May 18, 2024

Business to Business

Posted by Viki Volk

Now is the time for private investment in Lexington Park, and who better to figure out how to attract it than individuals already invested.

This, according to the St. Mary’s County Community Development Corporation, is the necessary next step to reverse the blight threatening the Great Mills Road corridor. So the corporation’s board of directors asked a half-dozen development professionals, many with their own investments at stake, to advance strategies and even to act to attract investment along Great Mills Road.

The local CDC’s chief executive officer Robin Finnacom and board chair Brian Norris are making the rounds of community and business leaders seeking buy-in. Private investment must happen now, they emphasize.

They enumerate federal, state and local government investments of the past 20 years. There will be far less public money in the near future, they counsel. Even if that were not so, they explain, the mingling of public and private capital is needed to turn the tide for Lexington Park.

More than half a century of evidence supports them.

“No sector of the expanding community wealth-building economy is more celebrated for its success than community development corporations,” according to the Democracy Collaborative of the University of Maryland.

Non-profit CDCs formed in the 1960’s to “anchor capital locally through the development of both residential and commercial property,” the collaborative’s synopsis reads. The 4,600 CDCs across the United States provide widely variable programming, but the mission remains to “promote the improvement of the physical and social infrastructures in neighborhoods with populations significantly below the area median income.”

‘Anchored capital locally’ sounds exactly what Great Mills Road needs. A nice, steady anchor of capital to support a business economy which in turn reaps a higher return for the government which can then further support the infrastructure needed to grow the business economy which then reaps a higher return for the government, and so it goes.

The way money sticks to a community is as varied as the community, something the array of CDC configurations demonstrates. However, there is a single constant whether the income arrives via a vibrant locally-owned retail center, a business campus with pockets of locally owned service sources, a sports complex, a theme park, an artist colony, a center for the study of something no one else is studying, whatever it is, it must  produce local income and grow local wealth.

More bluntly, there has to be enough money staying in the neighborhood to achieve the social stability required to draw private investment.

The local CDC has suggested but not limited its Great Mills Road Redevelopment Task Force to consider a wide variety of approaches including:

  • Investment in and/or construction of new commercial structures
  • Identifying and soliciting demand-generating enterprises for Great Mills Road
  • Recommend streamlining, adjustment and relaxation of ordinances for targeted properties
  • Solicit public and private funding for commercial projects
  • Leverage private investment to bring about public improvements

The mission statement seeks “[to] pursue commercial real estate investment opportunities targeted toward improving the business environment and quality of life along the Great Mills Road corridor.”

Mr. Norris, the CDC chairman and a principal of Cherry Cove Development makes a point of being a businessman when he concedes that it might be a hard sell seeking investment in today’s economy. But this is the time, he insists, if only because without it more could be lost.

Mr. Norris will also sit on the Great Mills Road task force and is joined by three other developers, Cheryl Blazer of Blazer Construction, Michael Wettengel of Wettengel Group and Rachel Millison of Millison Construction. Also serving will be William Higgs, a land surveyor respected industry-wide and Keith Fairfax whose decades of volunteerism and advocacy for Lexington Park has awarded him the unofficial but undisputed title of “Mayor of Lexington Park.”

2 Responses to “Business to Business”
  1. Concerned Citizen says:

    Can average citizens of the Great Mills area become members of this “Task Force”? If so, how???

  2. Publisher says:

    Citizen comment on all aspects of revitalization efforts targeting Lexington Park and the greater Bay District are being steadily accumulated at the Lexington Park Development District Master Plan Facebook page and will continue to be taken at hearings and forums surrounding all public planning efforts. Please contribute! Please participate.
    The Community Development’s task force serves as a source of experts on how private capital (I.e. someone’s personal money and large chunks of it) can be drawn to invest along Great Mills Road. The ultimate goal is for these experts to advance strategies that will attract the services and products that will draw consumers back to Great Mills Road.
    Just as with citizen input, these strategies will inform the land-use guide that local government officials adopt for the 8th District. Additionally it is hoped these strategies will also attract private investors to the area.
    The speediest way for citizens to impact the shape of investment in Lexington Park is to spend time and money in what currently exists there — ethnic restaurants, specialty shops, the public swimming pool to name a few. For example, merely saying you want a new movie theater will not convince an investor to build one, but increased restaurant and retail activity could.

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