Prince George 's County Executive Jack B. Johnson Delivers State of the Economy Address

Carla Peay | 4/1/2009, 4:26 p.m.
"Emerging Through Tough Times"

All of you are well aware that some very tough economic times are plaguing not only our county, but our state and the entire nation. Unemployment is at a 30-year high, business output has significantly declined, and foreclosures are at record levels. By the end of the fiscal year, our nation will be facing a staggering 1.75 trillion dollar deficit.

The State of Maryland is facing a 2 billion dollar shortfall, and in Prince George 's County, we now have a 113 million dollar deficit, which we are working tirelessly every day to close. Our task is extremely difficult because our county has no ability to raise revenues.

However, despite a substantial reduction in revenues, which required job freezes and furloughs, we made significant progress in 2008.

In May of last year, Standard & Poor's awarded the county a Triple A bond rating, the highest possible rating you can obtain, and a status of which only three other counties in Maryland share. In fact, less than one percent of more than 3,000 counties in the entire nation have achieved this status.

In April, we opened National Harbor , which includes the Gaylord and three other hotels, and several new upscale restaurants and retail shops. Also, the Woodmore Towne Centre, anchored by Wegmans, broke ground last year. Construction of the Wegmans store will soon begin and it is slated to open next spring. We are also proud to have Safeway, Giant, Shopper's Food Warehouse, Food Lion and others, expanding and creating great shopping opportunities and jobs.

In June, we welcomed Comcast and 500 new jobs to Largo when the company opened its first Prince George 's County Call Center . Costco built a 148,000 square foot store in Brandywine, where more than 80 percent of its 260 employees live in Prince George 's County. And the Smithsonian moved several of its key programs to a 360,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility in Landover. And after 20 years of uncertainty and frustration, we reached a consensus with the State that will insure the viability and long term health of our hospital system.

Our police department has undergone tremendous improvements. When we arrived in 2002, the police department was plagued with a decaying infrastructure, inadequate staffing, and was unequipped to meet the demands of a growing community like ours.

We made changes in leadership; we instituted new police training and recruitment methods; we upgraded technology and equipment; and we improved salaries and benefits. Crime is down 25 percent since 2005, with violent crimes down 32 percent since then, and property crimes down 24 percent. So far this year, we have an additional 15 percent reduction in overall crime. Overall crime is at the lowest it has been in 20 years.

Our police department is no longer under the supervision of the Justice Department. Ending 10 years of investigation and five years of federal oversight is truly a testament to the hard work and leadership of the police department.