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Prince George's County pushes for tax breaks to lure green businesses

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Local,Business,Maryland,Matt Connolly,Taxes,Prince Georges County

Prince George's County is moving closer to tax breaks for green businesses as officials push the county's economic development fund to use the breaks as an environmental kickstarter.

The county's green business tax credit advisory board, which was created in 2011, submitted a report to County Executive Rushern Baker and the County Council this week recommending that the county move forward with the tax break, with some caveats.

One was that the incentive be available throughout the county -- some economic development initiatives only target certain parts of Prince George's, often by focusing on the "developed" tier near the Beltway. Another was to use generally agreed-upon definitions for just what a green business is.

"The tax credit should include industry or nationally recognized standards for green businesses," said Councilman Eric Olson, D-College Park, who chaired the advisory board. "We don't want to reinvent the wheel."

The board, which includes other county and local officials as well as representatives from environmental advocacy groups, also said the county should use some of its $50 million economic development incentive fund to help bring environmental startups to the county.

That funding could be combined with the tax credit and other county incentives to form one big "Green Business Incubator Program," according to the board's report. The report cited Montgomery County's Green Business Zone, which encourages environmentally focused businesses to cluster together, and Bethesda's Green Business Incubator, which connects businesses with the county's economic development office, as examples to follow.

The economic development incentive fund, which was created in July, has provided $2.4 million in loans or grants to six local businesses so far. David Iannucci, a member of Baker's economic development team, also served on the advisory board.

Even with an entire green business program, Olson said that Prince George's would need state support to see real gains. The board's report asked for a state tax credit to work in tandem with the county one.

"We realize that just doing a county property tax credit would not really result in a huge benefit, frankly," Olson said. "If they were coupled with a state tax credit, it would really assist a business."

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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