Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) announced a rebirth for the county during his annual state of the economy address Wednesday.
“The Prince George’s County this region is used to dealing with is no more,” Baker said. “I believe people are starting to take notice. Big projects are beginning to come to the county, game changing projects.”
Baker spoke to about 180 people at the Country Club at Woodmore in Mitchellville in an event co-sponsored by the Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable.
Baker’s address was different from previous years when the county faced a collapsing real estate market and the lingering embarrassment surrounding the trial and incarceration of former County Executive Jack Johnson (D) due to corruption charges, said Scott Peterson, a Baker spokesman.
“This year is much more optimistic,” Peterson said. “You’re going to see a lot of the results of our hard work.”
Baker pointed to projects such as his Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative program, which focuses county resources on troubled county areas and the county’s Economic Development Incentive Fund, which seeks to bring businesses to the area, as ways the county is trying to be more welcoming.
Going forward, Baker said the county has projects on the horizon that will further push the county commercial sector forward. The newly established Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement would help to change a view of the county as having a laborious permitting process.
Nita Armstrong of Olney said it was a hassle to get the proper permits and inspections to start her business in Bowie in 2011, she said.
“It was very hard to come into the county,” she said. “Since then it’s gotten better, I’ve heard.”
Turning to public safety, Baker said the old view of crime in the county is no more as he showcased statistics such as a more than 50 percent drop in carjacking compared to 2012.
Baker said the legislative battle with the county’s school board that resulted in the General Assembly giving him and the County Council increased power in the county’s school system would help attract businesses as the quality of schools improves.
Mubuso Zamchiya, regional director of Imagine Schools, a national chain of public charter schools with several county locations, said the county hasn’t been thought of as an educational leader.
“There’s no reason Prince George’s County shouldn’t be at the forefront,” Zamchiya said. “We’re really excited about what’s to come.”
Baker also pointed to the potential of billions of dollars worth of development coming to the area, if the county is successful in luring big scale projects such as the new headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigations to Prince George’s.
“We got here through hard work, hard work that is making Prince George’s County a great place to live work and play,” Baker said.