Thursday, March 26, 2009

Council Members Urge Action on Economic Development

In a tart letter to County Executive Ike Leggett, County Council Members George Leventhal, Nancy Floreen, Valerie Ervin and Mike Knapp refer to a “leadership crisis” in the Department of Economic Development and urge the appointment of a new Director “at the earliest possible date.” Former Director Pradeep Ganguly has resigned due to a conflict of interest. Chief Administrative Officer Tim Firestine told the Post that there will be no national search to replace him.

Montgomery County Council
Rockville, Maryland

March 24, 2009

County Executive Isiah Leggett
Executive Office Building
101 Monroe Street, 2nd Floor
Rockville, MD 20850

Dear Ike,

As you know, Montgomery County has historically enjoyed its reputation as a leader and innovator in the regional business community. This reputation currently hangs in the balance, and we are deeply concerned about the future of the Department of Economic Development.

The recent departure of former Economic Development Director Pradeep Ganguly, who you appointed, heightens our apprehension about this important office being rudderless during the current economic storm. While this current leadership crisis is troubling, it creates a new opportunity for Montgomery County. This department needs a leader who has a comprehensive vision for the county’s economic future and realistic strategies that will enable the county to navigate these troubled economic waters and reclaim the county’s competitive advantage among neighboring jurisdictions. The county needs you to appoint a new economic development director at the earliest possible date.

Now more than ever before, economic development issues need to take priority. The Department of Economic Development needs to aggressively attract, create, expand and retain businesses in Montgomery County. As you know, employment has stalled and is now declining. Since December 2007, Montgomery County’s unemployment rate has increased by 84 percent to 4.6 percent in January 2009. This is the highest level of unemployment in the county since 1990. Home sales, which were down 20.5 percent in 2006 and 23.4 percent in 2007, fell another 17.8 percent in 2008. Average home sale prices have fallen 11.9 percent in 2008 and the most recent residential assessments plummeted 16.3 percent and commercial property assessments declined by 6 percent. Taken together, these indicators suggest continued weakness in county income, property, and transfer and recordation tax revenue.

Memoranda of understanding with China are intriguing; however at this time, we are focused closer to home and believe the county should be directing resources to bioscience, technology, green jobs and business innovation. We also need to support and promote minority and local small businesses. The county should be reaching out to other countries only after we are assured that existing businesses will be able to ride out the current economic crisis. These businesses have helped spur the economic engine of the county, and we can not turn our backs on them during this time of unprecedented need.

In summary, we are looking to you to appoint an economic development leader, who will undertake aggressive strategies for enlarging the county’s economic tax base by attracting new, forward thinking companies and enhancing the competitiveness of the businesses located in the county. This person needs to have a mandate to act as your representative to swiftly address our current business crisis and to carry out your economic directives.

We would be happy to provide you with our input as you go through the selection process. We also hope that your staff will engage in due diligence investigation of leading candidates so that policy makers can take into consideration any and all matters that might detract from a potential appointee’s ability to gain the confidence of the County Council, the staff of the Department of Economic Development, the business community and county residents. Again, we respectfully request that you appoint a new economic development director as soon as possible.


George Leventhal
Nancy Floreen
Valerie Ervin
Mike Knapp