ANNAPOLIS – The Rockville company that sold cultures of anthrax and the bubonic plague to two Nevada men recently is moving its 230 high-tech jobs to Northern Virginia this month.
Despite the bad press that comes with American Type Culture Collection (ATCC), Prince William County officials said they welcome the company, the latest prize in the Maryland-Virginia bidding war for jobs.
“They’re a member of our chamber and they’re moving in,” said Debbie Jones of the Manassas Chamber of Commerce. She said ATCC has been building its new facility in Prince William County for about two years.
Steve Simon, a spokesman for Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan, said he is sorry to see ATCC go. But the county has known the company was leaving since former Gov. George Allen lured it to Virginia four years ago.
“It came down to a huge bidding war with Virginia and we just couldn’t justify the expense to keep them here,” Simon said.
Officials in both Maryland and Virginia could not say how many companies have moved from one state to the other.
But The Washingtonian reported last year that at least three Montgomery County companies — ATCC, Orkand and Booz-Allen Hamilton — were moving to Virginia. The magazine also reported that Northern Virginia has gained more that 130,000 jobs since 1990 while Maryland suburbs saw only 45,000 new jobs since 1990.
And the Maryland Business Research Partnership reported this month that 30 of the 1,000 businesses it surveyed last year said there is a “possibility of their firm moving out of the state.” Virginia and Pennsylvania, where taxes are lower than in Maryland, were cited as possible new homes for those firms.
Allen lured ATCC with $3 million from the governor’s opportunity funds, said Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Barry DuVal. His office said ATCC has already spent $16.5 million on construction in Virginia.
But Ray Feldmann, a spokesman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, said the loss of one company does not mean there is a business exodus from Maryland.
He said ATCC’s leaving is just a “small blip.” But in fierce competition with other states, Feldmann said, sometimes Maryland is going to lose.
Feldmann preferred to note that Maryland has created 30,000 jobs in the last three years. Now is a good time to be in Maryland.
“The high-tech industry is booming in Maryland now,” he said.
Jeanne Brewer, director of marketing in Montgomery County’s Department of Economic Development, conceded that her county was not as competitive four years ago when Allen stole ATCC away.
Back then, she said, the county could not draw on state Sunny Day funds or Department of Business and Economic Development programs to keep businesses from being lured to other states. But she insisted the county’s economy is strong and growing now.
“This is just one company who made a business decision several years ago,” Brewer said.
A spokeswoman at ATCC said recently that she didn’t have time to comment on the move — she was too busy packing.