ROCKVILLE, Md., April 26, 2010—Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen, representatives of County Executive Isiah Leggett and leaders of some of the most prominent businesses located in the Washington area today announced a proposal to form a new Montgomery Business Development Corporation (MBDC) that will have the County’s Department of Economic Development join with the influence of private businesses to promote business development in the County.
The announcement of the County Council bill authorizing formation of the MBDC was made in the lobby of Discovery Communications World Headquarters at One Discovery Place in Silver Spring. Discovery, whose 100-plus worldwide networks include the Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet, and Marriott Corporation, which is headquartered in Bethesda, are among the businesses that have pledged to be involved in the MBDC to help attract businesses of various interests and sizes to join them in Montgomery County.
The MBDC evolved from Council President Floreen’s pledge to make economic development the top priority during her term. Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Valerie Ervin, Mike Knapp, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro and Duchy Trachtenberg are co-sponsors of the bill.
“The nation, and the Washington region, are currently in an economic era unprecedented in our lifetimes,” said Council President Floreen. “Throughout this downturn, Montgomery County has remained one of the nation’s economic engines and we have to send out the word that we are open for business. It is one thing for government to send that message, but when we team with some of the nation’s, and the world’s, top companies to roll out the welcome mat, it becomes quite an inspiring invitation. That is what we are creating with the MBDC.”
The bill, which will be introduced before the County Council on Tuesday, April 27, sets the mission of the MBDC to “develop the vision for the County’s economic future and to recommend and advocate for legislative and regulatory changes that move the culture and regulatory environment so that business success can create that vibrant and growing economy.”
“Montgomery County has worked very hard during the current economy to attract new businesses and help those that have already made their home here,” said County Executive Leggett. “Through the MBDC, we will be taking another important step.”
Among those attending the announcement in Silver Spring were Montgomery County Councilmembers Ervin, Floreen and Leventhal; Carmen Camacho, president of Bud Miller Assoc., Inc.; Bryant Foulger, principal of Foulger-Pratt Companies; Joe LaSala, senior vice president and general counsel for Discovery Communications; Bruce Lee, president of the Lee Development Group; Matthew Mohebbi, vice president of Hughes Network Systems, Inc.; Bill Robertson, president and CEO of Adventist Health Care; Andy Shulman, assistant vice president with McShea and Co. Inc.; Larry Shulman, partner with Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker; Pat Darby, president of the Clarksburg Chamber of Commerce; Gigi Godwin, president of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce; Gianne Italiano, president of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce; Jane Redicker, president of the Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce; and Steve Silverman, director of Montgomery County’s Department of Economic Development.
The bill calls for the MBDC to have a board of directors of no more than 11 members—including one volunteer officer of a Chamber of Commerce in the County. Appointees would be recommended by the County Executive, subject to confirmation by the Council. In addition, the County’s director of the Department of Economic Development, the superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools (or a deputy superintendent assigned by the superintendent) and the chair of the County Planning Board (or the planning director assigned by the chair) would serve as ex-officio non-voting members. All voting members must either be a County resident or employed in the senior management of a company that has a significant presence in the County. Up to eight board members would represent “major” companies. One board position would be reserved for an owner of a small business and another position would be for the owner or officer of a “medium-sized” business.
“Through the MBDC, we are going to be deferring to the business community on how to handle important issues,” said Council President Floreen. “I am not going to tell this group what to do. I am going to listen to what it recommends.”
Statements of various supporters of the Montgomery Business Development Corporation:
• “Discovery’s impact as the cornerstone of Silver Spring’s revitalization, along with the ongoing efforts of the nearly 2,000 employees working and living in the County, to give back to the local community, are examples of the vital role that large employers can play in building vibrant and diverse communities and ensuring a healthy and growing economy for Montgomery County,” said Joe LaSala, general counsel for Discovery Communications. “Discovery applauds the efforts of Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen in introducing this bill to develop a vision for the County’s economic future and ensure that we have a business-friendly environment that can attract industry leaders to Montgomery County.”
• “There are reasons of many kinds that Montgomery County is a premiere place for major corporations to locate,” said Debbie Marriott Harrison, Marriott International senior vice president of government affairs. “We are all stronger when we have more businesses nearby. We are pledging our support of the MBDC because the County government and the private businesses located in this County are in position to be a powerful team in developing business in Montgomery. Like the other major businesses committed to the goals of the MBDC, we are here to help.”
