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Tim Troxell Q&A

February 24, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

Editor's note: Reporter Julie E. Greene sat down recently with Tim Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, to ask questions from business and community leaders. The answers have been edited slightly for space and clarity.




What markets and specific companies has the EDC targeted to bring to Washington County?

We have been utilizing the state of Maryland's target industries here in the recent past. A couple of those that we've done are the manufacturing sector, they look at just the broad manufacturing sector. Another one that they've looked at is transportation and distribution and probably the third one would be the printing and publishing.

Are there any specific companies?

They really look at doing their national marketing toward those industries and then it's really whatever companies from those industries respond.

But didn't the local economic development commission come up recently with its own list? Did you compile a list based on the county's assets and strengths?

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We are right now in the middle of doing that. There was a targeting study done back actually when I worked for Potomac Edison in the '90s and it's become dated. So right now our marketing committee is working to update that target list. We have identified some industries in the manufacturing sector and as we speak right now are working on the service sector.

We're planning on taking that to the marketing committee at this month's meeting and we'll probably have a new targeting list in, probably in March.

Can you say what you've discovered so far in the manufacturing sector?

The five that we're sort of looking at right now - and, again, there's still some data coming in so these might change - but right now a couple that have kind of risen to the top based on the strengths of the area and the wage rates that these industries typically pay.

Plastics materials and resin manufacturing came out very high. Machine tools, both in metal cutting and metal forming, came out high in our score. Light truck and utility vehicle manufacturing. Our fourth one is packaging machinery manufacturing. And then a fifth one that the committee is looking at is wineries, which is kind of an interesting one.

Are any of these smokestack industries or have those come up on the list?

The only one that I think people might conceive as being smokestack industry, that came out actually the highest score, is flat glass manufacturing.

But, I think that the old theory of smokestack is really almost a bygone era. Maryland is one of the more environmentally sensitive states in the country. Manufacturing has become so technologically efficient that even your heavy manufacturing now isn't typically what we would have once thought of as smokestack industry.

What is the EDC doing for existing businesses?

Well, existing businesses are really the bread and butter of what we do. They're the number one priority of the EDC and what we've done most significantly, I believe, this year is start up the Maryland Advantage program, which is basically our business call program. We go out, meet with our existing industries, we ask them about any problems, issues, concerns that they might have. We also inform them about many of the state programs and any local programs that might be available to assist them in their business.

You focus mainly on larger businesses or do you help smaller businesses?

I would say our focus is more on the larger businesses. That's kind of how we cut our list of who we were initially going to meet. We came up with a list of about 100 companies that we want to try to get around to this year and we've been very successful so far. We've already been out and visited over 53 companies, I believe, at this point in time.

How much is the EDC working with the city to bring companies to Hagerstown, and specifically, downtown?

Debbie Everhart, the city's economic development coordinator, is an ex-officio member of our board. And Debbie and I talk a couple times a week about projects that might work in the city. I would say that we work more on the bigger businesses or the bigger projects that are looking at the city. Normally, we don't get too involved in any of the retail or restaurant-type projects. That's really not our specialty, I guess, here at the EDC. We kind of let Debbie and her staff run with those smaller projects.

Has the City of Hagerstown's policy tying sewer service to annexation impeded the EDC's efforts?

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