ARC funds will help develop 'home-grown' businesses

August 13, 1997


Staff Writer

Rural economic development should focus on promoting "home-grown" businesses rather than looking for outside companies to bring in jobs, local officials and business leaders were told Tuesday during a round-table meeting at Hagerstown Junior College.

A three-year, $15-million program funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) will support the strategy in Western Maryland and the Appalachian portions of 12 other states, ARC Federal Co-Chairman Jesse L. White Jr. said.

White said the money will be used to support programs and activities aimed at the five "pillars" of an entrepreneurial economy: access to capital and financial assistance, technical and managerial assistance, technology transfer, entrepreneurial education and training and entrepreneurial networks.


Washington County will share about $240,000 with Allegany and Garrett counties in the next two years, said U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., who organized the meeting.

It will be up to each of the 13 Appalachian-region states to propose procedures and programs that fit their individual needs in cultivating home-grown business growth, Bartlett said.

The money will have to be combined with money from other sources - like private business and other agencies - for the program to work, he said.

Thanks to ARC funding, HJC's Advanced Technology Center and Technical Innovation Center are already doing many of the things outlined as program goals, Bartlett said.

He said he hopes to see local businesses that started out small and are now thriving get involved with the program by offering their expertise, encouragement and mentoring.

The lack of venture capital is keeping many of the county's would-be entrepreneurs from turning their ideas into businesses, several people said.

Washington County economic development coordinator Sharon Disque suggested some type of micro-loan program could help.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he hopes to be able to get some ARC funding for a new revolving loan fund aimed to aiding small business growth downtown.

The intention is to use a combination of public and private money for the low- or no-interest loans, Bruchey said.

Rural areas have traditionally looked to outside companies to bring in jobs in an "industrial recruitment model" of economic development, White said.

A home-grown business has several advantages over a branch plant, he said.

It's more apt to stay put, White said. And there's a greater tendency for it to reinvest in the community.

The leadership structure is more likely to stay in the area, providing continuity, he said.

Most importantly, it creates wealth in the community, whereas a company headquartered elsewhere draws wealth from it, White said.

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