Prince George’s County’s economy is gaining strength from the growth and proliferation of Black-owned businesses, according to the county executive.
On May 3, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III delivered his 7th Annual “State of Prince George’s County Economy” speech to an estimated 500 business, political, and civic leaders. His remarks were given during a breakfast hosted by the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation and the Prince George’s County Business Roundtable at the Colony South Hotel and Convention Center in Clinton, Md.
Baker, who is nearing the end of his second and last term in office and is widely expected to run for Governor, said the county’s economy “was strong” and spoke glowingly of the 15,000 new jobs and $12 billion in economic investment that has come to jurisdiction.
Baker cited bringing the FBI headquarters to the county; making sure the Purple Line project happens, breaking ground on the new regional medical center in Largo,Md., and jumpstarting the development of “downtown Largo” as goals.
Even though he didn’t mention Black businesses specifically, they are a growing economic force in the county. In 2016, Prince George’s County had 28,389 Black-owned firms within its boundaries, the fourth-most of counties in the nation, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey that year.
Black entrepreneurs give the county high marks on being open to helping their businesses operate and prosper. Malcolm Carter is a Dominos franchisee that owns four stores in Prince George’s County (Fort Washington, Camp Springs and two locations in Upper Marlboro including the one nearest to the county courthouse) and one in Dunkirk in Calvert County, Md. Carter, who plans to open a store in Oxon Hill, Md. soon, said the county has been helpful to him.
“There have been most definitely obstacles and challenges like there would be in any other county,” Carter told the AFRO talking about the bureaucratic hurdles that a business owner must overcome. “However, I admit that across the board, the county government is fair.”
However, Carter said, a raise in the minimum wage and Maryland’s new paid leave policy are issues that have to be dealt with. “We just have to pass the costs on to the consumer,” he said.
Joe Haden Jr. owns Haden Sports & Performance athletic complex in District Heights, Md. Haden, son of star Cleveland Browns defensive back Joe Haden III, agrees with Carter that the county is a good for Black firms. “This place is awesome for Black businesses,” Haden told the AFRO.
However, he notes that success won’t come by just being in the county. “Sometimes Black business owners fail to connect to potential customers because of a lack of a marketing plan,” he said. “Black businesses need to spread the word about what we do. I train people to be fit and high school and college athletes to go to the next level in their sport. We try to spread the word about fitness and faith. We know we can do it and so can others because this is the richest Black county in the country and the money is there to be made.”
David Harrington, president and CEO of the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce told the AFRO that Carter and Haden have the right choice to set up shop in the county and his organization is there to help by offering resources to help support businesses.
“Despite the federal budget being reduced because many of our Black businesses depend on the federal government, Prince George’s County Black businesses are doing well,” he said. “We have in the plans for six billion dollars in development for the next 10 years and Black businesses will have a chance to compete and work on those projects.
“We offer Black businesses materials and support to be successful in the county as well as networking events with professionals and firms in the financing and consulting areas and we are an advocate for all businesses in the county.”
Nevertheless, there are challenges for Black businesses in the county. “Things are good but they can be better,” former Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce head James Dula told the AFRO. “We need more Black businesses getting more contracts from [government agencies].”
Dula said that Baker’s signature community program, the Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative (TNI) which focuses on developing inner-Beltway, unincorporated, predominantly minority communities such as Suitland, Langely Park, Silver Hill and Forestville does little for Black businesses. “Those businesses moving into TNI areas will get a tax break of 25-40 percent and those operations tend to be large,” He said. “I question why the small, minority businesses in those areas aren’t a part of the tax break.”