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Washington County receives interest from data-warehouse operations looking to move out of D.C.

July 11, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Dan Pheil, chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, offers an overview of the EDC's ongoing efforts in the county during a monthly Eggs & Issues breakfast.
By Kevin G. Gilbert / Staff Photographer

The “home run” of landing a major government employer is “not in the cards right now” for Washington County, but the area has received considerable interest from data-warehouse operations looking to move out of the federal core of Washington, D.C., according to a local economic development official.

 Dan Pheil, chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said Wednesday that interest from data-warehousing companies has grown significantly because the county is very competitive in available space compared to the District’s metropolitan area.

“They’re able to be not too far away from where the action is of the federal government, but far enough away so that we’re competitive,” Pheil said. “I see a real opportunity in that area.”

Generally, a data warehouse is a central storage facility for a wide array of digital information collected from multiple sources to aid an agency’s or company’s decision-making.

Pheil offered an overview of the EDC’s ongoing efforts in the county during a monthly Eggs & Issues breakfast at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, hosted by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

About 80 people attended the event, including numerous county and Hagerstown officials, as well as many local business leaders and Washington County Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox.

Chamber President Brien Poffenberger said the chamber tries to set aside a month each year in the spring or early summer to allow the EDC to update the community on the pulse of economic development in the county.

“We all work together. It’s like pieces of a puzzle,” Poffenberger said. “For a strong and healthy business community, we need the EDC to be creating opportunities for companies both coming into the community and for companies here.”

Pheil spoke for about 45 minutes, highlighting the EDC’s efforts to attract new businesses and retain those already here through outreach programs.

He also discussed the progress of the EDC’s top five strategic priorities, which include an extensive infrastructure assessment in the county and overall workforce development.

“The strategic part is anything you can do to prepare your assets,” he said.

Other EDC goals include strengthening downtown Hagerstown, a countywide marketing plan and evaluating the EDC’s role as the lead agency for economic development efforts within the county.

EDC member Stuart Mullendore was recently appointed as the strategic plan coordinator to help facilitate those five goals. Pheil said he anticipates that Mullendore will make his first of several monthly updates to the Washington County Board of Commissioners in the coming weeks.

Currently, more than 9,000 businesses call Washington County home, and that number has been growing, Pheil said.

Agricultural businesses and farming operations have been strong, racking up $83 million in sales revenues during the past year, according to statistics provided during the presentation.

Poffenberger said he was encouraged by what Pheil had to say.

“Is it as robust as other areas? Not yet,” Poffenberger said of the local economy. “But we’re going to come back at our own pace. We’ve started to see those signs of life ... and I think everything that the EDC has mapped out is — with their good work and their both tactical and strategic execution — it’s going to work.”

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