MoCo Economic Development Bills Advance to Md. Senate

 In Bethesda, Branding, Business, Maryland, Maryland General Assembly, Montgomery County, White Flint

With just one week left in the 2017 Maryland General Assembly Session, which ends on April 10, two bills aimed at spurring economic development in Montgomery County have advanced to the Maryland Senate.

One bill, introduced by Senator Will Smith (D-20) and co-sponsored by Senator Brian Feldman (D-15), as well as over a dozen MoCo Delegates, would aid in facilitating the formation of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) by altering the approval requirements to create a BID in the County.

This would provide local property owners an opportunity to come together as a cohesive unit to promote the development of their community into a vibrant place to work, live, and play. BIDs are privately directed and publicly sanctioned non-profit entities with a Board of Directors and Executive Director, which are often funded primarily through a a self-imposed BID tax, but can draw upon other private and public funding sources.

A typical BID budget includes services that that are a supplement to those already provided by the government and are essential for revitalizing struggling urban areas, such as street cleaning, providing security, making capital improvements, construction of pedestrian and streetscape enhancements, additional events and marketing the area.

BIDs began to appear in the United States in the 1970s and allow property owners to, in effect, tax themselves to create a sense of place where it is desperately lacking.

Over the last few decades, BIDs have swept across the nation. Currently, there are over 1,000 BIDs in the U.S. with 10 BIDs in Washington, D.C., 3 in northern Virginia, and over 70 in New York City. However, there are no BIDs in Maryland even though the enabling legislation to create a BID is in place.

This legislation would alter the number of signatures needed for property owners to petition their local county or municipal corporation to create a BID to 51% of individual property owners AND 51% of the assessed value within the proposed district. Additionally, the bill would allow multi-family residential real property, condos, and co-ops to benefit from the services a BID provides.

The creation of BIDs would give Montgomery County a real mechanism to compete with D.C and Virginia in terms of economic development, marketing and placemaking.

The BIDs bill was approved by the Montgomery County House and Senate Delegations before being passed the full House of Delegates with a vote of 130-2.

Another bill is aimed at helping tackle the growing Suburban Maryland office market vacancy rate, which was roughly 15% as of December 2016.

Delegates Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18) and Charles Barkley (D-39) are sponsoring the measure, which would create a State Make Office Vacancies Extinct (MOVE) Program that would match any funds provided by local MOVE programs with State dollars provided through the Maryland Department of Commerce.

MoCo’s MOVE Program is a part of the County’s Economic Development Fund and designed to attract businesses to lease Class A and B office space in the County. Through the MOVE Program, new or expanding businesses in the County may obtain financial incentives for leasing office space in the amount of $8.00 per sq. ft. up to 10,000 sq. ft. leased for a minimum of 3 years. The program has been hugely successful with over 26 companies having taken advantage of the program occupying over 100,000 sq. ft. of commercial space. Additionally, these companies have brought over 200 new jobs into the County.

However, with the current state of the regional office market, including roughly 20 million sq. feet of vacant commercial office space in Fairfax County, Virginia and the over 10 million sq. ft. of vacant office space in the Montgomery County, there’s still a clear need for the expansion of such successful programs.

To qualify for the proposed State MOVE Program, a business must be new or from outside the state and execute a lease for at least 3 years of up to 10,000 sq. ft.

If enacted, this legislation would not represent any mandated funding and program expenditures could only be made in accordance with the state budget.

The State MOVE Program bill passed the House of Delegates with a vote of 125-11.

Both bills were assigned to the Senate Finance Committee and a public hearing for each has been scheduled for April 4 at 1:00 p.m. (SSGovRelations)

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