- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Calvert County Department of Economic Development hosted its strategic planning meeting Wednesday to gain insight, input and information from the public on what direction the county’s economy should take for the next five-year strategic plan.
The meeting began with a presentation of the global, national and Maryland economy by Anirban Basu, the chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group Inc. Although he didn’t focus specifically on the economy of Calvert County, he pointed out that currently, the county is rated as having the third lowest unemployment rate in Maryland at 5.4 percent, followed by Howard and Montgomery counties at 4.8 percent. Basu also highlighted how vital the federal government is to the county’s economy.
“Without the opportunities from the government, Calvert County would look more like Eastern Shore counties,” where unemployment rates range from 7 to 12 percent, he said.
Basu explained that the biggest threat to the county’s economy is the federal budget because of how many residents are employed or rely on the government opportunities in Washington, D.C. He said the best thing Calvert County could do is create more economic diversification, though he wasn’t sure how exactly the county would implement such a diversification. That part was left to the small group discussions.
Each group received a primary goal with one to three objectives and it was its job to come up with ideas for how that would look. Group one discussed ways to educate residents on the county’s assets to strengthen the existing business base, how to elevate the county as a tourist destination and explore opportunities for increasing and enhancing ecotourism and agritourism, all while within the parameters of its primary goal: to maintain the character and charm of the county.
Group one continually stressed the importance of signs to water access, the beaches and other recreational areas. It also brought up that Generation Y, the children of the baby boomers, have nowhere in the county to go if they want something to do. Its solution is to bring more nightlife to the county. It also discussed that the county needs to make people more aware of incentive programs as a way to strengthen the existing business base.
Group two discussed ways to expand the commercial real property tax base, generate additional economic activity through the expansion of tourism and visitor spending and identify impediments to expanding and growing the county business base, in order to create a more balanced economy through the expansion of the commercial tax base and the business base. The group thought a telecommuter building in the county would be a way to bring some of the government office commuters back into the county and that more walkable town squares would expand the commercial real property tax base. It also brought up the idea of bringing the bed and breakfast industry and bus and water tour industries into the county to generate more tourism and visitor spending. Many of the impediments to expanding the county business base the group identified as environmental.
Group three discussed ways to create attractive employment opportunities for county residents by generating jobs within the target industry over the next five years, aiming marketing at target industries and the existing commuter labor force and creating an environment for aggressive local business expansion to provide new employment opportunities. Much of the discussion in group three focused on streamlining the government’s involvement in the process of business-making, such as working with the Department of Planning and Zoning to better communication and to implement greater oversight. It also discussed that there needs to be more education on what it takes to start a business.
After collecting all of the comments and ideas from Wednesday’s meeting, the DED will send the list along with the DED’s own goals and objectives for itself to the Economic Development Commission. Linda S. Vassallo, director of the DED, said this process will take two to three months. Once the EDC has this list, it will determine which items to endorse to the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners. Vassallo said it is unclear right now how many ideas were generated at Wednesday’s meeting.