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Strategic Planning Dinner offers economic encouragement

January 29, 2001

Strategic Planning Dinner offers economic encouragement



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer


Despite a nationwide economic slowdown, many factors point to continued economic growth in Maryland and Washington County, the state's top economic development official said Monday.

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"Maryland literally has the hottest economy of any state in the region," said David S. Iannucci, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development.

The state's economy ranks 10th in the nation with 57,000 new jobs added last year and low unemployment rates and welfare rolls, Iannucci said.

Maryland's skilled and educated work force, "superb" transportation infrastructure and commitments to higher education and technology are some of the factors that continue to attract new business and strengthen existing companies, Iannucci said.

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He spoke to about 60 community and business leaders at the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission's annual Strategic Planning Dinner at the Four Points Sheraton in Hagerstown.

The EDC's proposed 2001 Strategic Priorities were announced at the event.

"The Strategic Planning Dinner is a great venue for our commission members to interact with community leaders and officials on a one-on-one basis and gather valuable input," EDC Chairman Thomas C. Newcomer said. "This allows us to measure our effectiveness in upholding our charge - to expand economic opportunities for citizens of Washington County."

Iannucci, James Hamill, president and CEO of Washington County Health System Inc., and James Stojak, retired executive vice president from Citicorp Credit Services Inc., spoke about why they think the state and county are good places to live and work.

The guest speakers also pinpointed ways to attract new business to Washington County and retain existing businesses in the community.

The state Department of Business & Economic Development is focusing on bringing more high-tech, high paying jobs to Maryland, and ensuring that all regions in the state share in the prosperity, Iannucci said.

The state's highly educated work force, quality universities and community colleges and numerous federal research facilities and high-tech companies are being marketed to attract new businesses, Iannucci said.

The department will work with Washington County economic development officials to craft incentive programs that draw to the region jobs that fit into local economic growth plans, he said.

The Washington County Health System wants to "be part of that (economic development) challenge," Hamill said.

He said the nearly $250 billion operation is growing to offer expanded health care programs and services. This complex but cost-efficient health care system can be a "selling point" for Washington County because good health care is a concern to potential new businesses, Hamill said.

A major challenge faced by health care and other industries is attracting and retaining employees, so Hamill suggested the EDC promote the quality of life in Washington County.

This "real sense of community and openness" was a big factor in his decision to move to the area, Hamill said.

Stojak agreed that Washington County has been a "great community" in which to live and work.

In addition to marketing that asset, he suggested that the EDC focus on a limited number of growth areas so economic expansion can be supported. Stojak championed supporting the growth of existing businesses, embracing the opportunities presented in a service economy, making Hagerstown more accessible to bigger transportation hubs, and continuing to forge strong relationships with state officials.

"I would suggest that future economic development in this county is in our hands," he said.

To mark the importance of "image marketing" to the state's economic growth, EDC Executive Director John C. Howard gave official Super Bowl XXXV game footballs to the guest speakers. The Baltimore Ravens participation, and win, in the Super Bowl drew national attention to Maryland, he said.

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