Econ. dept. says comp plan will help
Initiatives will create jobs locally, officials say
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.”