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Montgomery County may get more economic development cooks in the kitchen

Montgomery County

New Montgomery County council president Nancy Floreen is pushing the idea of creating an economic development authority to try to spur job growth in the county.

She said Monday she wants officials to look at the experiences in Fairfax and Prince William counties and elsewhere, but didn't have specifics on what a Montgomery authority might look like.

"Montgomery County needs to get in the game," Floreen said. "There are best practices in the region--well, at least there are practices across the region. Are they the best?"

Floreen (D-At Large) took pains to note that "this is no criticism of our existing structure."

Her proposal did, however, come on the day county executive Ike Leggett was scheduled to give his "state of the county" address, generally a forum for noting a year's worth of achievements, including on economic development. Officials in recent weeks have touted plans by Microsoft to add hundreds of jobs in the county, and pointed to a key agreement with the Lee Development group on bringing a new concert hall in Silver Spring.

The head of the county's "existing structure," economic development director and former council member Steve Silverman, said Floreen called him Monday to talk about the idea of an economic development authority. He said he and county executive Ike Leggett are open to all good ideas.

"The county executive is very interested in working with Nancy Floreen and other council members on anything that will get this economy moving again," Silverman said. "She's just looking at, is there another model that might complement what we're already doing?"

Officials will get together to hash out the possibilities soon, Silverman said.

"We want to make sure the substance is there, not just the form," Silverman said. "Creating a new economic development authority without understanding how that's going to specifically help the economy doesn't make any sense. But if it could be helpful to create jobs and create more business opportunities, it's something we should be looking at."

Floreen pointed to figures showing unemployment has increased in Montgomery by 14,000 people over last year, and she wants to find a way for the council to help counter that trend. Broadly speaking, "it's time for a new paradigm," she said, though what that will look like in practice remains unclear.

By Michael Laris  |  December 7, 2009; 3:57 PM ET
Categories:  Michael Laris , Montgomery County  
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