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Tech link promoted

August 10, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

Tech link promoted



Washington County is perfectly positioned to attract high-tech companies eager to flee the congested Baltimore-Washington corridor, state technology experts said Thursday.

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The one missing ingredient, a telecommunications network big enough to handle the demands of high-tech business, is being developed, they said.

In about a year, a fiber optic cable being buried the length of Interstate 70 will be opened first to the public sector and then to the private sector, said Major F. Riddick Jr., chief of staff for Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening.

"This is the most appropriate place in Maryland to start as we launch outside Baltimore and Washington," said Riddick, who was in Hagerstown for a meeting of the state's Technology Development Corp.

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It was the first time the organization, which is promoting Maryland as the nation's premier location for technology-based economic development, met outside of Annapolis.

Before the meeting, held at Hagerstown Community College, local business and government leaders hosted a breakfast at the Four Points Sheraton to raise awareness of the information revolution's impact on Washington County.

The guest list of 125 read like a who's who of technology companies, giving local startups such as Register Free a chance to rub elbows with representatives of heavy-hitting technology companies like Cisco Systems Inc.

Gregory I. Snook, president of the Washington County Commissioners, said he sat with businesspeople who talked over his head about technology issues. But he is still excited about the possibility of bringing them to the county.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission wants to attract high-tech jobs to increase wages and give young people who grew up here more reasons to stay, said Chairman Tom Newcomer.

"High-tech jobs solve a lot of problems for us," he said.

Technology companies are attracted to Washington County's good workforce, high quality of life and available space. The high-speed network is on the way, said Phillip A. Singerman, executive director of the Technology Development Corp. .

The business incubator at the college can play a big role in attracting technology startups, he said.

"It allows a company to concentrate on business without the distraction of hiring a secretary and renting a copier," he said.

One potential drawback to the county is the size of its workforce.

National experts have said there aren't enough workers here to attract high-tech companies.

But the technology experts don't see that as a big concern. Larger cities are already facing the same shortage of technical workers, which is causing companies to cannibalize each other's workforces, Singerman said.

Today's young people are becoming more technologically savvy, said Donald R. Riley, associate vice president and chief information officer for University of Maryland at College Park.

Hagerstown will get better access to higher education when the University of Maryland opens its regional education center here in 2004.

"If you don't build it, they won't come," Riley said.

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