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County leaders collect concerns from local businsses

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Photo by Alexis A. Goring. A panel of county representatives meet with local business owners at the first of nine forums.

Photo by Alexis A. Goring. A panel of county representatives meet with local business owners at the first of nine forums.

Published on: Wednesday, April 24, 2013

By Alexis A. Goring

The District 5 Business Forum last week was an opportunity for County Executive Rushern Baker and other county representatives to address concerns of the local business community.

“Today’s event basically came from an idea that the county executive had a while ago. With over 15,000 businesses in Prince George’s County, the Economic Development Corporation is tasked with reaching out to all of these businesses,” said Gwen McCall, president and CEO of Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation.

To reach out to the county’s businesses, county leaders will be meeting throughout Prince George’s at business forums like the one hosted April 15 at the Glenarden Municipal Center.

“We’re happy to see that the county executive is big on broadening the county’s commercial tax base,” McCall said. “So he’s really tasked us with getting out there, raising our profile, letting people know that this is a new administration, we’re business-friendly, basically our doors are open. We’re trying to keep the businesses that we currently have in the county and we’re trying to do business attraction and bring new businesses here.”

Baker said the forums “will help us figure out how we can get the EDI (Economic Development Incentive Fund) money down quicker.”

“What are some incentive programs that we can help these businesses so they can grow? And also inform them what we’re doing around, things that will impact their ability like education, healthcare and transportation,” the county executive added.

A total of nine forums will take place in the upcoming weeks. Although there is no schedule for these forums, Monica Briscoe Brooks, of the EDC, said the forum process will conclude at the end of June.

“After the nine forums, we’re going to go back and see if there’s any common theme across all of the forums. … We’re going to put that information together and give it to the county executive for (him) to take a look at it,” McCall said.

Then, McCall said, the county executive can decide which issues to address.

Concerns, such as the need for the permitting process to be streamlined, were addressed, and questions about how to become Minority Business Enterprise certified were answered during last Monday’s forum. Business owners also were informed as to how they can benefit from the $50 million Economic Development Incentive Fund.

According to Angela Wright, vice president of marketing and communications for the EDC, the intent of the Economic Development Incentive Fund is to assist businesses unable to receive enough conventional funding.

The event in Glenarden was targeted toward businesses in Council Chair Andrea Harrison’s district. Representatives from the EDC are going to hold business forums in each County Council member’s district.

Melanie Gamble, principal broker of 212 Degrees Realty, attended the forum to learn about opportunities for herself as a Minority Business Enterprise certified professional. Gamble voiced that she’s learned a lot from attending the event.

“Learning more about how the county is looking to streamline their processes in regards to permitting, that’s important to me because I also work with developers and that’s one of the major complaints they’re trying to have projects coming into the county and that is the permitting process is horrendous, that it would take months and sometimes years,” Gamble said. “So it was good to learn that they’re looking to streamline that.”

While some business owners are drawn to do business in the surrounding counties, Gamble gravitated to Prince George’s.

“I’ve always wanted my business to be in Prince George’s County,” said Gamble. “I’m originally from Florida, and, for me as an African-American woman, to come to the Washington, D.C., area and not to live in Washington, D.C., the next place I would want to live would be in Prince George’s County … to be around so many upwardly mobile, affluent African-Americans.”

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