Thursday, August 3, 2017

MoCo has the Lockheed HQ, but didn't try to get the Lockheed "factory of the future"

"We don't need the Lockheed headquarters," Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Floreen infamously declared at the Aspen Hill Library in 2010. Such a blase attitude about one of only 3 Fortune 500 headquarters in the County is indicative of why our private sector economy has been moribund for so many years. MoCo intentionally passed on the FBI headquarters; didn't even bother to pursue the idX factory that wound up going to Fredericksburg; and was soundly defeated by Virginia in the contests to woo the headquarters of Volkswagen, Hilton Hotels, Intelsat, Corporate Executive Board, and Lidl, to name just a few. As a result, we've suffered a net loss in jobs over the last decade.

Yesterday, we found out just how blase County officials' attitude toward Lockheed Martin was. While current elected officials inherited the Lockheed headquarters in Bethesda, they apparently have no ongoing dialogue or partnership with the defense and aerospace megafirm. In fact, they've even tried their best to push Lockheed out of the County. As a result, Lockheed is now building a $350 million, 266000 SF "satellite factory of the future" in Waterton Canyon, Colorado, not Montgomery County.

We have many, many vacant properties that could have easily accommodated this factory. Even the recently sold Comsat Building in Clarksburg and former IBM property in Gaithersburg could have been a good fit in terms of size. Montgomery County continues to have the potential aerospace advantages of being near Goddard Flight Center, the Wallops Island launch facility, and numerous airbases as well as the Pentagon - but has yet to take advantage of the advantages!

This is exactly the type of facility I've been arguing we need - aerospace corporate offices, research facilities and high-tech aerospace and defense manufacturing. Why were we not in the running for this factory, or even engaging Lockheed about how we could partner on future ventures? This was clearly in the planning stages early enough that we could have filled the Comsat or IBM site before they were sold. That could have put hundreds of high-wage jobs in the I-270 corridor, and enable Montgomery County residents to drive west or north to work, without leaving the County. Instead, the Comsat site will be residential, and dump hundreds more cars going south on 270 every morning.

Montgomery County is notorious across the country, and across the region, for its anti-business climate fostered by the County Council. In contrast, "State and local officials in Colorado have helped strengthen the aerospace industry and foster an environment that helps aerospace companies thrive and grow," according to a statement from Lockheed Wednesday. What a contrast. What a loss.

It takes a special kind of incompetence to get shut out by a company located in your own jurisdiction. A special kind of ignoramus, to not grab the lowest-hanging economic development fruit in the area you are elected to represent. It's "business"-as-usual for moribund Montgomery County.

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