Eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor an­nounces de­par­ture

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­

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.

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