Aim High

Published on Prince George’s Suite website – Monday, January 30, 2012

Joint Base Andrews’ West Gate Reopening Provides Commercial Opportunities. Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable Recent Board Meeting Focuses on Economic Growth for the County

By Annamarya Scaccia

Jim Estepp, Sr.It’s always more refreshing to have a banquet of toothsome variety rather than a row of flavorless selections when it comes to shopping and dining out. With the recent reopening of Joint Base Andrews’ pedestrian-purposed West Gate, such potential for commercial multiplicity on and near the base is one-step closer to reality.

While speaking at the January 9 Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable board meeting, Colonel Jeffrey Stephenson  said the prospects for outside the Camp Springs, MD base is “as good as they have ever been” now that the West Gate is accessible by base personnel. The reopening of the former vehicle gate, which Prince George’s Gazette reports as a nearly three-year, $350,000 renovation, will help the base to continue to grow, assured the Air Force District of Washington’s Vice-Commander.

This is particularly true, he noted, since the over 2,000 employees working in the new William A. Jones Building can now “look no farther than across the street in the community for dining options.” Currently, the base offers a few retail & concession shops and restaurants in the Exchange center, including such as Starbucks, Express, Taco Bell, Game Stop, and Subway.

Developing Joint Base Andrews into a social and retail destination for its 21,000-plus populace has been an ongoing discussion among the county and business community. The Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable, a non-profit, non-partisan business investment and advocacy coalition, and its joint initiative with the base, the Andrews Business & Community Alliance, has been working closely with the Prince George’s County government to realize this business potential.

“We acknowledge, recognize [and] appreciate that Joint Base Andrews is the second-largest employer in Maryland, so it’s certainly our goal and effort to work closely with [the base and] support [the base],” said Maryland’s Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown at the recent business roundtable gathering.

While not directly related to the possible Joint Base Andrews business development, County Delegation Chair Melony Griffith stressed at the board meeting that local companies should take full advantage of state-offered incentives, whether solo or through partnerships. “We can’t afford to work in silos when a partnership can make us more competitive,” she said.

Other board meeting discussions included a joint proposal by Lt. Gov. Brown and Governor Martin O’Malley to develop jobs through various infrastructure investments; the state’s $1 billion deficit, which Lt. Gov. Brown said his office is looking into different revenue streams—including a possibly gas tax—in order to bridge the gap; and transportation. Speaking on the last subject, Griffith, who also serves on the Business & Economic Development subcommittee and works at the federally-qualified Greater Baden Medical Services health center, emphasized that in order to entice business to Prince George’s County, infrastructure enhancements and ease of access are necessary but “there’s just no money.”

“As we look at increasing transportation revenue moving forward, we have to look at it with the idea that in order to get where we want to be, we got to be able to get people there and we can’t do that without strengthening our infrastructure,” she said.

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