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Virginia’s Gov. McDonnell pitching for Lockheed

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell fired another shot north on Thursday.

Fielding questions during a radio appearance, McDonnell criticized Maryland’s business climate and kept up his public lobbying pitch to lure Lockheed Martin Corp., the largest private employer in Montgomery County.

“Maryland, with some of their tax and regulatory policies, also has been less friendly to business,” said McDonnell, a Republican.

“Without mentioning any specifics, I will say that I’m always talking to and visiting CEOs in this country and around the world,” the governor continued. “We’re talking to people that somehow have been made to feel unwelcome in their home states. Come to Virginia.”

Maryland and Montgomery County officials, however, said they expect Lockheed to stay put.

“I have no indication, I have gotten nothing from Lockheed indicating that they’re leaving,” said Dominick Murray, Maryland’s deputy secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development.

Murray said he spoke with a Lockheed executive and got “the distinct impression from him that people from Virginia call them all the time. Other states call them, too.”

Jeffrey Adams, a Lockheed spokesman, said the company does not comment on discussions with public officials.

The most recent economic development skirmish between Maryland and Virginia was sparked this month when four Montgomery County council members sponsored a resolution calling for “major reductions” in the defense spending, the same spending that has fueled Lockheed.

The resolution died. But McDonnell had an opening.

He has hinted at Virginia’s coveting Lockheed for weeks, and used the opportunity to tee off against Maryland.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley did not engage directly with McDonnell, but said the state “values Lockheed Martin and its presence in Maryland.”

McDonnell has said he personally has not reached out to Lockheed, but has hinted at a state-led effort to land the defense giant.

“We don’t comment on Virginia’s efforts to attract individual businesses to locate or expand in Virginia until agreements are reached,” McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell said Thursday.

An official with the Virginia’s economic development arm also declined to comment specifically on Lockheed.

“We have an ongoing aggressive campaign, and we have for years, to reach out to corporations in other states,” said Suzanne West of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. “That’s been going on for years. I don’t know if Lockheed has ever been targeted.”

Steve Silverman, however, is sure they have been.

“They [Virginia] try to do this all the time,” said Silverman, Montgomery County’s director of economic development. “We have a non-poaching agreement with all of us at the local level, but that doesn’t apply to the state. So the state of Virginia, as other states have, has contacted our companies.”

“I do understand that they’ve been trying to get Lockheed Martin to move across the river for years,” Silverman said. “I don’t think anything is going to change.”

Virginia beat out Maryland last year, convincing Northrop Grumman Corp. to move its California headquarters to Fairfax County rather than Montgomery.

Just last week, legislative leaders approved a $9.5 million deal to keep 1,250 Bechtel Corp. employees in Frederick County. The company is eyeing Virginia office space for the other 650 workers.