Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) said last night that Virginia residents who oppose the National Harbor resort being developed on the Potomac River shore in Oxon Hill are trying to sabotage the county's economic growth.
In his annual state-of-the-county address, Curry said he hopes that federal oversight of the project can be eliminated, which would remove "these impediments . . . and these people who never cared about Prince George's County before."
His remarks came the day the House of Representatives approved a measure that would exempt the National Harbor development from federal review by the 12-member National Capital Planning Commission. The exemption is attached to a $140 billion spending bill. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill today or tomorrow.
"I caught a very serious attitude when people from Virginia were telling me we couldn't have what they already have," Curry said. "How presumptuous. The nerve of you."
Curry said National Harbor, which the County Council approved last year with his support, is one of the biggest reasons the county has for being optimistic about its future.
"That's where we'll get our upscale shopping," he said. "There will be so much work. There's a whole lot of opportunity as soon as we get [rid of the] saboteurs."
As further evidence of progress, Curry said, the county has attracted nine companies in the past year that have generated 810 jobs and $27 million in revenue.
Curry delivered the address in Greenbelt at a meeting of the Prince George's County Board of Trade. As he has for the past two years, Curry used the event to plug the county's successes. He said he turned a budget deficit into a surplus when he took office in 1995, helped negotiate a deal to end nearly 30 years of court-ordered school busing and brought the Redskins football team to Prince George's.
County Council Chairman M.H. Jim Estepp (D-Croom) said that although the county is experiencing job and business growth, it must do more to encourage high-tech investment.
"We have to be more active," Estepp said. "My concern is that the prosperity in the region continues to flow toward the western part of the region," particularly to Northern Virginia.
Sen. Ulysses Currie (D), chairman of the county's Senate delegation, also emphasized the need for additional resources to expand the high-tech sector. He said he plans to seek state funding next year for job training programs.
"Everyone is looking for people to work," Currie said. "The economy is growing and taking off, but [companies] are having a difficult time finding qualified workers. We need to get as many resources as possible to help."
Estepp said the county also must step up its efforts to attract upscale retail and development.
"Clearly people with the incomes we have in Prince George's County deserve more in the way of high-end retail," he said. "It's become a cliche, but it's a fact."
Estepp said the county could provide greater financial incentives to lure companies to the county.
Council member Isaac J. Gourdine (D-Fort Washington) said the county also has to focus more on roads and transportation. "This administration has done a lot in terms of schools and public safety," he said. "We've done a lot in terms of economic development. We need to focus our attention on fixing our roads."
But in general, Gourdine said, "the county is healthy. With the amount of money we have, we've done all right."