Bill to create economic development fund in Prince George’s advances

September 21, 2011

Members of the Prince George’s County Council and County Executive Rushern L. Baker III have reached a compromise on a proposal to set up a fund to attract businesses and increase the county’s commercial tax base.

The fiscal management committee on Wednesday voted 4 to 1 to approve a bill that creates the Economic Development Incentive Fund, a major component of an economic development initiative by Baker.

Council Member Obie Patterson (D-Fort Washington) cast the dissenting vote.

The council was scheduled to vote on the legislation months ago, but the bill to establish the $50 million fund remained in committee after lawmakers raised questions about whether the council had sufficient oversight. The bill will now move for a vote by the full council.

The county would act as a banker, providing loans to businesses. It could also dispense guarantees, conditional loans and grants. Funds would be available for, but not limited to, mixed-use developments; transit-oriented developments; land acquisition; purchasing equipment; and working capital, including training and relocation expenses. The loans would have to be repaid within 10 years, and the county chief administrative officer or his designee would determine rates and terms.

“We think this will give us a leg up on our competition, and it will give us the ‘wow’ factor that the county executive talks about,” said David Iannucci, a member of Baker’s economic development team.

Under the original proposal, the council could review expenditures over $1 million. Several council members said the review should begin at $250,000. The legislation was amended to lower the threshold, but the council will only have a say over grants instead of loans. Patterson said the council’s lack of authority remained a concern.

Council member William A. Campos (D-Hyattsville), who chairs the committee, said he supported the measure because he does not want the county to lose another federal leasing opportunity. Recently, three developers lost their bid to lure the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from Montgomery County.

“We should not have lost that,” Campos said. “This could have helped. In my opinion, it would have helped.”

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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