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Officials attend conference in Alaska

January 09, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM and HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Two Washington County officials traveled to Anchorage, Alaska, last fall for a four-day economic development conference, said Leanne Mazer, executive director of the Tri-County Council for Western Maryland.

Washington County Commissioner James F. Kercheval and Timothy R. Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, attended the conference as representatives of the Tri-County Council, which promotes development in Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties, Mazer said.

Kercheval and Troxell are on the Tri-County Council board.

The event, held from Oct. 4 to 7, was the annual training conference of the National Association of Development Organizations, Troxell said. It included workshops and tours of sites of interest in the Anchorage area, such as the Port of Anchorage and a diverse inner-city neighborhood in the process of redevelopment, he said.

"It's very good training," Mazer said.

One particularly interesting workshop was a tour of Anchorage's Fed Ex freight air facility, Troxell said. Washington County has FedEx ground facilities but not an air hub, and officials have mentioned trying to establish one, he said.

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"It was good for us to sort of look at it and see what it entailed," Troxell said. "It potentially could be something that could work for our community."

Kercheval said Tuesday that the FedEx tour was informative.

"I do think it's a much better fit than we originally thought," he said.

Kercheval said he decided to attend the conference for the continuing-education aspect, the networking opportunities and to support Mazer, who was finishing a term as president of NADO and was recognized during the conference.

The conference exposed Tri-County Council members to legislators and other important contacts, Kercheval said.

"It's all part of the networking process that you need to go through when you're in government positions," he said.

The trip was paid for by the Tri-County Council, which gets most of its funding from the federally funded Appalachian Regional Commission, Troxell said. Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties contribute equally to the council, and use local funds to match state and federal dollars.

Mazer said the total cost per person was $1,000 to $1,500 for each of the three people representing the Tri-County Council of Western Maryland.

The rooms cost about $135 per night, Mazer said.

"It's not like it was an exorbitant room rate," she said.

The airfare was more expensive, she said, due to the price of fuel at the time. Registration for the event cost about $200, Mazer said.

All executive board members of the council were offered the chance to attend the conference in early October. Only Kercheval, Troxell and a board member from Garrett County attended.

This was the first time Washington County has sent people to the annual conference, Mazer said.

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