DC Small Business Community Celebrates Victory Over Northrop Grumman

Contact: Medea Benjamin, 415-235-6517, medea@globalexchange.org

April 21st, 2010

Washington DC—A DC coalition of small businesses, watchdog groups and peace activists quashed a $25 million DC City Council proposal to entice defense contractor Northrop Grumman to the nation's capitol.

When Northrop Grumman announced it was moving its headquarters from Los Angeles to the DC area, it set off a bidding war between DC, Maryland and Virginia, with DC offering a $25 million combination of tax abatements and grants. The legislation was originally sponsored by seven of the City Council's 13 members and supported by Mayor Adrian Fenty. The taxpayer giveaway incensed small businesses, watchdog groups and peace activists, who formed a coalition called CENTS—Coalition to End Needless Tax Subsidies. The group held meetings with the mayor and council members, testified at hearings, organized press conferences and educated the public. One by one, council members began to reconsider their position. At an April 18 gathering for DC Emancipation Day, City Council Chair Vincent Gray told organizers that the “proposal is dead.”

“This is a victory for the people against a corporate behemoth,” said CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin, who was one of the main organizers. CODEPINK had generated over 1,000 emails or calls to each Council member supporting the bill. “Working together in coalition, we proved that we can stop corporate giveaways. Northrop Grumman should be free to move its headquarters wherever it wants, but not at taxpayer expense.”

The small business community was key to this victory. “This campaign became an organizing tool for small businesses and it helped us find our voice, ” said Busboys and Poets restaurant owner Andy Shallal. “Over and over, we are told that we are the engine for economic development, yet our elected officials offer deals to large, outside corporations that are not offered to us. We, the local and small businesses, should have a front seat at the economic development table.”

Think Local First DC, an organization that represents 160 DC small and local businesses, opposed the deal because no study have been done of the benefits to the city. The group used the opportunity to advocate for the "Exemptions and Abatements Information Requirements Act,” which had been languishing for a year in the Financial Committee. This legislation would require a cost-benefit financial analysis of all proposed tax abatements. “This legislation would stop the city from repeating the past practice of making deals without a proper study of the real benefits to the city,” said Trisha Clauson of Think Local First DC. Thanks to community pressure, it is now likely to pass.

The group will be celebrating their victory on Wednesday, April 21 at 7pm. To attend or interview any of the organizers, contact Medea Benjamin, medea@globalexchange.org