Economic Development Committee Introduces Legislation to Reduce Office Vacancies

The Montgomery County Council issued the following new release on Tuesday, April 16:

Members of the Economic Development Committee introduced legislation today to codify the Make Office Vacancy Extinct (MOVE) grant program into law. Spearheaded by Councilmember Evan Glass, the bill is being co-led by Economic Development Committee Chair Natali Fani-González and Councilmembers Marilyn Balcombe and Laurie-Anne Sayles.

“Montgomery County’s office vacancy rate is extremely concerning to me and it should be concerning to everyone,” said Councilmember Glass. “When we have thriving office buildings, it means more people visiting restaurants and stores, more creative innovation and productivity, and more overall economic activity. If we want a community where people can truly live, work and play, then we need to support physical places for people to work. Telecommuting is great for some people, but having office space is still a necessity for many professions and industries.”

According to the real estate group CBRE, Montgomery County’s office vacancy rate was 21.9 percent for the first quarter of 2024.

The MOVE Act would make the MOVE program a permanent component of the Economic Development Fund, providing an annual incentive for businesses to relocate to Montgomery County and utilize vacant office space. The legislation would also expand program eligibility to businesses already located in the county that want to expand their office footprint. The legislation also removes the 20,000 square footage cap to qualify for the program and increases the maximum funding award from $80,000 to $150,000. In FY23, the MOVE program supported 22 companies across a variety of industry sectors that leased a total of 92,720 square feet.

“The MOVE Act follows nine months of work by the ECON Committee, beginning last September when we hosted a roundtable of real estate brokers, building owners and other stakeholders to discuss the causes of the slack in the office market,” said Economic Development Committee Chair Councilmember Fani-González. “Because office vacancy remains stubbornly high here locally and across the region, we must act with urgency, but also with precision. The changes we are proposing will bring the MOVE into the new economic environment of 2024 and beyond while maintaining its great return on investment for scarce public dollars.”

“The significant office vacancy rate is extremely detrimental to our economy. The County needs to be full partners with our local businesses by helping to remove obstacles they may face,” said Councilmember Balcombe. “The MOVE Act will serve to assist more businesses to both come to Montgomery County as well as those that wish to expand and stay in Montgomery County. I look forward to seeing the positive results of this program.”

“Thank you to Councilmember Glass for taking the lead in introducing this legislation,” said Councilmember Sayles. “The Economic Development Committee is laser-focused on strategies for utilizing vacant space in the County. We’re committed to maximizing partnerships and working with entities like the Business Center, MCEDC, the Planning Department and private corporations to make significant strides on this issue.”

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