ROCKVILLE — One of new Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s first tasks after being sworn in will be fixing the county’s poor reputation for business.
While it may seem like a strange first step for a politician who has repeatedly said civilizations aren’t remembered by their tax rates, and has the endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America, Elrich has stated that growing the economy is a necessary step for finding a way to implement much of his progressive agenda.
Elrich is working on one of his promises — a benchmark study that would compare the county’s regulations with other neighboring county. Elrich said that study is critical in identifying which regulations are not needed.
“Our goal is to make sure we’re not doing things that the other jurisdictions around us aren’t doing,” Elrich said, during a discussion with reporters last week. “I don’t believe that Montgomery County is safer than Fairfax County or Howard County, so if we’re doing stuff that the other folks aren’t doing, we probably don’t need to be doing it.”
Elrich said Montgomery County has a poor reputation for business. While it is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, much of the county’s economy is dependent on the federal government – with some of the largest employers being federal agencies and private contractors, which are dependent on the federal government.
For years, the county has tried to find ways to combat its poor reputation for business. During the county executive campaign, it was one of the main issues for candidates, especially political newcomer David Blair.
Blair, a former CEO of a healthcare company, campaigned on a message that he could fix the county’s poor business climate. It was a message that was not lost on Blair’s main opponent — Elrich.
“I have heard this complaint all the way through the campaign,” Elrich said.
For many businesses, the county’s enforcement regime was tough – with stories coming from business owners about regulators enforcing minor infractions, which delay them from opening a business, and regulations such as the county’s minimum wage or sick-leave laws that raises personnel costs.
While some have concluded that Montgomery County has a poor reputation for business, the county’s attempt to lure Amazon, and being one of the finalists for its HQ2 bid, is proof that it is an attractive destination for companies. Previous County Executive Ike Leggett frequently touted the county’s diversity and highly educated workforce as attractive attributes has for any large company; however, Amazon opted for nearby Crystal City for its HQ2, not Montgomery County.
Elrich said he wants to find a way to bank off Amazon’s move to the Washington Metropolitan region and is working on scheduling visits to the West Coast to meet with CEOs, who may want to have a location near Amazon’s new Crystal City HQ2 and may want to move to Montgomery County.
In the meantime, the county has to use public funding to lure or keep businesses in county.
In 2016, the county announced that Marriott would stay in Bethesda, after the county and State secured more than $60 million in subsidies to have the hotel giant build its new headquarters in Bethesda.
On Monday, British biotech company Autolus Therapeutics plc announced it would open up its new U.S. headquarters in Rockville, after receiving a $200,000 grant from the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation and a $500,000 grant from the State of Maryland.
“Autolus’s decision to locate its new U.S. headquarters and create more than 170 jobs in our state underscores our administration’s promise to continue creating job opportunities for Marylanders, particularly in a field as close to my heart as cancer research,” said Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in a statement. “Our highly educated workforce and proximity to leading federal research labs and world-class universities make[s] Maryland an outstanding location for global companies looking to establish or grow their U.S. presence in the life sciences and technology sectors.”