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Economic priorities announced

January 29, 2002

Economic priorities announced



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY
andreabh@herald-mail.com


Local economic developers on Monday night asked business and community leaders for feedback about this year's plans to bolster business in Washington County.

James G. Pierne, chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, announced the EDC's proposed 2002 Strategic Priorities at the agency's annual Strategic Planning Dinner at the Four Points Sheraton in Hagerstown.

EDC priorities range from identifying and marketing the county's assets to bringing in new businesses to building a stronger local work force through business-education partnerships.

Some of the nearly 60 people in attendance - including business and education leaders, local politicians, heads of civic groups and representatives from state business agencies- stressed the importance of educating the work force, supporting existing businesses, marketing the county's attractive location and keeping businesses in Hagerstown.

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Art Callaham, executive director of The Greater Hagerstown Committee, said the EDC must convince large employers such as Washington County Hospital to stay in the city because the "urban core" is the foundation for economic development countywide.

James P. Hamill, president and CEO of the Washington County Health System, said earlier this month that Washington County Hospital will likely be demolished within five years after a new hospital is built either in or out of the city.

The EDC should also market Washington County's crossroads location at Interstates 70 and 81, which is a "great venue for manufacturing and distribution industries," said H. Frances Reaves, who promotes Maryland as a business location through her work with the state Department of Business and Economic Development.

Economic developers should target such "sexy industries" as aerospace and pharmaceutical manufacturers, which boast higher paying jobs without requiring the higher education that many workers in Washington County now lack, Reaves said.

The EDC could also put existing businesses in touch with such resources as technology training programs, said Pat Halladay, chairwoman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

"If businesses want to survive, they've got to become technology proficient," Halladay said.

Mike Callas, owner of Callas Contractors, Inc., said existing businesses - especially small ones - need help navigating through the increasing number of rules and regulations.

"New entrepreneurs have no idea what they have to do. They find out when they have no money left," Callas said.

The EDC could link businesses with helpful state, county and city agencies, said Callas and Gary Rohrer, director of the county Public Works Department.

Paul Lawler, chief financial officer of the International Economic Development Council, was the guest speaker at the dinner.

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