Litton Industries' Amecom division's plan for a $10 million expansion of its facilities at College Park is an economic development coup for Prince George's County.
But County Executive Parris Glendening prefers not to look at the result as a jurisdictional victory.
"I try to take a regional view" of economic development, "and I don't believe in going to war with other jurisdictions," he said yesterday.
Other county officials see it differently and plan to capitalize on last week's announcement by Amecom of the expansion, which will increase the company's work force by 700 employes over the next three years.
Besides the economic benefits that will accrue from Amecom's decision to remain in Prince George's County, last Friday's announcement goes a long way in dispelling the myth that the county is not a viable location for high-technology and other white-collar industries.
Competition among regional jurisdictions to attract high-tech companies has increased sharply over the past two years. It has bordered on becoming cutthroat at times.
Besides vying for outside high-tech firms, area jurisdictions have become more active in courting companies in neighboring localities.
Litton Amecom is an excellent example of a company that had been highly coveted by several area jurisdictions. It had been "wooed by a number of jurisdictions," Glendening said.
Even though Amecom officials preferred to remain in Prince George's County, Litton was prepared to consider several possibilities, including relocating the division to the Sun Belt.
James O. Roberson, secretary of Maryland's Department of Economic and Community Development, considers Litton Amecom's decision to remain in Prince George's County a "major milestone" in the state's economic development efforts.
Noting that DECD has aggressively marketed Maryland as a center for high-tech companies, Roberson asserted that Litton Amecom's decision reaffirms his belief that those efforts are paying off.
Roberson's reaction probably would have been the same if the company had elected to relocate to Montgomery or Howard county. Litton is, after all, a leading international high-tech firm.
Prince George's County won out because county officials, working with the University of Maryland and Litton Amecom, fashioned a complex deal that no other jurisdiction is in a position to match. The key in the deal, of course, is the University of Maryland and what it can offer a firm such as Amecom.
The groundwork to keep Amecom in the county began more than 15 months ago when Glendening was chairman of the county council.
After learning that Amecom was considering relocating to another area, Glendening initiated a series of discussions with President Charles Fink, which led ultimately to Friday's announcement.
Although Amecom has agreed to purchase 35 acres from the University of Maryland, at a site adjacent to the company's existing facility, principals in the year-long negotiations seriously considered a land swap.
The negotiations became so complex that those involved weren't sure an agreement could be signed in time for Friday's announcement.
In the end, it was Amecom's strong ties to the College Park and Riverdale communities and to the University of Maryland, and the cooperation of state and local officials that sealed the agreement.
Litton Industries acquired Amecom in 1957, but Amecom's predecessor companies had been firmly established in the College Park area since the 1930s.
In the interim, Amecom has forged a close working relationship with the university, a factor that can have an important bearing on the university's plans to establish a major research center in the county. Indeed, Amecom's relationship with the university is "symbiotic, in a sense," acknowledged Amecom President Fink.
That and Amecom's decision to remain in the county "reaffirm the notion" that Prince George's has the university support, engineering skills and work force to make it a high-technology center, says Gordon Hubley, marketing director in the county's office of economic development.
Although Hubley plans to underscore the Amecom experience in the county's marketing program, Glendening says he believes in strengthening and retaining existing firms.
"I believe in using them literally as models for other firms to come here," the county's new executive said.