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Mullendore's EDC job will not be an easy one

June 02, 2013

We respect Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission member Stuart Mullendore for stepping up and agreeing to take over a temporary position responsible for implementing a set of business strategies designed to pull Washington County out of its economic doldrums.

Mullendore has the passion for the assignment and a sincere concern for the community. We also thank him for doing the job for free, which will save the county at least $25,000 over six months.

This won’t be any easy job, however, as the EDC has seemingly been spinning its wheels for more than a year now — since it fired its executive director and announced it was seeking a new path.

Parts of this new path are promising and parts are discouraging.

The EDC commissioned what turned out to be an excellent economic development blueprint from an outside consultant, one rich with ideas and specific suggestions. It was a disappointment, however, that the EDC ignored most of the meat and announced a vague set of “new” strategies, some of which were not new at all, but had been listed in the EDC’s annual report for years.

Certainly, there are some good things happening in Washington County. The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics has opened its doors, Hagerstown Community College continues to set the standard for local education, and it appears the old First Urban Fiber plant might finally get a new lease on life.

But to make any sustained progress, the EDC will need a long-term director, no matter what form the EDC takes once Mullendore implements the strategic plan.

Because, make no mistake, the absence of an alpha dog in the EDC office is costing the county. Businesses interested in relocating to Washington County don’t even know whom to call. The county will tell you that it has knowledgeable people who could answer any economic-development questions.

We don’t doubt that, however, an outside company scrolling through online directories doesn’t know who the proper operatives are. But you can bet they do when they go trolling in Franklin County, Pa., and Berkeley County, W.Va.

Over the years, we have seen too many jobs going to neighboring counties. Mullendore is an excellent choice for the immediate task at hand, but it is difficult to think that eventually new talent and fresh ideas from the outside will not be needed.

We hope the EDC and the Washington County Commissioners reach that conclusion sooner rather than later.

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