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State official praises biotechnology project

August 03, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HALFWAY - Saying he was quoting State Sen. Donald F. Munson, a state economic development official told local business leaders Wednesday morning that "good things are happening in Washington County."

James Rzepkowski, assistant secretary for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, applauded economic initiatives taking place in the county, including a plan to build "wet labs," and a strong desire among local officials to work with the state in bringing businesses to the area.

Rzepkowski spoke at the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's Eggs and Issues at Plaza Hotel.

He said the county will soon see an expansion of Hagerstown Community College's Technical Innovation Center to include "wet labs" for new businesses.

The $1.3 million expansion will house six private labs and one common lab for new biotechnology businesses.

HCC anticipates the labs to attract high-skill and high-paying jobs to the county.

The project, partly funded by the state, is expected to be completed by mid-2007.

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Rzepkowski thanked the Washington County Commissioners for telling the state they were willing to commit money to the project before knowing whether the state would make a contribution.

The commissioners in May agreed to contribute $450,000 for the wet labs.

"This is the perfect example of doing it right," Rzepkowski said.

The Technology Innovation Center serves as an incubator for new or expanding technology-based or manufacturing-based businesses.

Rzepkowski also said the state's economy was doing well, and that while the county's unemployment rate is higher than the state's, it was nothing to be concerned about.

The county's unemployment rate is 4.4 percent, and the state's is 3.8 percent, he said.

If the rate drops too low, he said that can make it hard for businesses to expand, because workers might not be available to fill the jobs.

"You're right where you need to be," Rzepkowski said.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook, who attended the meeting, praised the state for working with the county.

"The past administrations have not been that friendly," Snook said. "You're out here when we need you."

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