“Prince George’s county’s history was that of a rural enclave,” said David Harrington, president and CEO of the Prince Georges County Chamber of Commerce, “It hasn’t been a destination and it is our mission to change the public perspective so that the county is perceived as suburban and urban.”
While being one the richest Black counties in the nation, some people feel the County has not always reflected that.
“For too long Prince Georges County has been redlined, sidelined, overlooked and unvalued,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski said in a news release. She along with many others, feel the county has the capability of competing with surrounding jurisdictions but the negative perceptions of the county, seem to get in the way of progress.
“Our challenge is to get the narrative out there that this is a great place to invest in,” said Harrington, who has been working on breathing new energy into the county.
“We are sandwiched between two giants; the District and Montgomery County, both of which have well established brands.”
Harrington believes Prince Georges can indeed be on an equal playing field as either D.C. or Montgomery County; it just needs the opportunity to do so.
Though Harrington stands alongside Mikulski in efforts to beef up the county’s business environment, he does not agree with the negative tone of the dialogue about the county.
“I don’t get into woe is us,” Harrington said. “The county has all the capabilities for growth and it is up to us to make that happen.”
Harrington uses the National Harbor development in Oxon Hill as an example of growth. He spoke of the future MGM development that will be complete with a casino, a luxury hotel as well as retail on the site. However he thinks this development would make more sense with the addition of a Metro station at National Harbor.
The possibility of the FBI headquarters moving into the county excites Harrington.
“It would be the honey that would attract other opportunities,” said Harrington, who added that he doesn’t care if it comes to Greenbelt or Lanham; he just wants it inside of the county.
“It would be an anchor that would attract retail opportunities surrounding it,” continued Harrington.
As for the future of Prince George’s County, Harrington envisions of county of distinct districts.
“We are trying to create destination districts. For example, the National Harbor would be our shopping/retail district; The health district would be supported by the University of Maryland Campus, the federal district would be anchored by the FBI headquarters,” Explained Harrington.
For a long while, the county has lacked clearly defined destinations, it hasn’t had a brand, a signature. Harrington understands this and explained that the primary goal is to create these viable regions in the county which attract people from the surrounding areas.
If anyone thinks that Harrington does not understand what small business owners have to go through in the county, they would be incorrect.
Harrington discussed his wife’s small bakery.
“My wife goes through the same challenges that any big business endures in the county, but we have to build up small business and make it a collaborative effort,” explained Harrington when faced with a question about big businesses such as Walmart coming into areas of small businesses.
“Seventy percent of the people in the country are employed by small business,” said Harrington who says that he works to promote neighborhoods of small business.
While Harrington agrees that small businesses are important, he elaborates that discrimination does exist in the county when it comes to Black owned small businesses.
“There is a well known history that people of color have a harder time getting loans and their loans are given at unfair rates,” said Harrington.
“It can be difficult to get finances and resources to build a small business when one has to deal with these disparities,” said Harrington candidly.
“We are working to address structural issues that affect people of color within the county,” continued Harrington, “We will join Mikulski to deal with the neglect of the county and help to facilitate loans.
Harrington also stated that one of his major goals has been to drive jobs into the county.
“Seventy percent of our working population works outside of the county, we need to be laser focused on bringing them home to work.”
As far as Harrington’s future plans after the Chamber of Commerce, he isn’t thinking about them. He said he focuses on the work that has to be done now, and not what happens later. After all, what happens now, does affect the future, but he did state what he wants his legacy to be.
“My legacy would be to build an organization that is outside the government space,” said Harrington, “building social capital and wealth, providing pathways for people who live in P.G. County. You know what, maybe I can start a business here,” said Harrington, and it appears that David Harrington may have plans for when he leaves office, after all.