Online chat with Tim Troxell

May 14, 2006

Editor's note: On Tuesday, May 9, The Herald-Mail's online chat guest was Timothy R. Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission. The following is an edited transcript of that chat.

The next chat will be Tuesday, May 30, at 7:30 a.m. and will feature a program on avian flu with William Christoffel, Washington County health officer; Dr. John Newby, a pathologist; and John Latimer IV, director of Washington County's Emergency Services Department.

Moderator: Can you explain what the Economic Development Commission does?

Troxell: We are a department of Washington County government responsible for assisting companies interested in either expanding or relocating in Washington County.

We work with a network of partners to meet the businesses' needs, including work-force development, site location decisions and helping businesses navigate local, state and federal government processes.


We also serve as an ombudsman for the local business community through our 12 private-sector board members. In addition, the EDC is the chief marketing agency for attracting new businesses to the community.

Moderator: In April, you told an "Eggs and Issues" breakfast meeting that there were 1,848 new jobs announced in the county last year and 1,000 lost, for a net gain of 881.

What sectors were those lost jobs in, and is there anything we could do, such as changing a law or our tax structure, to retain jobs such as those that were lost?

Troxell: Most of the jobs that were lost last year were in the manufacturing sector, as companies consolidated some operations.

A great majority of the jobs lost were due to international competition, and there really were not any local issues that would have changed that decision.

Moderator: At the same meeting, you said that for the long term, the Economic Development Commission is targeting satellite telecommunications; aeronautical systems manufacturing and installation; biotech and life sciences; and government- and defense-related contracting.

Do we have enough workers with the education needed to perform such jobs?

Troxell: We are currently conducting an out-commuter study to determine the skill sets of our residents who are commuting elsewhere to work.

Hopefully, this data will validate our belief that there are highly educated individuals in our community who could fill jobs in these industries. But at the same time, we already have companies and individuals in these industries in Washington County.

Our future marketing efforts will be geared toward increasing the number of companies in these industries.

We are working with Washington County Public Schools and Hagerstown Community College to develop curriculum to support these industries.

Moderator: Are the new residents moving here form closer to the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area a potential source of employees?

Troxell: Our belief is that a majority of the new residents moving to the community are probably traveling to the metro area to work. Our ability to help them find employment in Washington County would be a win-win situation.

It would allow them to have more time with their families, since their commutes would be shorter, plus it would provide local companies with an expanded labor pool.

Moderator: The county commissioners' lawsuit over Hagerstown's annexation policy produced mixed results that leave prospects in some areas uncertain about whether their companies will have to pay city taxes. Is there a plan in place or ongoing negotiations to get both city and county together on a new policy?

Troxell: The creation of the 2 + 2 Committee - two county commissioners, two city council members - was originally a suggestion of the EDC to this issue. While there is still no resolution, we continue to advocate for this group to come to a resolution on the annexation issue.

At the present time, when working with a company looking to locate in the area, city and county staff have been able to address the situation on a case-by-case basis.

Moderator: In 1999, you told The Herald-Mail's Kerry Fraley that you would like to become more patient, caring and sensitive. Are you making progress in that area?

Troxell: I would say that these are still some of my weaknesses as a leader, but over the past seven years, I feel I have made some improvements in those areas.

These are characteristics that I intend to continue to work to improve.

Moderator: There has been a lot of property bought and sold in the downtown Hagerstown area, but the buildings haven't filled up yet.

What is the key, in your opinion, that will put the center city on the path to prosperity?

Troxell: I believe as more new homeowners move into the center city, they will create the demand for goods and services on a 24-hour basis.

This increase in residents in the center city will result in more disposable income being available to support existing businesses, and businesses that will fill up some of the empty storefronts.

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