But late last week, lawmakers and Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, a defense contracting giant that employs more than 5,000 workers in Montgomery, urged county officials against the resolution. Ervin has withdrawn the measure, citing lack of support.
With the nation’s focus on a still-weak economy, last week’s behind-the-scenes jockeying shows how sensitive governments are to securing as many jobs as possible.
Council members and county officials were called by one of Lockheed Martin’s top lobbyists, a state delegate, and the offices of County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D).
None of the five council members who supported the resolution — Ervin, Marc Elrich (D-At Large), George L. Leventhal (D-At Large), Nancy Navarro (D-Eastern County) and Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) — have publicly pulled their support. But over the past week, at least Leventhal has regretted backing the measure.
Lockheed Martin declined to comment Monday, citing its policy not to speak publicly about conversations with public officials.
But company representatives reached out to Leggett’s office, to set up a meeting with Ervin last week, and state officials concerned over the measure called council members. Council member Hans Reimer (D-At Large) said Lockheed Martin lobbyist Lawrence Duncan reached out to him.
Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery), who represents the district encompassing Lockheed Martin’s headquarters and who discussed the resolution with Duncan, contacted council members, urging them not to pass the resolution. “I think the council’s motives were pure, but it could have potentially sent the wrong message to an important business sector,” said Frick, who added that Lockheed Martin did not urge him to contact the council. “It just seemed contrary to our objective to demonstrate that we are a good place to do business.”
According to council staff, Frick said he had heard that the office of Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) had spoken with Lockheed Martin about the resolution. The news of the legislative action made it to other state officials, causing anxiety over a sore issue for Maryland: The state has lost at least two defense contractors to Virginia in recent years.
Last year, Northrop Grumman chose Virginia over Maryland for its new global headquarters after a process that pitted the two neighboring states against each other. The defense firm moved to Falls Church this summer.
Virginia officials, who have sought to lure Lockheed Martin’s headquarters to the state, watched the scene unfold in Montgomery with glee. State officials declined to comment on specific interactions with any company, citing a long-standing policy. But sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so they could speak freely, say that although McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), the state’s chief jobs creation officer, have not contacted Lockheed Martin, administration officials at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership have.