Arbitron Corp. has scotched what could have been one of the biggest real estate deals of the year, choosing not to move to the Airport Square office complex in Linthicum and instead to stay for at least two more years at three buildings in Prince George's County.
The decision by the Manhattan-based company sets the stage for another round of competition over Arbitron and its 1,200 local employees in the next 18 months, said Prince George's Economic Development Corp. President Dennis C. Murphy.
He said Arbitron will be negotiating to extend its current leases for only another two years, effectively deferring a decision about its longer-term real estate plans.
"It gives them a whole host of options at a later date," Mr. Murphy said. Among the possible longer-range decisions: commissioning a build-to-suit building in Prince George's County or elsewhere to replace leased space in three buildings in Laurel and Beltsville.
Arbitron spokesman Tom Bocarsky said the company decided lastweek after a lengthy search to stay put because "a lot of things were factors. Money is a factor. Moving people is a factor, focusing money and attention is a factor. A move like that consumes your organization."
Mr. Bocarsky said the company wouldn't confirm or deny whether it is planning to construct a building in the area.
Arbitron tracks local-market television and radio station ratings nationwide out of what Mr. Bocarsky called the firm's "numbers factory" in Prince George's. Most of the company's employees work in Prince George's even though its headquarters is in New York, he said. National television ratings are compiled by Nielsen Media Research Inc.
Airport Square Cos. Vice President Bert Haus said Arbitron had considered leasing about 150,000 square feet of office space that has been vacant since Westinghouse Electric Co. moved out in phases ending late in 1991.
Contrary to earlier reports that had depicted the competition for Arbitron as a decision between staying put and moving to Linthicum, he said Arbitron also considered other locations in suburban Washington.
Michael S. Lofton, executive vice president of Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., said the failure to land Arbitron was not a major blow to Anne Arundel because most of the 1,200 jobs would have been retained by the people who have them. "What we would like to see is some new businesses in the marketplace, not just a shift within the market."