Prince George's Executive Parris Glendening, calling the county's present economic development effort "a little bit of a disgrace," last week proposed the creation of a private, nonprofit corporation to attract new businesses to the county and to help rehabilitate or expand existing ones.
The new economic development corporation will be funded initially by an $800,000 grant from the county that, Glendening said, matches the county's estimated 1984 outlay for economic development. he program, based on successful models in Baltimore City, San Diego and Philadephia, would be part of a reorganization of the county's Department of Program Planning and Economic Development (PPED), and would permit a more aggressive approach to marketing the county, according to Glendening. The present department must spread its resources over a variety of areas as diverse as housing, tourism, land use, preparation of water and sewer policies, and supervision of community development block grants.
The block grants in particular, according to Glendening, are among the most complex federal grant programs with which the county is involved. Block grant funds comprise between 90 and 95 percent of the present department's budget and the programs demand a proportionate amount of officials' time. On the other hand, economic development has been heavily stressed by administrations since the early 1970s, when citizens began to demand that county leaders begin to seek revenue derived from sources other than residential property tax. County leaders began to seek to diversify the county's economic base as a way to provide needed revenue.
As a result, other programs housed in the department tend to be neglected, Glendening said, and it is difficult to find one individual with the diverse skills required to administer successfully the disparate programs. Over the past 11 years, the department has had 13 directors, he said.
"Not only is it a more creditable marketing stance, it gets existing businesses fully participant in the effort to get additional businesses in Prince George's County," said Chief Administrative Officer John Wesley White.
The new corporation will be governed by a 19-member Board of Directors with representatives selected by the County Executive, the County Council, the county's delegation to the General Assembly, and a variety of organizations representing large corporations as well as small businesses. The initial board will be selected entirely by the executive and confirmed by the council, however, and the bylaws require that only seven members be present to conduct business. The corporation will be led by a president and a general manager, and will provide such services as planning and research help, and technical assistance for companies seeking loans, grants, and other aids. The corporation will also have a marketing and promotion group and a travel promotion group.
The other component of the former PPED department will remain a county agency, renamed the department of Housing and Community Development. The county's Housing Authority will be contained there, and Glendening-sponsored legislation in the Maryland General Asembly will give him more control over its directors. The department will continue to review land use, water and sewer plans and the Block Grant program along with the Housing Authority. lendening said he was "very excited and optimistic" about the program, which he unveiled in the midst of a week in which he also submitted a budget calling for 400 layoffs of county employes. He said the program puts the county "in the vanguard" of economic development approaches in the area.