Montgomery and Prince George’s counties must overcome a perception problem to spur their economies over the next decade, an expert on the Washington region said Tuesday, though Montgomery is expected to outpace its neighbor to the east.
Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, unveiled at a Montgomery County Council meeting Tuesday a new economic forecast for the county over the next decade.
In terms of goods and services, Montgomery is expected to grow at a pace similar to that of the region, at about 35 percent, according to his forecast. The county is expected to significantly outperform the region in job growth: 20 percent to 13 percent.
Fuller said Northern Virginia is expected to grow only slightly faster than Montgomery but much more than Prince George’s.
Montgomery is too “defensive” about keeping its jobs and is not doing as well as Fairfax and other Northern Virginia counties at selling itself as a good place for non-local businesses, Fuller said.
“Montgomery, I think, is apologetic,” he added. “It needs to be more forceful about putting itself out there.”
Prince George’s not only has the same problem but also is too fixated on federal government jobs, which will not be the source of growth in the region over the next decade, Fuller said.
“Prince George’s still wants more government,” Fuller said at the meeting. “They should be shopping for something that isn’t FDA, that isn’t a federal employment center. That isn’t the future.”
A request for comment left with the Prince George’s government was not immediately answered Tuesday.
Both counties must also overcome another image issue: Whether true or not, the Maryland side of the suburbs is viewed as less business friendly than the Virginia side.
In Montgomery, recent legislation hasn’t helped; a resolution asking Congress to spend less on wars and a recently introduced bill aimed at curbing “big-box” stores have caused big business and chambers of commerce to call Montgomery officials anti-business.
Montgomery, whose growth was far outpaced by Northern Virginia over the past decade, is expected to do much better over the next, Fuller said. That is because federal jobs, the driving force of growth last decade, were more often heading to Virginia. He does not expect those jobs to be the driver anymore.
With growth come consequences for the county. Fuller’s forecast suggests that roadway and mass-transit infrastructure in place will not be able to handle the growth and that the county will see greater urbanization.
Montgomery is expected to fare better than several other Washington suburbs in Maryland, Fuller said. Calvert and Charles counties will not have as much growth, he added, because companies will be likely to head to counties closer to the District.
On the other hand, growth in Frederick County is expected to be faster than in Montgomery, Fuller said.