Changes in Congress, a new governor and the resignation of the man who oversees the federal government's real estate portfolio will not deter Maryland in its quest to become the new home for the FBI and its 11,000 employees, state leaders say.
The FBI wants to move out of the 40-year-old J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington and into modern headquarters in the area. Maryland's congressional delegation and leaders in Prince George's County have lobbied federal officials for more than a year to pick a site in the county, where they say it could produce $180 million in annual tax revenue from local businesses.
Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin and Rep. Steny Hoyer, all Democrats, have led the effort in Congress, while former Gov. Martin O'Malley pledged state support for the massive project.
But voters elected a Republican majority to the Senate, pushing Mikulski from her powerful perch as chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. And Republican businessman Larry Hogan was sworn in last week to succeed O'Malley as governor.
Meanwhile, the head of the General Services Administration, the agency that manages the federal government's real estate, announced this month that he will step down in February.
But despite changes in leadership, officials say, landing the FBI headquarters remains a top priority.
"We're going to do everything we possibly can," Hogan said Friday. "I've already talked with all the members of our congressional delegation. Barbara Mikulski and I had breakfast a week or so ago, and talked in detail about it.
"We're all working together — Democrats, Republicans, the state administration, our delegation in Washington, all of our federal representatives. We're going to do everything we can, and I think we're going to get it."
Officials have backed a site in Greenbelt near the Capital Beltway and a Metro station. A private developer is proposing a site in Landover. Maryland won an early victory last year when the GSA named the sites two of the three finalists for the FBI headquarters. (The other finalist is in Springfield, Va.)
Former state Del. Jolene Ivey, now a spokeswoman for Lerner Enterprises, the company that owns the Landover site, said the leadership changes have created uncertainty. But she thinks Washington could be just as likely to support Maryland's bid as ever.
"I guess everybody is a little bit up in the air, but I'm hopeful they'll continue to keep moving forward," she said. "Although I'm a Democrat, I'm hopeful a Republican Congress will make a Republican governor look good.
"There's jobs, there's a huge boost you get for the economy wherever that is. Of course I hope that's Prince George's County."
David S. Iannucci, a senior economic development adviser in Prince George's County, said Hogan has already reached out to the county executive's office and pledged strong support. Prince George's County officials hope to hold an event in the coming weeks to underscore the bipartisan support for the proposal from Hogan, Mikulski, and county and state leaders.
Iannucci said a new FBI headquarters could mean to Prince George's County what the Pentagon has meant to Northern Virginia. In addition to the FBI's employees, he said, the new complex could draw between 3,000 and 5,000 federal employees who work with the agency in supportive roles.
Economists say the impact would grow over time. While employees who work at the current headquarters wouldn't necessarily move their homes if the agency moved to Prince George's County, new hires from outside the area would likely make decisions about where to settle based on the new location.
The GSA invited developers last month to submit their qualifications to build the project under the federal government's conditions. Bidders for the nearly $2 billion project are required to have huge amounts in liquid assets and be able to transfer $100 million to the federal government to be held in escrow during construction, Iannucci said.
"Everyone right now is going through efforts to put together partnerships," he said.
Development applications are due by Feb. 10. The GSA will invite five finalists to submit more detailed, site-specific proposals for the federal agency to review.
Under Administrator Dan Tangherlini, the GSA came up with an idea to overcome potential opposition from lawmakers wary of additional spending: offering development rights on the Hoover building site in exchange for the contract to build the new headquarters.
Several hurdles remain. The 2.4-million-square-foot Hoover building, located on Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington, has been assessed at only 30 percent to 40 percent of the estimated cost of the new headquarters, leaving a large hole for Congress to fill. The FBI also has to figure out how to consolidate a workforce now spread among more than 20 offices.
The agency is paying $150 million in leases. Once those are terminated, Iannucci said, the federal government could save about $50 million a year. The "assumed" cost of leasing a new headquarters is about $100 million, he said.
Iannucci said Prince George's County officials continue to work with the owners of both Maryland sites and have no preference which location the GSA selects.
"The two sites are outstanding sites," he said. "We support both of them."
Baltimore Sun reporter Timothy B. Wheeler contributed to this article.