Economic development director announces departure
KENT NARROWS — Having come to Maryland in March 2015, Queen Anne’s County Economic Development Director Jamie Gilbert is headed back south, where he worked for 15 years.
Gilbert has accepted a job as economic development director in Lancaster, S.C., a suburb of Charlotte, N.C. He turned in his resignation here on May 31. His last day as director will be July 8.
“I would have stayed here as long a these commissioners and the public would have wanted me to be here because I love it that much — and the job and the people in the business community, it’s great,” Gilbert said. “It’s everything I could have wanted in an economic development job, but some things changed for me with my family. They’re all down in South Carolina and Georgia, and that became a priority. I had to be closer to them.”
Gilbert said two of the county’s biggest accomplishments under his leadership were the establishment of great relationships with the existing business community and providing those businesses with programs that would allow them access to capital while ensuring accountability.
Gilbert said one of the first things the newly created Department of Economic Development needed when he first came on board was to win over the confidence of the existing business community and then to expand the department’s efforts to recruit of new businesses. He said showing businesses that Queen Anne’s County was interested in growth, reinvestment and job creation became the first priority.
“We put them (existing businesses) first above the recruitment of new businesses because we felt if we could establish a great relationship with them and provide programs that will work to help them grow here, it’s going to be much easier to recruit new companies to the county,” Gilbert said.
In creating various incentive funds for new and existing businesses, such as the Economic Development Incentive Fund and the Business Reinvestment and Infrastructure Development Grant Enterprise Fund, Gilbert said the county is now positioned as the most aggressive in the state for local incentives to businesses. Through all of the incentives, Gilbert said that the county “demands accountability” that the job creation numbers associated with those incentive funds are met.
The BRIDGE Fund was created in 2015 and provides financial assistance, up to $750,000 with a minimum capital investment from the business of $200,000, to new businesses for real estate, machinery, infrastructure and working capital costs. To be in compliance with the funding, a business must create five or more new full-time jobs. The EDIF provides financial assistance, up to $400,000 with no minimum investment requirement. A minimum of three new fulltime jobs must be created when receiving the funding.
Since August 2015, the county’s department of economic development has facilitated 11 projects through the EDIF and BRIDGE funds. The total investment involved in those 11 projects is $52,764,000 with 134 new full-time jobs to be created. The department awarded $1,667,000 in performance loans and grants and will receive an estimated return on its investment of $3,440,750.
Gilbert said the county approving the Property Assessment Clean Energy program, which aids businesses looking to make energy efficient improvements to buildings at low interest financing, will continue to move economic development forward in the county. Other programs in the works include Queen Anne’s County becoming a Foreign Trade Zone, which it is working with the Baltimore Development Corporation to complete, as well as its effort to create an Enterprise Zone in Stevensville, Chester and Grasonville areas.
“I think, single handedly, if we get that designation, it would probably be the biggest incentive that has come to Queen Anne’s County ever because of the tax credits ... that they get for the new jobs create,” Gilbert said. The county will apply in October to receive that designation, he said.
During his 16 months on the job, Gilbert said the county’s relationships with the local Chamber of Commerce and the Maryland Department of Commerce have grown.
“There’s a lot of trust there, and we know that each is important if we’re going to be successful for business development here, and that’s been great,” Gilbert said.
County Administrator Gregg Todd said Gilbert did an outstanding job in branding the county and creating a map and pathway forward in regards to economic development and created standards, policies and procedures for the county to continue to be successful.
“[Jamie] really professionalized it is what he did because prior that we didn’t have, we always kind of lumped economic development with other departments and it never was a stand alone department,” he said.”
Todd said the county commissioners decided to perform a national search, similar to how the county hired Gilbert in 2015, and will soon start soliciting applications. Once the applications are filed, an interview panel will be created consisting of at least one commissioner and various “business folk.”
“We’re not looking for someone to come in and reinvent the wheel because Jamie’s done a pretty good job of getting us on track, so we really would like someone that could continue on and kind of in his vein of what we’re doing,” Todd said.