Econ. dept. says comp plan will help

Ini­tia­tives will cre­ate jobs lo­cally, of­fi­cials say

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

The de­bate on how to strengthen the Charles County’s eco­nomic base while con­tin­u­ing to pre­serve its ru­ral spirit has some in the county split.

But of­fi­cials with the county’s Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment De­part­ment be­lieve they have the so­lu­tions for do­ing so. And they be­lieve their new strate­gic plan will help lead the way into a pros­per­ous fu­ture in uni­son with the new com­pre­hen­sive plan.

Back when the plan was first in­tro­duced to the pub­lic ear­lier this year, Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Di­rec­tor Dar­rell Brown said the county’s new plan would help them map out ex­actly what they need to do to move the county for­ward in a “tan­gi­ble and prac­ti­cal way.”

There is less am­bi­gu­ity now that the county has a strate­gic plan, Brown said when pre­sent­ing the plan to the county com­mis­sion­ers for the first time. Tay­lor Yewell, the Wal­dorf Ur­ban Re­de­vel­op­ment Cor­ri­dor man­ager, echoed Brown’s state­ments.

Within the next three to five years, Yewell said, the county will start to re­ally see the ef­fects of the com­pre­hen­sive plan and its new poli­cies con­cen­trat­ing de­vel­op­ment in the county’s de­vel­op­ment district in the Wal­dorf area. The Wal­dorf re­de­vel­op­ment

cor­ri­dor “could re­ally see the ben­e­fit,” from the county’s new con­cen­trated de­vel­op­ment strate­gies.

“It’s about den­sity,” Yewell said. “Ur­ban den­si­ties of­ten re­quire struc­tured park­ing, mix of uses and things of that na­ture. We’ll see that as this be­comes more of a re­al­ity.”

De­spite the con­cerns of the busi­ness com­mu­nity, Yewell said the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment de­part­ment never shared any of those con­cerns. The de­part­ment was pre­pared for what would come, and had an idea what the county’s new plan was go­ing to look like.

There is an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment chap­ter in the strate­gic plan, Yewell said, and the de­part­ment was in­volved in the process of de­vel­op­ing that. Be­cause of their in­volve­ment, they had some idea of what they were work­ing with and what could work for the busi­ness com­mu­nity.

“We were in­volved in the process. We were as pre­pared as any­one,” Yewell said.

Although there were late amend­ments to the plan, Yewell said, in­clud­ing the one that shrunk the county’s de­vel­op­ment district to the size of its pri­or­ity fund­ing area, he said the strate­gic plan’s flex­i­bil­ity al­lows the de­part­ment to ad­just.

Some of the rec­om­men­da­tions within the de­part­ment’s strate­gic plan in­clude strate­gies to shrink the com­muter base of the county and keep cit­i­zens who live in Charles County work­ing in the area rather than go­ing to Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Uti­liz­ing va­cant of­fice space, cre­at­ing more “skilled la­bor jobs” and cre­at­ing more of an “open busi­ness” en­tre­pre­neur­ial at­mos­phere in the county are both strate­gies in­cluded in the plan.

The report rec­om­mended the county to fo­cus on four tar­get in­dus­tries: Fed­eral con­tract­ing ser vices, health ser vices, en­tre­pre­neur­ial de­vel­op­ment along with re­search and de­vel­op­ment en­gi­neer­ing.

De­bra Jones, the chief of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment for the de­part­ment, said it is im­por­tant for peo­ple to un­der­stand that the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment de­part­ment’s role is to at­tract new and grow­ing busi­nesses to the county to build on what is al­ready in place. The ex­ist­ing mes­sag­ing in the county, even under the new com­pre­hen­sive plan reg­u­la­tion, al­lows them to do that, she said.

“We con­tinue to mar­ket the county as a place over­all for busi­ness,” Jones said.

Jones said she un­der­stands busi­nesses are con­cerned about po­ten­tial changes com­ing with the com­pre­hen­sive plan, but the play­ing field is far more clear than it has ever been be­fore.

The new reg­u­la­tion from the com­pre­hen­sive plan gives the county “clear pos­i­tive ob­jec­tives and takes un­cer­tainty out of the equa­tion,” Jones said.

As busi­nesses make de­ci­sions, they’re al­ways tak­ing risks, she said. By get­ting rid of that and “mak­ing the rules of the game clear” it takes a lot of risk out of the equa­tion.

Yewell said, de­spite the con­cerns of the busi­ness com­mu­nity, the county and busi­nesses will be able to work through new con­di­tions to­gether.

There are two im­por­tant fac­tors, Yewell said, that play a hand in suc­cess for busi­ness own­ers: Mar­ket de­mand and the reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment. Both of those things can be worked around, he said, and would have been con­cerns re­gard­less of new or stag­nant reg­u­la­tion.

“You can’t pre­dict what the mar­ket will sup­port or reg­u­la­tions. These plans by their very na­ture con­tain the abil­ity to ad­just,” Yewell said. “They have to.”

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