” for bringing the agency to Prince George’s. Bidding for the FBI Headquarters cost the county $60 million.
“I think this was a loss for the state,” Baker said. “It was not just moving the FBI building, it was about building a consolidated office for these men and women, so I think it is a great loss from an economic development standpoint but also from a decency one.”
Alsobrooks’ administration is no stranger to large projects with big organizations either as they have made a last-second pitch to Amazon officials in having the county host one of its new HQ2 headquarters. Following the announcement that New York City pulled out at being one of the new locations, county officials made their interest known. The online retailer said it will not reopen a search for its second HQ2 search at this time.