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After Amazon, PG County still chasing FBI headquarters

After Amazon, PG County still chasing FBI headquarters

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Rushern Baker
Rushern Baker III.

Prince George’s County wanted to land Amazon’s HQ2, badly. Despite Gov. Larry Hogan’s preference for Baltimore’s bid, Prince George’s County — home to University of Maryland, College Park — also sought the e-commerce giant’s second headquarters and the associated $5 billion in economic development.

But when Amazon released its list earlier this month of 20 final potential locations, neither Baltimore nor Prince George’s made the cut. The only Maryland jurisdiction still in the running is Montgomery County.

While not making the cut was a body blow to Baltimore, Prince George’s County had an old flame on the back burner to resume wooing after being jilted by Amazon — a new, consolidated FBI headquarters.

“So we’ve been pushing aggressively on our federal partners, and we’ve asked the governor to do the same thing, to hold (President Donald Trump’s) administration’s feet to the fire to move forward with it,” Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, a candidate for the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination, said over coffee prior to a round of radio and television appearances in Baltimore.

About a decade ago the FBI started the process to replace its aging headquarters at the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. The final sites under consideration included Greenbelt and Landover in Prince George’s County. They were competing against Fairfax, Virginia, for the $1.4 billion project and the 11,000 associated jobs.

But Congress was willing to approve only about 60 percent of the funds needed for a new headquarters. So the Trump administration, via the General Services Administration, announced in July it was nixing plans to move ahead.

There’s no indication the current administration is open to reversing course, but Prince George’s County hasn’t given up the dream. Baker said he doesn’t plan to sit back, hope a new president is elected in 2020 and revives the project.

“So part of the thought process is the money that Congress had set aside for the building of the new, consolidated FBI, that we hold that money in the budget and say, ‘You can only use those funds for building a new, consolidated FBI’ as opposed to letting the president go back and redirect those funds to a ridiculous wall,” Baker said, referencing the wall along the boarded between the U.S. and Mexico that Trump has advocated building.

Despite moving on from Amazon, Baker hopes the pursuit of HQ2 will yield some information the county can use in the future. He said the county is in the process of getting feedback from Amazon as to why it didn’t make the cut. It’s hoped the county can take lessons from that feedback and apply it to other economic development projects under consideration.

The county is not entirely done with Amazon, as Baker has pledged to help neighboring Montgomery County in its continued pursuit of HQ2. The entire region would benefit if the e-commerce giant chooses Montgomery County.

“The other thing is that if you have projects like Amazon or FBI that come into the state the resources, the majority of the revenue go back to the state coffer. So it helps us all as a state,” said Baker, who has sought to highlight his county’s economic resurgence in his campaign for governor. “So I think it becomes incumbent upon us to understand that these are statewide projects, which is why we should support giving infrastructure dollars to it that will bring in revenues and economic development for the entire state.”


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