Counties omitted from metro region

June 28, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

Like a bird leaving its nest for the first time, Washington County is now on its own.

For statistical purposes, the county is no longer considered part of the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Hagerstown and Martinsburg, W.Va., are now linked as their own, separate, statistical area.

Although there is a lot of speculation, no one seems to know for sure whether that will be good or bad for the county.

Even though the definition is supposed to be used for statistical purposes only, government agencies base some program and funding decisions on the definitions, according to the Office of Management and Budget.


The new designation could affect Medicare payment rates in fiscal 2005, funding allocations for some federal community development programs and calculations for federal employee locality pay, the office said.

"There are benefits to being part of that metropolitan area. You get a little bit more attention," said Tom Riford, chairman of the Business and Community Development Committee of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., warned that the definitions are not supposed to be used to make funding decisions.

"I would fight any reduction in federal funds to Washington County as a result of OMB deciding to remove Washington County from the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area," Bartlett said.

Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission Director Timothy Troxell said the new designation could result in more interest from outside companies looking for new site locations.

Companies researching demographics will see Hagerstown-Martinsburg listed as their own separate area.

"I think it adds credibility to our own area. We're big enough that we're a destination in and of ourselves," he said.

Washington County Planning Director Robert Arch said the new designation will simplify the requirements for meeting new federal air quality regulations.

"In that sense, it's probably a plus to Washington County, not being tied into that," he said.

Washington County was removed from the area because 2000 Census figures showed the county was a destination for job seekers.

In 2000, more than 20,451 people drove into the county to work, compared to 16,378 county residents who commuted elsewhere to work.

"Now we're one of only three Maryland jurisdictions with a net in-commute," Riford said. "From a business standpoint, that's also good news for us. That means there are more jobs here. People aren't schlepping down to the metro area."

The Herald-Mail Articles