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EDC asked to determine priorities in strategic plan

February 19, 2013|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission will be asked to come up with its top priorities from an economic development strategic plan after it was adopted Tuesday by the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

The EDC’s board of directors adopted the plan last week and the commissioners unanimously voted to do the same Tuesday. The plan is the same as the one detailed at a Jan. 26 presentation to political, business and community leaders at The Maryland Theatre.

In sending the plan back to the EDC, the commissioners asked that the commission identify five projects that are important and “doable,” Commissioner William McKinley said. That would include timelines and action plans for accomplishing the goals, he said.

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said the commission also should identify what county support it needs to accomplish the goals.

McKinley also asked that the commission report back regularly on what progress it has made toward those goals.

The strategic plan lists a number of target industries the county should encourage, including aviation technology and services, product development and advanced manufacturing, distribution and logistics, business and financial services, information and technology services, agriculture and agribusiness, and arts, culture and tourism.

It also lists economic growth strategies through marketing, infrastructure and site development, education and work-force development, small-business development and strengthening Hagerstown’s city center.

The plan also addressed possible changes in the Economic Development Commission itself. Options include privatizing the existing county organization into a nonprofit corporation and merging with allied organizations.

Currently, the EDC has two full-time county employees working on economic development issues, but no executive director, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said. The director position is budgeted, but vacant, he said.

Murray said the county should hold back on naming a director until the EDC board of directors comes back with a recommendation as to whether the commission should be restructured.

The EDC board should come back with its list of priorities and details on what it needs to “make something happen” within 30 days, Callaham said.

No representative from the EDC was at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I think the prudent thing to do at this time is for the whole group to discuss what their priorities are,” EDC Vice Chairman Ron Bowers said in a later telephone interview, declining to list his top priorities.

The commission will come up with “a tremendous plan for moving forward,” Bowers said.

“The paramount thing is to get people working together and EDC can take the lead to make sure it happens,” Bowers said.

McKinley joked that the county should add at least one position to make sure the plan is translated into action.

“We need a guard ... to stand by the bookshelf so we make sure the plan does not sit there,” he said.

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