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Alliance tries to attract tech business here

July 30, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Some former Citicorp cards technology workers have banded together to help bring technology businesses to Washington County and to send a message.

"One of the perceptions is there isn't a skilled technology work force in Washington County. We believe that is a falsehood," said Greg Bowen, spokesman for Valley Information Technology Alliance.

"We're trying to raise the flag to say we're here," co-spokesman Joe Camarano said.

When Citicorp officials decided to relocate the company's cards technology division last fall, 120 of the 180 employees decided they would rather stay here than move to Dallas or Jacksonville, Fla., Bowen said.

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They started the alliance, also known as VITAL, as a support group, but it soon transformed into a group looking to help local economic development officials bring technology businesses here, Bowen and Camarano said.

VITAL members have made presentations to groups such as the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission (EDC), the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc. and the Greater Hagerstown Committee to offer their assistance and send a message that a labor pool with information technology skills exists here.

"We want to be marketing allies for the community at large because we have worked in the technical field," Camarano said.

VITAL members have provided resumes to the EDC to help that agency lure technology companies here, but no one has asked to see them yet, said Tim Troxell, the EDC's acting executive director.

"It's a real strength when you sit down and you have a client looking to move in and you tell them we have 100 people already trained," Troxell said.

Many of VITAL's members would rather work in or near Washington County than commute to metropolitan areas, Bowen said.

Some group members took different jobs at Citicorp north of Hagerstown, found work elsewhere or are updating their skills.

"We like this area. We prefer to actually work where we live," said Bowen, who has three children in county schools and is a Cub Scout den leader.

"We value family life and community. We want to have time to invest back in our community. If you're commuting to D.C. or Baltimore, you don't have time to do that," Bowen said.

The group has a Web site at www.vitaltech.org.

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