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McDonnell sends new economic development bills with Northrop Grumman in mind

Rosalind Helderman

With just a few days left before the adjournment of this year's legislative session, Gov. Bob McDonnell has sent down late legislation to the General Assembly that could help Virginia snag the massive defense company Northrop Grumman.

The L.A.-based company is considering offers from Virginia, Maryland and the District as sites to relocate its corporate headquarters. The company has said public incentives could play a role in its decision-making process. Virginia officials have been tight-lipped about the details of their offer to the company, not wanting to tip their hand to their competitors in Maryland and the District.

But some indication of the kind of incentives that could be offered to the company came with the introduction of companion bills in the House and Senate. The identical bills would allow the Governor's Opportunity Fund, an economic development grant program which can now be spent only on public infrastructure, to be used to renovate private buildings as well.

The bills would also renew a program that is designed to lure particularly high-paying jobs. The Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant is available to companies that create 400 jobs that pay better than 150 percent of the state's average wage or 300 jobs that pay better than 200 percent. But under current law, the state can only pay out $30 million over six years from the fund. With past pledges to companies that have relocated recently to Virginia, like Hilton and SAIC, the state has hit the cap. The bills would allow the state to begin spending from a new $30 million pot of money over the next six years, starting July 1.

None of this reveals how much Virginia is offering Northrop Grumman. But it makes it clear that the administration is working to make sure the legislature has provided all the tools it needs to make the company its best offer before they leave town this weekend.

"It's designed to bring a large company that meets certain criteria to Virginia," said Sen. Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico), who is sponsoring the Senate's version of the bill, along with Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington). In the House, the bill is sponsored by Lacey E. Putney (I-Bedford).

Stosch noted that the General Assembly cannot pass legislation to benefit one company. But, he confirmed, "Northrop Grumman would meet the criteria."

In a statement, McDonnell spokeswoman Stacey Johnson said about the bills: "In recent years, Virginia has become a location of choice for major headquarters and research and development facilities. The Governor's bill provides the necessary flexibility in the Governor's Opportunity Fund (GOF) grants and the capacity of the Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant Program (VEDIG) to continue this momentum short-term and long-term. The bill seeks to ensure that Virginia remains a location of choice for major companies and corporations."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  March 8, 2010; 5:56 PM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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