Gov. Larry Hogan provided insight into Amazon’s timeline for choosing a second headquarters location while speaking to a business conference in Rockville on Thursday morning.
Hogan said March 1 is the deadline for the state to finalize its updated submissions to the tech giant. Montgomery County is one of 20 finalists selected by Amazon to a shortlist of North American locations for its second headquarters.
“We have until March 1 to finalize all the submissions and get all of the information and details and proposals and then I believe [Amazon will] be making a decision sometime this summer,” Hogan said to more than 100 people attending a meeting of the National Association of Business Owners and Entrepreneurs at Woodmont Country Club. “We’re going to fight like heck to make sure we get it.”
The governor’s comments are the most concrete information related to Amazon’s selection timeline that a state or local official has revealed since the county was named to the shortlist Jan. 18.
Hogan also said the potential arrival of Amazon and the possibility of the company adding up to 50,000 jobs that pay an average of $100,000 in annual salary to Montgomery County “would have just an incredible, transformative impact on this region.”
He described it as “the most exciting economic development opportunity of a lifetime.”
Hogan is backing state legislation in the General Assembly to provide Amazon with about $5 billion in tax incentives and transportation improvements if the company chooses Montgomery County. Most of the county’s state legislators are also backing the incentive package.
Neither county nor state officials have formally revealed the county site pitched to Amazon, but government officials have told Bethesda Beat on the condition of anonymity it’s the White Flint area in North Bethesda.
In his half-hour talk, Hogan mostly described how he believes his economic policies have resulted in job growth and improved prospects for businesses in the state.
“We’ve really had a tremendous economic resurgence in Maryland,” Hogan said. “Businesses are returning to our state, they’re expanding in our state, it’s the best year for business in Maryland in 15 years. We had the best job growth in a decade. We went from losing 100,000 jobs to gaining more than 120,000 jobs.”
However, in response to a question about Montgomery County’s business climate, Hogan criticized local policies that he said were making it difficult to do business in the county.
“Montgomery County—how do I say this gently—they’ve sometimes gone in another direction where they really are making it tough to do business,” Hogan said. He added that while he believes the state is competing more effectively against neighboring jurisdictions, Montgomery County may be losing its competitiveness.
“Montgomery County has to be careful because they’re competing against other counties and they are losing people to Howard County, Fairfax County because of some of the more anti-business rhetoric and legislation that they’ve passed,” Hogan said. “The good news is about eight and a half months from now you get an election in Montgomery County and you get to pick whoever you want to run this place.”
Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said in an email Thursday that the governor believes Montgomery County is heading in a more business-friendly direction, but previous actions by county government officials, including raising the property tax by 8.7 percent in 2016 and increasing the energy tax by 155 percent in 2011 have not encouraged business development.
Local business groups have criticized the County Council for passing legislation in the past few years that they said may hurt local businesses, such as a law that increases the minimum wage to $15 per hour and the county’s paid sick leave law.
The debate over how to improve the county’s business climate has become a key issue in the race for Montgomery County executive. Democratic candidates including Potomac businessman David Blair, state Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda), former Planning Department deputy director Rose Krasnow and County Council members Roger Berliner and Marc Elrich have said they’d like to expand the tax base by growing and attracting businesses to the county.
Council member George Leventhal, who is also running for county executive, has said he too wants businesses to expand and locate in the county, but has warned against publicly criticizing the local business climate.
“I don’t think our business climate improves by constant badmouthing of our business climate,” Leventhal said during a November county executive debate.