Howard takes the helm

September 17, 1997


Staff Writer

New Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Director John C. Howard said Tuesday he was "humbled and honored" to accept the post and looked forward to working with city and county officials in strengthening the county's long-term economic outlook.

"I see an awful lot of excitement in Washington County," said Howard, the first person to hold the position since October 1995.

Howard, 58, will be paid $72,000 a year, said county Human Resources Director Alan Davis.

Howard had been executive director of the Wayne County Economic Development Commission in Goldsboro, N.C., from September 1987 to February 1997. For two years before that, he was director of the Raeford-Hoke County Economic Development Commission in Raeford, N.C.


A certified economic developer, Howard once owned his own small retail business, Howard Clothiers, and said he understood what small companies face.

He also worked for AT&T for 18 years.

Howard said he would work especially hard on fostering small businesses and wouldn't let the quest for large projects, which he called "the buffalo hunt," consume all his time.

"You win by small wins a little bit at a time," he said. "I know that the 95-yard pass play gets a lot of attention, but it's the 5 yards at a time, grinding it out that makes things happen."

Howard also said he wanted to get to work on developing several new industrial parks for the county.

"There are a number of fine industrial properties already in place but many are becoming used up."

Howard said companies are making decisions about where to locate in a small period of time, sometimes just a few months, and communities promising to build water, sewer and roads will be at a major disadvantage to people who have sites available.

"You can sell the car off the lot a lot better than you can the unseen car," he said.

Howard also said he would use his national and international business contacts to try and snare businesses for the county.

Howard said he has been on trade missions to Europe and Asia and has picked up some conversational Japanese.

Howard said he will also place an emphasis on making sure the county secondary and post-secondary schools have the appropriate curriculum and that the jobs are here once the students are educated.

"People will leave the county if they get the education and the jobs don't match," he said.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he was happy the county had finally hired someone but said he would still consider starting a city-only economic development commission.

"It's all going to depend on what actions I see in the next six months," he said.

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