P.G.: Economic development fund paying job dividends

Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

Prince George's fledgling economic development incentive fund has caused nearly 1,000 jobs to be created or kept in the county, according to a year-end review given Monday by County Executive Rushern Baker.

The $50 million fund, which began operating in July, is meant to provide loans and grants to county businesses over the next few years. It has provided $2.4 million in loans or grants to six local businesses that have resulted in 627 jobs being retained and 358 new ones created, according to the county.

"We still have a lot of money to allocate that hasn't been allocated yet," said Baker spokesman Scott Peterson. "We still want to spur more applicants."

The biggest deal was a $1.2 million loan to build a $15 million Hampton Inn in Camp Springs, near Joint Base Andrews. That project joins food distributor Nash Finch, which received $200,000, tech company Information Management Services, which received $110,000, and software company Vocus, which received $100,000.

A $500,000 loan to Man & Machine Inc. and a $300,000 loan to build new Little Caesars' locations were announced in August.

While Vocus took in the fund's smallest grant, the county worked to secure a $500,000 grant to the company from the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund.

"The county really pulled at their coattails," said Vocus CFO Steve Vintz. "They've gotten the attention from larger, deeper pockets of the state."

The company is a major employer in Prince George's. About 700 of Vocus' 1,400 employees work at its Beltsville headquarters, which opened a year ago and has been growing ever since. Vintz said the company plans to add several hundred more employees from the area and will continue to work with the county to address its expansion needs -- especially in terms of transportation.

"As a software company, our assets walk in and out of the door every day," he said. "These people live in urban areas. In order to come to Beltsville, transportation's gotta be easy."

Vocus is committed to its lease through 2020.

David Iannucci, a member of Baker's Economic Development Team, said there are about 15 more funding deals in the pipeline.

"It's working out along the lines we expected," he said. "It's a very good start for the first half a year."

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