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Commissioners press EDC to set goal for jobs

Board members say setting a target would be detrimental

July 27, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

Stressing that jobs should be Washington County's No. 1 economic development priority, county commissioners Tuesday challenged the Economic Development Commission to set a numerical goal for increasing the number of jobs in the county.

"What we have to remember is those committees and all those activities that we do are not the end, they're the means to the end," said County Commissioner William B. McKinley, an ex-officio EDC board member, during an economic development workshop between the EDC board and commissioners.

EDC board members reported their committees have been focusing on topics such as infrastructure, resources and marketing.

"One of the things I'd like to see is a goal, an increase in jobs, from now to next year this time, whether it be 500, 1,000 — and I understand that's a difficult thing to do," McKinley said. "I also understand that because you have goals ... you're more likely to come close to that target or at least move in that right direction."

Timothy R. Troxell, EDC's executive director, said he was concerned about setting a goal "because there are so many other factors that are outside of the realm of what we can control."

EDC board member Frederic M. Frederick said he thought everyone in the room wanted to create jobs.

"To put a real number on it is, I think, impossible," Frederick said. "It's just that we're setting ourselves up to fail. More importantly, I think our goal is we want every job we can get, period."

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham criticized that attitude.

"If we take a posture that we're afraid to fail, then we have failed already," she said.

Commissioners President Terry Baker also supported setting a goal, saying the county would bring in more jobs if it had a target for which to shoot.

Callaham suggested that one-year, five-year and 20-year goals for job numbers should be part of the strategic plan that EDC board members develops.

The commissioners also suggested several other initiatives for the EDC.

McKinley said he would like to encourage Hagerstown Community College to move toward offering four-year bachelor's degree programs in science, technology, engineering and math and to designate a member of the EDC staff to visit small businesses to offer support.

Baker said he would like to see an EDC member charged with quickly resolving any complaints from businesses about county rules or inspections.

County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said many of the commissioners' suggestions would require funding. He said county staffers would look into funding availability, and the commissioners and EDC members would meet again to discuss the next steps.

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