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Business leaders talk Techfast

September 14, 2000

Business leaders talk Techfast



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

TechfastAs someone who has logged 1 million air miles while starting an Internet business, Eric Payne knows the importance of making Hagerstown more accessible to the world.

The Hagerstown native travels often to meet with members of the board of Xoutdoors.com, a Web site for sporting enthusiasts.

Hagerstown needs to improve its access to air transportation, Payne said Thursday at the second-annual Techfast at the Ramada Inn Convention Center.

The Hagerstown Airport has been trying to expand its commuter service. Lengthening the runway is essential to that effort, county officials have said.

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In addition to air service, Washington County should improve the education system to attract more high-tech businesses, Payne and two other executives told the gathering of about 200 people.

Both students and teachers must be trained to keep up with the latest technology, said Paul Barbas, president of Allegheny Ventures Inc., a subsidiary of Allegheny Power that invests in energy-related businesses.

"The mindset has to be 'education for life,'" said Jordan J. Glogau, chief executive officer of RegisterFREE, which helps companies register their names on the Internet.

Glogau's company, a subsidiary of the New York-based Name Engine Inc., employs more than 20 people in Hagerstown.

Payne said three-quarters of his 30-person work force in Hagerstown started right out of high school. "I think it's vital to put more emphasis on education. It's not nearly where it needs to be," he said.

Xoutdoors.com has taken off since its inception in July 1999 and has outgrown its office space at 1850 Dual Highway. Next month, the company plans to move to Hagerstown Business Park, Payne said.

Unlike many Internet startups, Xoutdoors is making money. The company made $2.2 million it its first year and is on pace to earn $7 million this year, he said.

Payne and the other executives said Washington County is a good location.

The cost of hiring people and renting space is lower than many technology centers in major metropolitan areas, they said.

The quality of life is better, said Barbas, who moved here from Atlanta last year.

"The lifestyle here really has a lot to offer. A traffic jam is six cars at a light," he said.

In a small community like Hagerstown, people seem to have more loyalty to the company, Payne said.

"They like being part of something rather than just looking for a paycheck," he said.

Techfast was sponsored by Techway Magazine and the High Technology Council of Maryland.

The event is held each month at different locations throughout Maryland and Northern Virginia. This was the second meeting in Hagerstown.

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