Maryland, however, has other federal installations, such as Fort Meade and the National Security Agency, which works closely with the defense contractor.
"If you look at the growth businesses within the federal portfolio, one of the things that's rapidly growing is cybersecurity, and Northrop's got a big business tied to that," Johansson said.
Another big consideration that Northrop will factor in is the tax rates among Maryland, Virginia and Washington - and many observers concede that Virginia has the edge on that front. Maryland's corporate income tax is 8.25 percent; Washington's is 9.9 percent; and Virginia's is 6 percent. Virginia also has the lowest personal income tax rate of the three jurisdictions, with a rate that goes up to 5.75 percent.
"I think the uphill battle Maryland faces in a deliberation of this type can best be understood when you look at individual and corporate tax differentials between the states," Rogers said. "That's the challenge we face relative to the state of Virginia."
Reconciling his role as leader of a major corporation that argues for lower taxes, while promoting the state's business climate to other business leaders isn't difficult for Shattuck, who has frequently clashed with state officials over regulatory matters in recent years. Shattuck said he has argued for lower taxes "pretty consistently, because that helps spur economic development."
"We will always be fighting for a better business climate," Shattuck said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jamie Smith Hopkins contributed to this article.