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Prince George's County needs to play catch-up with federal, health care jobs, report says

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly,Prince Georges County

Prince George's County is lagging behind regional competitors and needs to play catch-up with federal, health care and technology jobs, according to a report from the county's Planning Department.

The report identified four sectors in which the county needed to add employment: federal government, business services, health care and life sciences, and "information, communication and electronic" technology industries. All four saw limited growth, or even regression, in the county when compared with the rest of the region.

"These economic trends imply a lack of regional economic competitiveness, which results in a lost opportunity for improving the quality of life, economic vitality, and tax base in Prince George's County," the report says. "If Prince George's County had kept pace with regional growth over the period between 2001 and 2011 there would have been a gain of over 19,000 jobs in the county, rather than a loss of over 5,000."

The county had 27,482 federal jobs in 2011, good for a 6.2 percent gain from 2001, though the Washington-Baltimore region as a whole added 18.4 percent more federal jobs over that time period.

Prince George's is looking to remedy some of the disparity by wooing the FBI, which is likely leaving its J. Edgar Hoover Building headquarters. The county, with potential sites in Greenbelt and Westphalia, must beat out D.C. and Fairfax County for the new headquarters.

"We look forward to a robust and competitive process that we believe Prince George's County will emerge victorious from," said Aubrey Thagard, a top aide to County Executive Rushern Baker. "We want to ensure we're using any possible resource for any site that meets the criteria that's been established."

The county is also planning a $650 million medical center, set to open in 2017. The new hospital will boost Prince George's health care industry, which grew 19.8 percent from 2001 to 14,788 jobs in 2011.

The county's one surging industry, according to the report, is tourism and travel, which grew 63.8 percent since 2001, compared with 33.8 percent in the rest of the region. The report attributed the jump to an increase in hotels and the opening of National Harbor in 2008. A resort casino, planned for 2016, will likely add to the county's still relatively small 6,079-job tourism sector.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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