Frank Meeks thinks pizza when he thinks about Prince George's County. And the Washington area pizza magnate, who built Domino's into a major regional power, is thinking about a lot of pizza for Prince George's these days.
Meeks joined U.S. Reps. Albert R. Wynn (D-4th District) and James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) Monday at the newest Domino's Pizza location in the county, on University Boulevard in Langley Park, to announce his franchise's expansion and to celebrate new stores, renovations and jobs that have come from what he says is "an aggressive reinvestment" campaign in Prince George's.
Meeks, owner of the Washington area Domino's Pizza franchise, said that during the last 12 months, he has pumped $1 million into his Prince George's County operation, opening five stores and renovating others. He now has 13 pizza delivery stores in the county. Two new stores are on the way, resulting in a total of about 100 new jobs, he said.
For the last 24 weeks, sales in Prince George's have increased faster than in any other suburban Washington county, Meeks said. Sales in Prince George's are up 15 percent over last year, and he has seen a 30 percent increase in Prince George's profits over last year. "I'm going to prove to the other business owners in Prince George's County that if you do invest, it makes a difference in profits," he said.
Joseph J. James, president and chief executive of the Prince George's County Economic Development Corp., said there is more news coming for the Prince George's retail sector. "This announcement is consistent with the sentiment we've been getting from retailers as we talk to them about Prince George's County," said James, who recently returned from the annual convention of the International Council of Shopping Centers.
James said the ICSC is a "premier group" at whose convention, held in Las Vegas this year, retail and restaurant deals are negotiated and quite often made. He was out getting what he said was a good response to retailers eyeing Prince George's. "Compared to last year," James said, "the response has dramatically improved."
Meeks said he called the news conference at the new store to issue a plea to other Prince George's business owners to reinvest in physical space--and people.
"The message is Prince George's County is great for business. . . . I'm calling on all businesses in the county to look at your location, your landscaping. . . . I can tell you when you reinvest in your business, it's good for business."
Wynn, of Upper Marlboro, and Moran also emphasized the marketability of the county as they spoke to the media from the food preparation area of the newest Domino's store. "We're trying to make opportunity. I value these jobs," Wynn said. "Anyone who disparages these jobs is making a big mistake. A lot of people who need work will find it here."
Meeks, 43, announced that he has set all store manager salaries at $70,000 a year and criticized the notion that fast-food jobs are a dead end. Meeks said he started with Domino's as a delivery person after college. Today he owns Domino's Team Washington, which comprises 58 stores.
"This is the way real economic development happens," Moran said. "I just take my hat off to the whole organization. . . . We're here because Frank really epitomizes what hard work, individual initiative and corporate discipline can produce."
Moran has a Domino's connection. His son, Jim Moran, 30, is regional director of the chain's Prince George's County stores. Jim Moran said he started with the company in 1987 as a delivery person. After five years in that position, he said, he benefited from the company's in-store management training program and now makes about $100,000 a year.
Meeks's system allows managers to pocket 25 percent of their store's profits, which is part of his calculation when he speaks of $70,000 annual salaries for store managers.
"Sales are way up. Profits are way up, so their share of the pie is bigger," Meeks said. "Managers end up with about $70,000 a year."
Meeks also is reinvesting in his Northern Virginia and Montgomery County franchises, although he said the Prince George's stores are a priority. The reinvestment in the other counties is only about 50 percent finished, but already Rep. Moran said he can see a difference.
Meeks "went into a number of areas that were run-down and then hired the people in those areas," he said. "Not only did the physical investment pay off, but it brought a lot of jobs into those neighborhoods."