The county's unemployment rate for July was 4.1 percent.
Shoop said one of Howard's biggest contributions will be his knowledge of economic development in North Carolina, which Shoop called "a model state in economic development" and a competitor.
Shoop said Howard will be an integral part of the development of the Halfway Boulevard/Hopewell Road area and will help the Pen Mar Development Corp. as it works to find ways to use Fort Ritchie when the military base closes in October 1998.
Shoop said Howard was well-traveled, and will bring international experience to the county as well.
"He's going to fit in very well in Washington County."
Shoop said he was impressed by Howard's preparation for the job.
"He knows Washington County as well as I do now, and he's visited three times."
Shoop said Howard's annual salary will be disclosed today.
County Commissioner James R. Wade said he was excited that the county was starting to take a new direction in economic development.
"I think he shares my and other commissioners' concern that we need to concentrate on manufacturing jobs and not warehousing jobs."
Wade said Howard's experience in the South and internationally "will bring a whole new perspective" to the county.
County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said he was pleased the county found someone of Howard's caliber. "It's long overdue."
Bowers said he hoped Howard would help interview candidates for the job of marketing the county's Conococheague Industrial Pretreatment Facility - an underused $9 million plant that treats industrial waste before it is sent to the domestic sewage treatment plant.
The pretreatment plant is expected to lose $830,000 this year alone because it is operating at less than 25 percent of capacity.
The EDC job has been open since the County Commissioners relieved Richard Palmer of his EDC duties in October 1995.