The Blueprint

Discovery Communications is set to leave Silver Spring

by Michael Solomon, Editor-in-Chief

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Discovery Communications told employees Tuesday morning that they will be leaving their global headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and heading to New York. This announcement was made just recently after the company’s $14.6 billion acquisition of Scripps, the Cincinnati-based broadcasting network that oversees channels like HGTV, Travel Channel, and DIY Network.

Discovery first moved to Silver Spring in 2003, which helped bring about a revitalization of the once “dying downtown”. The base of operations, located just off of Wayne and Georgia Avenue, currently has over 1,300 local employees, the majority of which will find themselves without work after next year.

According to The Washington Business Journal, Discovery’s president and CEO David Zaslav told employees about the move on tuesday morning. He said in a memo to employees and staff that the company plans to carry out the move and sell the complex within the next two years, aiming for 2019. There has not been any statement made yet about accommodations for employees that will have trouble dealing with the major displacement.

County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett expressed his disappointment in a public statement this week, saying that, “these are challenging times in the communications industry and the recent Scripps merger involving Discovery undoubtedly had a significant impact.”

According to reports in September, Discovery had originally planned to implement a $10 million renovation of the Silver Spring headquarters, but plans have obviously changed.

The company has some deep roots in the Washington area, as it was founded in Landover, MD back in 1985. Before moving to Silver Spring, the company held its base of operations in neighboring Bethesda. Zaslav acknowledged the company’s long history in Maryland in his statement to Discovery employees, “The decision to move our global headquarters from its founding home is one we do not make lightly,” he said.

This news carries a huge blow to suburban Washington D.C., especially in  Montgomery County. The absence of Discovery’s presence (and of course, Chompie The Shark) will definitely leave a gaping hole in the Silver Spring community. Popular local events hosted by the company during Shark Week, — and around the year — once provided a substantial source of tourism for the Silver Spring community.

Reportedly, there was some sort of collaboration between Montgomery Country and the Maryland state government in efforts to try and entice Discovery to remain in Silver Spring. In a news conference with reporters on an unrelated topic, Ike Leggett said that those involved in creating the incentive package which was developed over the last year, “felt that [the] package was good,”. Adding that, “when we looked at the business model and what was happening, we realized this was going to be a very tough decision.”

Indeed it was. Zaslav expressed his sentiments in Tuesday’s message to Discovery employees, and stated that the company planned to reduce their footprint in Maryland over the next two years.

“This was one of the toughest calls we have made in our company’s history, and we do not take it lightly. I felt strongly about sharing the news with all of you as quickly as possible once the decision was finalized,” said the New York native.

Although the news of Discovery’s departure presents a harsh blow for Silver Spring at first glance, we will be just fine. The community is still home to a number of federal agencies, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It’s also important to keep in mind that next year is Discovery’s deadline for completing their move and selling the huge complex. This means that the potential buyer will most likely be another major company.

As for now, we at least know for sure that we’ll be able to have one more Shark Week with Discovery here in Silver Spring, and a large community turnout will definitely be expected. Shark Week officially begins this summer on July 23.

 

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Discovery Communications is set to leave Silver Spring