Md. com­merce sec­re­tary of­fers ad­vice for ru­ral de­vel­op­ment

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By HAN­NAH COMBS

Spe­cial from the Star Demo­crat

— Maryland’s com­merce sec­re­tary gave some ad­vice to lo­cal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment pro­fes­sion­als last week at a ru­ral eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ses­sion.

Sup­port­ing ru­ral de­vel­op­ment in Maryland is one of the pri­mary goals of the Maryland Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion. To as­sist in that goal, MEDA hosted its ru­ral eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ses­sion on Dec. 1 at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege in Wye Mills.

MEDA is, ac­cord­ing to its mis­sion state­ment, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion com­prised of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment pro­fes­sion­als work­ing to im­prove the state’s busi­ness cli­mate through en­cour­ag­ing partnerships and net­work­ing among peo­ple com­mit­ted to bring­ing jobs and cap­i­tal to Maryland.

Mike Gill is the Maryland sec­re­tary of com­merce un­der Gov. Larry Ho­gan. Gill, who was the key­note speaker for the de­vel­op­ment ses­sion, spoke en­thu­si­as­ti­cally about grow­ing busi­ness in Maryland as well as mak­ing Maryland a more friendly state in which to op­er­ate a busi­ness.

“What is im­por­tant to you, is im­por­tant to us,” Gill said to the group.

He added, “(Gov. Larry) Ho­gan has spent more time vis­it­ing the Shore in the past two years than that other guy did in eight ... be­cause it’s im­por­tant.”

Gill said that for the state, keep­ing taxes and fees down and not cre­at­ing a lot of ob­sta­cles on the reg­u­la­tory side is one way the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion is seek­ing to make Maryland a more friendly state to busi­nesses.

Gill said they also want — like any good busi­ness owner — to pro­vide good cus­tomer ser­vice.

“It costs noth­ing to be nice,” Gill said. “There was a time we couldn’t even spell eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment (in

WYE MILLS

the state of Maryland) ... now we are ready to de­velop an im­age and brand for Maryland and make it spe­cial.”

It is of­ten said one of the se­crets of suc­cess is growth through re­ten­tion and then find­ing new busi­ness to draw in, and Maryland is go­ing to work on that at the govern­ment level, he said.

“When Bal­ti­more made the news last year, as Mary­lan­ders, we know that is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the state as a whole, but that is what the na­tion sees ... I want to be in that con­ver­sa­tion about be­ing one of the 10 best states in Amer­ica,” said Gill.

Gill ac­knowl­edged there is a need to find a bal­ance be­tween qual­ity of life and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Each county is unique and wants to main­tain that dif­fer­ence and they all bring some­thing dif­fer­ent to the table, but there is a great­ness in com­bin­ing as a re­gion also, said Gill.

Gill sum­ma­rized what he be­lieves are the top five ar­eas to fo­cus on for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment on the East­ern Shore. First, de­ter­mine a cul­ture or brand for the area to pro­mote, be it proac­tive lo­cal govern­ment lead­er­ship, clean, pretty, safe towns or good schools. Sec­ond, he said, cul­ti­vate tal­ent by sup­port­ing good schools with grad­u­ates who are ready to com­pete in the work force and be­ing ready with jobs for them at home.

“There is a pas­sion for the young peo­ple who have grown up on the Shore, who want to stay here and raise fam­i­lies of their own,” Gill said.

Third, Gill said, is to de­velop a lo­cal plan for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

“A plan, even a small one is okay, just buy into it and make it hap­pen,” he said.

Fourth, ac­cord­ing to Gill, is to ex­e­cute the plan, be de­ter­mined, stay with it and make it work.

Fifth and fi­nally, Gill said, is to be coura­geous. To those in a po­si­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity in your coun­ties, talk about big ideas and com­mon­al­ity, “it is not just a Tal­bot, Kent, Ce­cil county thing ... it’s a Maryland Shore thing,” he con­cluded.

“Your po­ten­tial is great,” Gill told lo­cal MEDA mem­bers, “and the state needs to be right there with you.”

Ray­mond “Chick” Hamm, mar­ket ex­ec­u­tive with PNC Bank and a Ce­cil County res­i­dent, spoke to the MEDA’s East­ern Shore mem­bers gath­ered at Tues­day’s ses­sion.

“What are things that are unique to our com­mu­ni­ties?” Hamm asked. “How do we re­cruit ... what is is the role of govern­ment in this (dis­cus­sion)?”

Hamm said Tues­day’s ses­sion was a good op­por­tu­nity to start get­ting these ques­tions and oth­ers on the table and es­tab­lish­ing a list of pri­or­i­ties that needed to be ad­dressed or con­sid­ered by the group.

The event was spon­sored by PNC Bank and at­tended by MEDA mem­bers and guests.

PHOTO BY HAN­NAH COMBS

Maryland Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion Board Pres­i­dent Keasha Haythe thanks the spon­sors and at­ten­dees at the Ru­ral Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment ses­sion held at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege.

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