Prince George's County weighs business development grants

Local,Maryland,Ben Giles

Dozens of Prince George's County businesses have applied for a piece of County Executive Rushern Baker's $50 million Economic Development Incentive Fund, and county officials say they're close to awarding the program's first loans now that a committee to oversee the program is in place.

Baker announced seven appointees -- a variety of local business owners and community leaders -- to the Financial Advisory Committee, which will review applications for loans and grants to the fund and advise Brad Seamon, the county's chief administrative officer, on the merits of each applicant.

Members of the advisory committee are unpaid and may serve no more than five years.

Creating the oversight body is one of the final steps the county must take before beginning to distribute the funds, of which $18 million is available in fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2013.

"Now with the financial advisory committee in place we can approve our first EDI loans and grants and allow this investment money to begin creating jobs and opportunities for county residents," Baker said in a statement.

The county has received 39 applications since launching the program on March 1, according to David Iannucci, Baker's assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development. Most applicants are small businesses in Prince George's, many in the food service and home improvement industries, looking for loans to help improve their business, he said.

Loans for the applicants will likely range between $250,000 and $600,000, according to Iannucci.

County officials have also used the fund as a bargaining chip in negotiations with two companies that are considering relocating to Prince George's, each of which would bring more than 100 jobs to the county, Iannucci said.

The intent is to use the fund to draw government contracting and tech jobs that Prince George's County lacks compared to other jurisdictions in the region.

"[The fund is] primarily for the small-business community, but we've had the ability to be in the game to compete to bring jobs in the county that we've never had before," he said.

Once reviewed by the advisory committee, loans or grants may also be reviewed by the County Council. Council approval is required for any grants exceeding $250,000.

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