Prince George's Exec Promises Help In Tough Times

By Anita Huslin

If economic signs suggest more rainclouds gathering over the Washington region, the forecast for Prince George's County is sunshine-y bright. At least in the meteorologic world according to Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson.

He delivered his prognostication during the annual state-of-the-county report Thursday night before a crowd of several hundred at Martin's Crosswinds banquet hall. This year, about half as many people attended the event, which organizers artfully tailored to the setting by running a curtain down the middle of the ballroom.

Nevertheless, Johnson was not deterred, ebulliently promising that "this government will do whatever it can to provide you with the resources to get through these tough economic times" and declaring that Prince George's County will be the "political, cultural and economic force of the region."

The latter point was apparently addressed, in part, to several developers in the audience that are forging ahead, with billion-plus-dollar projects in the county. Among them: gold sponsor National Harbor, which was represented at the dinner by Peterson Cos. president Steven Peterson; silver sponsor Konterra Town Center, being built by development scion Kingdon Gould; and Toll Brothers, Inc., one of the few high-end new home-builders left in the county. Noticeably absent (despite their silver sponsorship), was the top brass from Annapolis' Petrie Ross development company, which is building the new Woodmore Town Center.

That left the spotlight for Johnson to announce a bit of news about that project: Next month, Petrie Ross will deliver the "site pad" to Wegman's food markets, which will build the first gourmet grocer in the retail-starved county.

"Next April," Johnson promised, "we will be attending the grand opening of the new Wegman's."

After the dinner, Johnson told a reporter that particularly in tough times, the power of county government is not in creating economic development opportunities, but enabling them to happen.

"My job is to remove all the roadblocks and potential pitfalls," he said, "and then stand back and let [developers] get the job done."

By Dan Beyers  |  March 14, 2008; 11:24 AM ET
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