P.G. lawmakers want to crack down on county contractors

|
Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

Prince George's County is looking to close a local hiring loophole to strengthen last year's rules for those looking to do business with the county.

If the measure passes in Tuesday's County Council meeting, companies with a county contract will have to submit an explanation whenever they cut a county-based subcontractor.

Councilman Mel Franklin, D-Upper Marlboro, who proposed the measure, said local firms had complained that they would be hired to help a larger company meet the county's requirements, then let go once that company won its contract.

"That's just unfair," said Maynard Smith, a spokesman for the Prince George's Black Chamber of Commerce. "Anything we can do to stop that from happening is a good thing."

A company that dips below the local hiring standard would have to request a waiver from the county to continue its contract. The written explanation would help the county make sure the change was legitimate, Franklin said.

"Sometimes there's a good reason why you have to let a contractor go," Franklin said. "This would be yet another safeguard against the gaming the law."

Under last year's local employment law, a company must have at least 40 percent local business participation to bid on a county contract of more than $100,000. While that law required that bidders use their "best efforts" to use county-based businesses, Franklin's proposal would force bidders to show the county that they worked to help local firms with items like bonding, credit and insurance that might normally preclude them from a project.

"A lot of times, small companies have great difficulty in getting bonds or a line of credit," Franklin said. "In defining what a good-faith effort is, a bidder has to demonstrate that they tried to assist local companies."

Only 40 percent of Prince George's County residents work in the county -- the rest leave for work on a daily basis. No other county in the region has a lower percentage of residents with jobs in-county.

Losing workers comes with an array of other problems. The county has said that more work for local businesses would mean more daytime spending at local shops and restaurants, less traffic congestion, fewer road repair and maintenance costs and higher county income from commercial taxes.

"We're trying to grow our tax base," Franklin said. "We want to utilize the money we already control as a county."

The proposal comes on the heels of planned development projects at the Greenbelt, Branch Avenue and Largo Town Center Metro stations, along with a new casino.

Bidding on the new casino has not begun, but MGM Resorts International is the favorite to win the bid and build a planned $800 million luxury casino at National Harbor. The county estimates the casino project, which will have to abide by local hiring standards, will bring 2,000 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs to Prince George's.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment