Prince George's County businessmen, politicians and bureaucrats celebrated their most recent accomplishments in industrial marketing last week when they honored the county Economic Development Committee and its retiring chairman, Clyde A. (Sonny) Long.
At a luncheon at the Sheraton Lanham Hotel, County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr. and representatives from area chambers of commerce and the county government commended Long for his work over the past three years as "chief flack for business and industry in the county."
It was an opportunity for members of the group to pat each other on the back for a "job well done" in bringing new industry to Prince George's. Through Long's leadership of the committee, 78 new companies have put up office buildings, warehouses and research and industrial facilities in the county.
In addition, more than 20 new office buildings are under construction and are scheduled for completion and occupancy during the next year and a half. And 17 other industries are beginning the initial development of major industrial and employment parks in the county.
For a county that is currently pushing "new quality" development for its citizens, the luncheon and announcements of new industrial growth were a joyous occasion. Prince George's has long considered itself the "poor guy on the block," Kelly said, but no longer should.
"Look, we are now the 24th wealthiest district in the United States," Kelly said. "Is it our fault that No. 1 and 2 are Fairfax and Montgomery County?
"We have a newopportunity here. This kind of activity in the county is serious. For those who live here, hang on - things are happening better. For those who have already left, there is a new opportunity now. Look around, you may want to come back."
Long, who was one of 35 members of the committee that offered advice to the county Program Planning and Economic Development Office, said, "During the past three years we have taken credit for everything good (that has happened). We didn't care if they started (planning) in 1960."
Long told the group that "after the sewer moratorium in 1970 we were headed straight for bankruptcy. Development had stopped dead, tax revenues declined.Builders went bust, unemployment in the trades was rampant. The county executive did little to help and we were in trouble.
"Now we're malleable and we're aggressive. You fellows did everything to help us - even the bureaucrats are bending a little."
Long said more than 3,000 new jobs have been created through the committee's push for economic development and 28,000 more are expected when several new projects are completed.
Kelly said he will appoint Fred A. Greene Jr., a former home builder in the county, as acting chairman of the economic development committee until a new chairman can be named later this year.