The Prince George's business community is hoping to capitalize on the expected rush of contracts from the increased government focus on homeland security.
High on the wish list -- becoming home to the newly created Homeland Defense Agency.
News last week that the Bush administration is looking to place the Homeland Defense Agency's headquarters in a 225,000 to 275,000 square-foot office-park setting by 2003 has many suggesting that the space will be in Maryland or Virginia. There is little room in the District that fits those requirements.
"We've begun to see a significant increase in defense-related activity for some of our companies, said Joseph James, chief executive of the Prince George's Economic Development Corp., a quasi-public agency. "In my opinion, the state of Maryland is well positioned to benefit."
The Economic Development Corp. is pushing the county as a home for the new agency, said James, who wrote letters to the General Services Administration and Tom Ridge, the homeland security director who has been nominated to head the new department.
"Several [Prince George's] locations have the campus amenities that we understand they may be looking for. Some have existing office buildings already in place and room for additional expansion," James said.
Vying for the headquarters are developers of the planned National Harbor complex in Fort Washington, owners of the Presidential Corporate Center on Route 4 near Andrews Air Force Base, and office parks and developers near the University of Maryland in College Park.
"We look forward to assisting any and all who are successful in gaining the interest of the agency," James said. "We're eager to work with our new county executive and county council."
In the meantime, at least one Prince George's company, Glenn Dale-based TVI Corp., is already is benefiting from the upswing in homeland security spending. Sales of the company's shelter decontamination technology -- a portable tent-like shelter complete with hoses and detergent for decontamination in the case of a terrorist attack -- have more than doubled.
The company's revenues are up from $4.2 million last year to more than $10 million, said TVI Corp. President and CEO Richard Priddy.
"We expect the market to continue to expand," Priddy said. "We see states continuing to try to equip all their first responders with these decontamination systems so they will be prepared for another attack."
The increased focus on defense spending since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has been a major opportunity for the company, which was founded in Prince George's in 1980. Before developing the decontamination shelters, TVI was primarily known for making fold-up phony tanks for the military to fool its enemies.
"Funding after 9/11 for homeland defense has really intensified," TVI Corp. Vice President Chad Sample said. "For the next five years, we expect this to be a real growth industry."
TVI -- which was called to the Pentagon following the attacks to assist with the decontamination of emergency workers -- has been the beneficiary of a Department of Justice program that has allocated money to each state for decontamination systems. The company already has contracts with five states, including Massachusetts, which bought 55 units last week for $3 million. The company also has contracts with Delaware, Maine, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
"We've been in numerous shootouts with other companies, and we've ended up winning a lot of state systems," Priddy said.
The contracts are a major turn around for TVI, which was cited more for its internal problems in the late 1990s than its decontamination shelters. In 1996, the company ousted its chief executive for embezzling company money.
"I've been with company since then, and it has created new markets and come back to full health," Sample said.