A year after it was launched, Prince George’s County’s $50 million fund to spur economic development has loaned $2.4 million to six companies, leveraging $26.8 million in private investment, officials said Monday.
The companies receiving loans from the fund include Man and Machine, a 30-year-old company in Landover which received $500,000. It makes specialty, germ-free keyboards and computer mouses for hospitals and other industries. The county also loaned $1.2 million to a Hampton Inn in Camp Springs that expects to break ground in the next few weeks.
Irfaan Lalani, a 32-year-old entrepreneur who is attempting to expand his Little Caesar’s pizza franchise in Prince George’s, received a $300,000 loan from the fund and recently opened his third store in Mount Rainier.
The choice of Little Caesars irked some county council members, who were hoping that the fund would focus on luring companies that would provide higher-paying jobs. But Lalani made a compelling argument for his type of business at a ceremony Monday at Vocus, a Beltsville communications software firm that is expanding and received $100,00 from the county fund, and $500,000 from the state.
“In my industry we are a lot of times employing first-time job seekers, and it is their first opportunity in the workplace,” Lalani said. “We really do give them a lot of skills that they learn early on, such as coming to work on time, that first appearances matter, and customer service.”
In essence, he said, he is helping groom the county’s future work force for other types of jobs.
“It is very crucial to my growth to have access to this type of capital,” said Lanali at the ceremony, organized by county officials to mark the fund’s first anniversary.
Also receiving funds from the county are IMS, a government software contractor that received $110,000 to cover moving expenses from Silver Spring in Montgomery County to Calverton in Prince George’s; and Nash Finch, a food distribution company that occupies a Giant Food warehouse in Landover that had been empty for a decade, and is planning an expansion with $200,000 from the county and $200,000 from the state.
The fund helped retain about 480 jobs and create about 510 new ones, county officials said. There is no net gain in jobs, however, because of job losses in other sectors. The county has about 300,000 jobs inside its borders. “This helped us prevent a loss,” said David Iannucci, who spearheads economic development for the county.
While the funds are distributed in the form of loans, some of the amounts eventually may be forgiven if the companies create and sustain jobs for several years, officials said.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said he hopes that the $50 million fund will help show businesses that Prince George’s is eager to attract and retain them.
“We needed to say something to the business community that says we are serious and we are there with you,” Baker said.