LANHAM – County government officials and members of companies that benefitted from the Economic Development Incentive (EDI) Fund met atop the roof of the Remy Apartments near the New Carrollton Metro station on June 7 to celebrate what David Iannucci, assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, described as “a major milestone” of $1 billion of private investment generated through the fund.
The Remy, a luxury apartment building near the New Carrollton Metro station, is one of the 44 companies that benefited from the EDI fund.
“This deck didn’t exist two years ago,” said Adam Berman, a partner with Berman Enterprises. “It was just a dream two years ago.”
When county officials suggested the EDI Fund in 2011, not everyone agreed it was a practical idea.
“It was, frankly, controversial when it was proposed,” Iannucci said.
In 2011, the nation was in the midst of a recession, the county was running a deep deficit and the county government had to place employees on furlough.
“It’s easy to forget where we came from,” said County Executive Rushern Baker, III.
The county council expressed hesitation at the idea, considering the county’s then-financial and economic status. The council narrowly approved the EDI Fund, with Councilman Derrick Davis casting the deciding vote.
When the county council and county executive approved the EDI Fund, they set aside a one-time $50 million appropriation. It can be used during multiple fiscal years, at $7-11 million per year.
The goal of the program is the “expansion of the county’s commercial tax base, job retention and local attraction, support for small businesses, promotion of development and redevelopment opportunities, transit-oriented development and growth of key industry sectors,” according to the county government website.
“That vision has delivered mightily,” Davis said.
However, he added, the county must maintain this energy throughout the upcoming legislative year when new officials will take office following the November elections.
“We can’t afford one iota of momentum to slip,” he said.
Since the implementation of the EDI Fund in 2012, $36.5 million has been awarded to 44 projects. The fund has leveraged $980 million in other financing sources, for a ratio of $27 invested for every $1 from the EDI Fund. About 65 percent of the $36.5 million will go back to the fund for future investments.
The fund prioritizes companies that will incorporate transit-oriented development are small and/or minority-owned businesses, bring a meaningful increase to the tax base and can produce a return on investments.
The program propelled the county from “worst to first,” said Jim Coleman, president and CEO of the county Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
The fund created 7,009 jobs and retained 5,138. About 48 percent of all retained and created jobs went to county residents.
The initiative has attracted companies to Prince George’s and ensured growing businesses already located in the county decide to remain here.
The F.G. Development Corporation is one such business that benefitted from the fund. With the money they received from the EDI Fund, the F.G. Development Corporation revitalized the Green Hill Plaza Shopping Center. The property is now leased to a health care service that offers medical care to underserved communities.
“God put EDI in our path,” said Sandy Washington, executive director of the F.G. Development Corporation. “It brought hope to a neighborhood that desperately needed it.”
Baker said the work the F.G. Development Corporation has been able to accomplish through the fund is “why we did this.”
“It’s not about numbers on a paper,” Baker said. “It’s about changing people’s lives.”
Prince George’s County has led the state concerning job creation over the last five quarters. That achievement has a “strong connection” to the success of the EDI Fund, Iannucci said.
“The EDI Fund has been the ‘grease’ that has allowed Prince George’s County to become the economic engine of the State of Maryland and the National Capital Region,” Baker said. “Prior to my administration, Prince George’s County did not have this critical economic development tool and was an after-thought in the business community. When I took over in 2010, the County’s stagnant economy and the negative reputation among the business community were proof that we needed something to turn heads.
“It’s really about how far the county has gone, and how we can serve as an example to the region and the state.”