A cumbersome bureaucracy, limited shopping, and concern about public schools and crime are stunting business development in Prince George's County, according to local officials, who yesterday released a five-year plan to try to confront some of those problems.
The 142-page plan was written by the International Economic Development Council, a District-based association and economic development consultant, following a survey of local business leaders and an analysis of county population, employment and economic development data.
It is the first economic development plan announced by Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson since he took office 21/2 years ago. Johnson said yesterday that the challenges facing the county in education, public safety and the permitting process have sent the wrong signal to business owners and investors. He hopes the five-year strategy will change the idea some in the business community have about Prince George's.
"We want to send a clear message to the business community that we're open for business and we'll do whatever it takes to make it a business-friendly environment," Johnson said. "We are going to look at each and every aspect of the plan. [Prince George's County] will be a place where the synergy of employment and opportunity come together."
For years, Prince George's has lost out to Montgomery and Fairfax counties, which have spent tens of thousands of dollars more on economic development and become high-tech and biotechnology centers. They have also drawn workers away from Prince George's County.
"I'm really sick and tired of seeing [a large number] of our residents leave the county to work in other places," said Michelle Lamb Moone, president and chief executive of a human resources company in Largo and chairman of the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce. "I always have a hard time finding employees."
Johnson's aim is to direct more of the administration's budget to attracting businesses and tackling six issues outlined in the plan: workforce and industry development, revitalization of older communities, organization of the county's public financing programs, attracting more tech companies, growing entrepreneurship, and bringing development near Metro stations.
The plan does not delve into the schools issue, except to recommend creation of a task force to study ways to help students see the links between books and the real world.
The five-year plan lays out a vision for each issue, with dozens of short- and long-term objectives. It proposes that the county take steps such as creating a one-stop career center for employers and employees, developing a marketing strategy for Prince George's, and providing tax breaks for developers who want to build projects in older communities near the District.
Kwasi G. Holman, president of the county's Economic Development Corporation, will lead implementation of the plan. Holman said the goal is to put the county "at the top of the heap." His group has been meeting with the 200 largest companies in the county and working to keep them in Prince George's.
As part of the economic development plan, Johnson intends to pull business leaders further into decision-making positions. During the first year of his administration, Johnson had a strained relationship with the county's business community, which largely supported other political candidates.
"I think it's very exciting," Moone said. "In previous years we haven't worked closely."
Staff writer Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.