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A dream come true

December 16, 1998

The news that the University of Maryland wants to establish a small campus in Washington County is nothing less than electrifying. For more than 20 years, business and government officials have complained that the area has been handicapped by the lack a local four-year institution here. Now that the university is showing some interest, it's time for a full-court-press effort to make this dream a reality.

The first need is for about 20 acres to serve as the site for a campus. Officials of the PenMar Development Corporation, in charge of the redevelopment of Fort Ritchie, say they've concluded that such a facility would not fit in with their plans.

We'd like to hear more about why PenMar turned down what seems on the surface to be a golden opportunity. But if the university's plans truly don't mesh with PenMar's, then a search for other sites should commence as soon as possible.

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And if no one comes forward with a donation of property, the county should bite the bullet, issue bonds and purchase the site itself. Compared to any recent development project, this one is worth the expenditure of county funds, for several reasons.

The first is that it will create a certain number of full-time jobs for faculty members and administrators with better-than-average salaries, not to mention the support services the university will purchase locally. The second is that if the campus attracts students from a 50-mile radius, there'll be more money spent in Washington County.

But the most important reason to support this project is because of the boost it will give to economic development. A picture of the campus will be on every brochure the county sends out and the institution will be mentioned every proposal written to a client considering locating here.

And think of what an arm of the university could offer a local industry like Mack Trucks, for example. Everything from metallurgical research to engineering internships would be possible. Washington County Commissioners' President Greg Snook says the community needs to demonstrate its support by donating money and services; now he needs to tell us where and how to do that.

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