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Local EDC pulls home a big honor

April 20, 2003|By BOB MAGINNIS

Every year Site Selection Magazine picks a list of America's top 10 economic development agencies, according to Adam Bruns, the publication's managing editor, because even though tips on many new prospects come from the state level, local agencies must make the deals work.

This year's list includes the Wake County Economic Development Agency, from North Carolina's famed "Research Triangle" and another from Oceanside, Calif., which landed $1.3 billion in new investments that will create 1,650 new jobs.

But the magazine's 2002 lineup also includes the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, a designation you're sure to see in EDC ads and brochures very shortly.

Bruns said the list is something "the magazine writes about every year because local economic groups are often the linchpin of any deal."

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According to Bruns, the list is derived from information the agencies submit on four factors: The number of new jobs created, the amount of investment, the amount of new jobs per 10,000 residents and the amount of investment per 10,000 jobs.

Those last two factors make it possible for an agency from a smaller area like Hagerstown to be listed alongside a larger agency like the one in Prince William County, Va.

In addition, Bruns said, the magazine also looks at special factors an agency may have, like innovative services. In Hagerstown's case, Bruns said the magazine's editors were impressed by the area's designation as a foreign-trade zone and EDC's hiring of a business-development specialist.

The bulk of the job creation figures were derived from the Citicorp project, which will add about 800 employees as a result of two 2002 deals - to handle of Home Depot's credit card customers and take on the job of dispatching tow trucks for the United States Auto Club.

In addition, the job-retention project at Mack Trucks and the location of Mountainside Teleport at Friendship Technology Park were also factors, Bruns said.

Total investment here was $190 million, which will eventually create 839 jobs, Bruns said.

Bruns said 45-year-old magazine is valued by economic development officials because of the exposure it gives them to its key subscribers, who are corporate real estate executives.

Bruns said the magazine is also seen by economic-development professionals, construction executives and a variety of service providers, contractors and consultants.

According to the publication's Web site, at siteselection.com, the publication is distributed to 44,000 executives six times a year. The Web site and magazine archives are not restricted to subscribers.

Based in Norcross, Ga., it's the official publication of the Industrial Asset Management Council, Bruns said, which is comprised of "practitioners in the field that we're writing for."

Asked what designation on this "top 10" list means to those listed, Bruns said that "the best thing it can do is give the agency additional exposure."

That's what most agency professionals want, Bruns said.

"They tell us, 'Just give us a chance to show what we can do,' " he said.

As part of the process for the 2002 list, Bruns said that he interviewed Tim Troxell, the Hagerstown-Washington County EDC executive director.

"I'm looking forward to interviewing him for another article spotlighting regional or state development," Bruns said.

"That's one emerging characteristic of all the groups we recognize is the regional approach, that you're not going to get anywhere engaging in a turf war," he said.

Doug Wright Jr., who heads the local EDC board, announced the honor at the agency's annual appreciation dinner held this past Tuesday.

Wright said the board was notified in mid-March and confirmed that Cassandra Latimer, the EDC's marketing specialist, is working on ways to highlight the designation in EDC's ads.

"To have what you're doing validated by a non-partisan group is better than an ad. You can't buy a promotion like that," he said.

Wright said the designation will also help with one of the agency's strategic goals, which is bringing in higher-paying jobs and also with something I hadn't thought about - convincing local citizens that good things are happening here.

"If the people of Hagerstown and Washington County see that the government is doing the job for them, it improves the psyche or the buy-in," Wright said. Could the agency repeat its performance and win a spot on the 2003 list? According to Bruns, there are agencies that do that, drawing new investment and creating new jobs consistently.

At this point, the temptation for me is to offer advice on how to make that happen, like finding a way to muzzle local elected officials who embarrass the area by saying that fixing potholes is more important than educating our children.

But that's a column for another day. Today I'll just say congratulations to the EDC staff and board for bringing this area nationwide attention.

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