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Washington County gives EDC the OK for strategic planning

Approval does not include any county money at this time

December 13, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

County officials Tuesday gave the green light to a local economic development organization to advertise for a consultant to prepare a  strategic business plan, but no funds have been authorized for the project yet.

Instead, the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, or CHIEF, will see whether it can hire the consultant using two $50,000 grants, one from the Appalachian Regional Commission and one from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, the Washington County Board of Commissioners said.

If that $100,000 is not enough, the commissioners agreed that they would "consider" providing money from the hotel-motel tax to cover the difference.

That motion passed 4-1, with Commissioners President Terry Baker opposed. Baker said he had concerns about what commitment was implied by the word "consider."

Officials from the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission last week asked the commissioners to commit to providing up to $75,000 toward the plan, which is estimated to cost about $125,000.

EDC officials did not mention the $50,000 DBED grant last week because they had in mind to keep it available for other projects, EDC Executive Director Timothy R. Troxell said Tuesday. The money is available as part of a grant the state agency provides each county every three years, he said.

The commissioners took no action on the request last week.

The purpose of the strategic plan is to "provide specific directions to increase the tax base of the County and the City by enhancing the business climate, thereby adding new companies while assessing existing businesses in creating an increased number of higher paying jobs," according to a agenda report to the commissioners by Troxell.

The EDC already has its own strategic plan, but the proposed document would serve as a guide to direct and coordinate the efforts of all economic development partners, including organizations like CHIEF and the Greater Hagerstown Committee, municipalities, and other agencies and organizations, Troxell said Tuesday.

"Deliverables" requested of the consultant include an assessment of constraints and opportunities for economic development in the county, a prioritized list of industries to target, identification of physical locations for primary opportunities, and a plan that includes specific, actionable strategies for reaching economic development goals, among other items, according to a draft Request for Proposals distributed last week.

The draft said that up to three firms submitting proposals would be chosen on the basis of qualifications, then those finalists would be evaluated based on cost.

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