Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening, under pressure from minority firms seeking to reap the benefits of the county's current economic boom, announced yesterday the creation of a Minority Business Resource Institute "to help all our citizens share in this prosperity."
With $9.6 billion in new construction projects, Glendening said, the county is enjoying unprecedented commercial and industrial development. As the political clout of minorities increases in the county, so should their wealth, he said. The county's population is now estimated to be 40 percent nonwhite.
Glendening said the institute would conduct seminars and workshops, help minority firms obtain loans and provide for contacts between minority and nonminority businesses "for their mutual benefit."
It will receive $150,000 in county funds through the Prince George's Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit entity formed to lure major employers to the county. The corporation also will share staff members with the new resource institute, to be housed at the same Landover address.
The institute was given an identity separate from the corporation because, Glendening said, "symbolically, it's very important it be a visible, independent entity. I expect it to grow and be spun off as totally separate."
Initially, the institute will have an executive director and will provide office space and $25,000 each to two organizations: the Development Credit Fund, a nonprofit corporation that arranges loans, and the National Business League, a national minority trade association established by Booker T. Washington in 1900.
"It's extremely key at this time for us to come into the mainstream," said June White Dillard, a lawyer who is president of the league's Southern Maryland chapter and who actively pushed for the institute.
Glendening, at a news conference, said he decided to form the institute after "a variety of people approached me about the very serious need for a comprehensive and long-term effort" on behalf of minority enterprise.
His administration has set its own goal for minority firms to obtain 30 percent of county procurement contracts, amounting to $20 million a year, a goal he acknowledged his government has yet to achieve.
However, Glendening said, the potential rewards in county contracts pale compared with those in the private sector, where there are three huge developments -- PortAmerica, Konterra and the Presidential Corporate Center -- projected to cost at least $1 billion each.
Prince George's 428 minority firms put it seventh in the nation, Glendening said, but most are very small businesses.
Glendening said the county was experiencing so much economic growth that he believed the "sharing of opportunity can be done without distorting the marketplace." He pointed in particular to PortAmerica, the Potomac waterfront project planned by Alexandria developer James T. Lewis, who has agreed to set a dollar goal of 15 percent minority participation, which would total about $150 million.