SEABROOK – While the new FBI headquarters project may be up in the air, Prince George’s County did score a major new federal lease: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS).
At the same time, private ventures like Nordstrom Rack and the Hotel at the University of Maryland are opening their doors. County leaders say the growth isn’t accidental, and point to the county’s job-creating potential.
“It means, once again, the county is proud of the fact that we're leading the state in job creation. Having the lease from the federal government come in here is going to expand the job creation in the county,” County Executive Rushern Baker, III said. “It means those federal jobs are going to be here, but it’s also going to help us to develop throughout the area. So, we’re very happy about it.”
According to data released by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation last month, Prince George’s County was home to 10,800 more jobs in the first quarter of 2017 (ended in March) than the first quarter last year. That is a 3.58 percent increase, as compared to 1.5 percent overall for the state of Maryland. This makes the county number one in the state in terms of job growth for the third quarter in a row.
Highlighting the county’s success at attracting jobs is the announcement Aug. 31 that the General Services Administration (GSA) had finalized a 15-year lease to consolidate six CIS facilities (included five leased locations) into a single new headquarters in Camp Springs.
“Today’s lease signing represents the culmination of years of work by GSA and Department of Homeland Security. Throughout the process, we carefully considered the agency’s financial and operational needs, as well as the current and future needs of our employees,” said Acting USCIS Director James McCament in a statement. “This world-class facility will centralize our headquarters operations for the first time in our history, allowing us to collaborate with greater effectiveness to accomplish our vital mission.”
The 575-square foot headquarters building will be an anchor of One Town Center, a mixed-use development located next to the Branch Avenue Metro station. The site is already home to a 417-unit apartment building, and a 40,000-square foot retail center is planned to open in 2019. The next year, CIS is expected to begin occupying its new headquarters.
The CIS lease represents $256 million in federal funds and thousands of federal jobs coming to the county. The county council released a joint statement saying it was “elated” by the decision.
“We are excited for the many job opportunities this project will bring to county residents, and we look forward to welcoming nearly 4,000 federal employees to wonderful places to live, a world-class workspace and convenient access to high-quality amenities,” the council said. “Prince George’s County is an ideal location for federal installations.”
Moving north, the county’s first Nordstrom Rack department store opened at the Woodmore Town Center on Sept. 8, drawing lines that were hundreds of people long. The Hotel at the University of Maryland also held a soft opening Sept. 8. The $180 million project boasts 297 rooms as well as conference and event space and four new restaurants.
Now, Baker says he has his sights set on another major jobs project: the second headquarters for online retail giant Amazon. He announced that he is directing his economic development team to begin the process of narrowing down locations within the county to propose one or more that meet Amazon’s specifications, which include proximity to a major city, access to mass transit and the ability to attract high tech workers.
“In addition to Prince George’s County having great sites with enough space and land at our Metro stations, we are home to institutions of higher learning such as the University of Maryland and Bowie State University. We also have a highly educated and diverse workforce,” Baker said. “We are ‘Primed’ and ready to bring a company like Amazon to the national capital region.”