What went wrong for the state of Maryland in its quest to persuade General Dynamics to locate its headquarters north of the Potomac River? The answer seems to be that the Free State isn't close enough to the Pentagon, Capitol Hill and two of Washington's three regional airports.
With those geographic factors weighing heavily against Maryland, it was little wonder that General Dynamics, the nation's second-largest defense contractor, selected Northern Virginia as its new corporate locale. The company decided to move its main office from St. Louis to the Washington area so 200 top officials could be close to prime customers in the military and key decision-makers on the armed services committees. It didn't hurt, either, that General Dynamics already has a 60-person office in Arlington, Va.
Virginia won this contest even though the Schaefer administration in Annapolis quickly put together a far superior assistance package, including $2.5 million for training new workers and for relocation costs. That was $2 million more than Virginia's offer. Gov. William Donald Schaefer pulled out all the stops to woo General Dynamics, including a posh dinner at the Governor's Mansion. Still, Maryland had two strikes against it before the bidding began.
Perhaps the most damaging blow came when Montgomery County Executive Neal Potter openly discouraged General Dynamics from locating in his subdivision for fear of encouraging rampant growth. Even when he retracted his obtuse statement, Mr. Potter still hinted he'd just as soon the defense contractor looked elsewhere. It did, much to the chagrin and teeth-gnashing of other Montgomery officals.
General Dynamics becomes the second-largest corporate headquarters in the Baltimore-Washington region,behind Mobil Corp.,which also chose Northern Virginia.While the Schaefer administration did a wonderful job of trying to win over General Dynamics at the last minute,the loss of this corporate giant underlines the importance of a coordianted economic development thrust by state and local officials.
Geography may give Virginia a head start,but Maryland can triumph by stressing its most persuasive argument:a far more pleasant quality of life than is possible in the increasingly congested and grid-locked jurisdictions south of the Potomac.