• “I am pleased to support the proposal for a Montgomery Business Development Corporation,” said County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg. “I believe that, working closely and collaboratively together with the private sector, we can create a more dynamic and sustainable business and economic environment that will ensure a prosperous future in Montgomery County. Our long-term vision for the County must include plans for increasing employment and revenues, while reducing the barriers to business formation and growth. The MBDC can be an important cornerstone for restoring our County’s regional business leadership.”
• “This legislation is an important step toward creating the vibrant economy that Montgomery County needs,” said Bill Robertson, president and CEO of Adventist HealthCare. “It can help create an economy that today begins the very important shift away from being built around our proximity to the Nation’s Capital and toward being built around successful businesses and workers who produce valuable goods and services for our region, our state and our world. It can help create an economy that makes possible the infrastructure, social and public safety services, educational institutions and the quality of life that we have come to cherish. I look forward to being an active participant in helping to create this vibrant economy and to working with the County Executive, the County Council and most importantly, the citizens and businesses of our community, as together we create the economy that our children and grandchildren deserve.”
• “We agree that the future success of our County’s quality of life is dependent on a vibrant and growing economy, and that successful businesses are the key to creating this economy. We also agree that it is the government’s responsibility to foster a legislative and regulatory environment that encourages business success,” said Jane Redicker, president of the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce. “Silver Spring has indeed benefited from past policies that encouraged economic development. Anyone who was here even 10 years ago cannot help but appreciate the amazing renaissance that has occurred in Silver Spring. And that renaissance happened because of County policies that encouraged economic development and business success. Today, our County faces a budget deficit of historic proportions. From the business community’s perspective, the most effective way to solve this challenge and secure our future is to assure a vibrant and growing economy that encourages companies to locate here and supports our existing businesses, creating jobs for our residents and contributing to our tax base.”
• “At the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, we strongly believe that we must attract and retain high-quality jobs to grow our tax base and ensure the kind of sustainable economic growth we need to preserve our community’s outstanding quality of life,” said Georgette (Gigi) Godwin, president of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. “We look forward to working with our County officials to continue to improve on Montgomery County’s many strengths and enhance our competitiveness within our region. This proposed legislation to create a Montgomery County Business Development Corporation represents a significant recognition of the important role that businesses play in strengthening our entire community. It also gives business leaders an additional way to help shape an economic development vision and strategy for our County.”
• “Council President Nancy Floreen has focused the County Council on the need to attract jobs and investment to Montgomery County and expand our tax base,” said County Councilmember George Leventhal. “She deserves great credit for working with us to win unanimous approval of the White Flint Sector Plan and preliminary approval of the Great Seneca Science Corridor Plan by an 8 to 1 vote. Both of these plans provide a road map for significantly increasing the value of land in economic opportunity target areas. By increasing the value of land in these strategic hubs, we will increase our assessable base and increase local government’s ability to pay for the high quality of services our residents expect.
“Today I am happy to stand with her as she announces her proposal for the Montgomery Business Development Corporation.
“I have commissioned two studies from the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight that underscore the need for an energetic economic development strategy. The first was released in early 2009. It outlined the County’s current economic development efforts and described economic development benchmarks in use around the United States. The second was released earlier this year. It compared key data between Fairfax and Montgomery counties, demonstrating that we are lagging far behind our neighboring county in job creation. I hope these reports will spur elected officials to redouble our efforts to attract jobs and investment. They certainly have for me. We need to use data to evaluate our efforts, not be afraid to admit our shortcomings. We can’t improve our performance unless we know where we have problems.
“To continue this review, my hope is that the first item on the work plan of the new Montgomery Business Development Corporation will be to study the following questions and report back to us within a year:
1. The resources, assets and advantages Montgomery County has in attracting jobs and investment
2. The drawbacks, obstacles and disadvantages Montgomery County has in attracting jobs and investment, including taxes, regulation, legislation and administrative processes in all relevant agencies, especially the Planning Board and DPS
3. A specific set of recommendations for how to ameliorate No. 2 and create a healthier business climate
4. A further set of recommendations for what governmental or quasi-governmental structure (perhaps a Department of Economic Development with realigned functions, perhaps an Economic Development Authority with independent powers, perhaps the Montgomery Business Development Corporation) would help advance the goal of a healthier business climate