Top executives join up to tackle Prince
by Aruna Jain Published
Aug. 1, 2003 www.gazette.net
Privatizing school construction,
streamlining county permitting and certification processes and bridging
the gap between the state and Prince George's County are on the agenda
of a band of corporate executives, who recently formed Greater Prince George's
County Business Roundtable.
The group will focus on educational
issues, investment, economic development and public policy, said the organization's
CEO M.H. "Jim" Estepp, the former county councilman who lost a county executive
election bid in 2002.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan
organization, formed in May, is exclusive to CEOs. Gary S. Murray Sr. of
HumanVision in Landover chairs the roundtable. Other members are Reginald
Daniel of Scientific & Engineering Solutions in Annapolis Junction;
Michael J. Chiaramonte of Southern Maryland Healthcare Systems Inc. in
Clinton; John C. Pyles of Washington Management and Development Corp.;
William Chesley of W.F Chesley Real Estate in Crofton; Derek McDaniels
of McDaniels Development Corp. in Lanham; Mike Little of B&W Solutions
Inc. in Oxon Hill; Gary Michael of The Michael Group in Lanham; and G.
Sevag Balian, of Haverford Homes in Hyattsville. Membership in the organization
is by invitation only. Estepp said that a maximum of 30 CEOs will be part
of the group.
"These are successful people
who want to give back," Estepp said.
There are several issues
facing the county, he said.
"We're concerned about the
fact that Prince George's has this reputation about not being business-friendly,"
He pointed to the majority
of county real estate being residential, and the remainder being commercial.
"We want to see more of a
balance so you can raise your tax base without raising taxes," he said.
Raising political awareness
is another issue.
"There was a feeling that
people are not adequately informed about issues facing government," Estepp
CB-43, a controversial bill
intended to slow down economic development particularly in the rural tier
of the county, was not friendly to business, he said, and that it would
be better to resolve these issues than to allow them to linger as they
"How can you bring investment
into Prince George's County when the rules keep changing?" he asked.
Other issues are the permitting
hassles facing real estate developers.
"We understand that the government
must have regulation, the question is how clear are the rules, how consistent
are they and are they evenly and fairly enforced?"
Streamlining the government,
improving the struggling county hospital system, improving quality of life,
and being a resource for publicly elected officials are some of the roundtable's
Daniel said the choice of
making the roundtable exclusive to CEOs is important.
"We are regular guys who
happen to control resources," Daniel said. "When people control resources,
they can help to make things happen."
He said the roundtable plans
to partner with universities or colleges such as Prince George's Community
College to develop different curriculums.
"And from that might come
newly educated people that can penetrate the job market in the county,"
"If policies like TRIM happen
to possibly work against improving the quality of life, then we'll take
a position on it," he said.
Similar coalitions exist
in Montgomery and Fairfax counties. A National Business Roundtable also
Estepp said the group consists
only of CEOs rather than mid- or lower-level managers to allow for on-the-spot
The county group also will
"It's a lot easier to get
consensus from 20 or 30 people," Estepp said.
Murray said he wants the
county to be more involved with the region.
"We want to know what's going
on in the region and state, so that we're not isolated from the evolving
economy," Murray said. Roundtable members will be intimately involved with
the county board of trade and the Greater Washington Board of Trade, he
said, and that the roundtable will complement, not replace, other organizations,
such as the county's chambers of commerce or boards of trade.
"[We want to] not have our
business community and community as separate entities," Murray said.
The group will also get involved
in public policy.
"I don't think we'll shy
away form being part of the discussion on TRIM or land matters," he said.
Murray and others have had
a history of community activism.
In addition to being the
governor-appointed chairman of the Department of Business and Economic
Development's Economic Development Commission, Murray put up $200,000 last
year to start We The People, a nonpartisan group formed to educate county
voters on candidates.
Daniel, 44, lives in Mitchellville
and just formed the nonprofit Assimilation Into Mainstream Society Economically,
a group that counsels and helps employ teenagers.
The roundtable will hold
a forum on Sept. 19 at Prince George's Community College.
"These CEOs take business
very seriously and take their commitment to the county very seriously,"