Prince George’s County government and business leaders are expressing outrage regarding a decision by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to move 450 federal jobs from Hyattsville to West Virginia.
The treasury department will begin moving the positions from the Federal Management Services facility to Parkersburg, W.Va., in November 2013, as part of FMS’ consolidation with the Bureau of Public Debt.
Aubrey Thagard, the Prince George’s County assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, said county leaders are “disappointed” by the news, although they had heard rumblings about a possible move leading up to the decision.
“We had some inclination that the consolidation and other activities were being considered, but were never given a firm time frame for when or even if that,” Thagard said. “We never had any firm information.”
The announcement is the most recent incident of the county losing out on opportunities to keep or attract federal tenants, like the August 2011 announcement that 3,000 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services employees would remain in Rockville. Thagard said this week’s announcement “highlights the continuing disparity” of federal tenants in the county compared with neighboring jurisdictions.
“I think from our side, we need the ability to really compete with our regional competitors in other counties,” he said. “...There needs to be this dialogue where every stakeholder here says, ‘What can we do to turn this trend around?’”
Mafara Hobson, a U.S. General Services Administration spokeswoman, said her agency, which handles most federal tenancy and procurement issues, had no role in the treasury department’s decision-making process.
Treasury department spokesman Anthony Coley wrote in an email to The Gazette that his agency is “sensitive to the impact this consolidation will have on employees at the facility.”
“We are taking ample measures to assist all staff in the transition,” Coley said in an email. “This step was taken to improve financial management throughout government, and we expect it will save taxpayers $96 million over five years.”
U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Dist. 4) of Fort Washington, whose district includes the Hyattsville facility, said in a statement the county “can ill-afford to be losing jobs” at this time.
“I expect that these workers losing their jobs will be compensated and provided opportunities to find new employment,” Edwards said. “I will continue to demand transparency and fair leasing practices on the part of the GSA to level the playing field.”
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said in a statement that the decision runs against an executive order signed by President Barack Obama (D) in October 2009, which says governmental consolidations and moves should prioritize transit hubs.
“Prince George’s County has been consistently ignored by the federal government when looking for opportunities for office space,” Baker said. “Any reorganization of the federal government and its physical footprint away from Prince George’s County directly contradicts [those] policy objectives and goals.”
But M.H. Jim Estepp, president of the Prince George’s Business Roundtable, said that merely “expressing outrage” at the decision is not enough.
“It’s ridiculous if our federal elected officials let that happen,” Estepp said. “We have the lowest amount of GSA lease space in the entire region if you look at it in proportion to population and amount of people in the federal work force.”
Estepp said members of Congress from the region need to be more proactive in both attracting federal tenants and working to prevent further moves away from the county.
“What is going on with regard to Prince George’s County and how we have been treated in relation to other jurisdictions is something they need to focus on and take some responsibility,” Estepp said. “They need to do the same things officials do in other jurisdictions to get all of these facilities and operations.”