- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
There’s a lot to be proud of in Charles County.
Just in the last year, Waldorf was named by CNN as one of the best places to live in America. We are one of the richest counties in America, and rising.
Civista, our community hospital, was named one of the best in the country.
Our rail trail is one of the most unique public amenities anywhere.
The Blue Crabs have one of the best stadiums in all of minor league baseball. I could go on.
What I find most surprising, though, is the negative reaction of some people in Charles County to all this good news. It’s not the majority. But they sure are vocal. And their criticisms — most of which are misinformed — affect our county. Our chamber of commerce is going to work to change that.
We have the problems inherent in growing counties, like funding transportation and building new schools. The challenges we have are challenges counties and municipalities around the country would like to have. And they would especially like to have the assets we can bring to bear to address those challenges.
The fact is, people are moving here for the same reasons they have for 40 years. Good schools, low crime, better value for new homes, and more recently, improving shopping and recreational opportunities. I’m not the only one who remembers that 25 years ago about the only department stores in Waldorf were Peebles and Kmart. No one complains about our lack of retail stores anymore.
This chamber should be, and will be, the organization that promotes Charles County as a great place to live, and more importantly, as a great place for business.
For our chamber, building that pride in Charles County is going to start by working more closely with and reaching out to our veterans. Active and retired military residents always have been a big part of our chamber. I’d like to recognize three of them for their service to our nations and our chamber and to remind people that these are outstanding examples of the kind of people we have in our community, and in our chamber.
People like Lt. Col. Will Greer, who has served in the Army National Guard for more than 25 years. He is now the joint operations officer for the Maryland National Guard. In September 2011, he was deployed to Afghanistan, where he was part of the 29th Infantry Division sent to work with the International Security Assistance Forces Joint Command in Kabul.
Will currently serves on our legislative committee.
And people like Chief Master Sergeant Keven Kling. Kling’s service in the U.S. Air Force has spanned 27 years. His many deployments while on active duty with the Air Force Reserves and with the D.C. Air National Guard’s 113th Wing have included Operation Noble Eagle/Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom ... and most recently, deployment to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Keven is a current board member of the chamber.
And people like Command Sgt. Maj. David Jenkins, who served in the Maryland Army National Guard for 38 years before he retired in March 2009, including active service in Bosnia from February through October 2000.
David is a past president of the chamber.
I am pleased to say that I have asked each of these men, as well as Wayne Magoon of Beacon Printing, Mike Moses and John Flatley of Chick-fil-A — each of whom has also served our country with honor and distinction — to work with us and our other chambers of commerce and business groups in the region to help develop a regional job fair for veterans, and to help us identify other ways we can work as a chamber, as a business community, to pay in full the debt we owe to all our veterans.
There will be other initiatives over the next year.
I am also proud to announce our chamber has voted to become the first chamber in the state of Maryland to launch the Youth Entrepreneurship Academy, a 30-week program for middle and high school students in Charles County to learn to start their own small business. Eighty percent of the young men and women who start businesses under this program are still in business after one year, and 19 percent go on to start a second business.
We will reach out to our public schools, and to the College of Southern Maryland, to bring this program to Charles County.
Promoting our member businesses — and the variety of services provided by small businesses in Charles County — has to be the bread and butter of what any chamber does.
I am also pleased to announce that we will once again host the chamber Trade Fair, so that we can better promote our member businesses and give ourselves a unique opportunity to demonstrate to our residents the wide array of outstanding products and services, and value, chamber members provide to our community.
There will be much more. We want our members to have the best-informed owners, and the best trained employees. So, we will be working with The Corporate Center at CSM to develop a series of training programs and seminars that will help our members become better entrepreneurs, and help their staff become more efficient, more valuable employees. Of course, our legislative committee — which is chaired by Steve Scott and Phil McDonagh and is recognized as the best in the state — will continue to do its important work, evaluating proposed legislation according to one important principle: does it promote free enterprise in the state of Maryland.
And I believe the chamber’s new Economic Development Committee, chaired by Sue Greer, will emerge as a strong force for economic development in our county through improved marketing and public relations, by building stronger partnerships with other business organizations, through member education, and through policy development and advocacy.
There is much to do. But there has never been a better time to do great things for our chamber and our county. New residents, and new businesses, like residents and business owners before them, are moving to our county because they believe in our ability — of our business community, our elected leaders, our educational leaders — to deliver on the promise of the great future they see for Charles County.
It will be an honor to work as your chamber president to help make that vision a reality.
The above is an edited version of remarks made by Craig J. Renner at the 2013 Charles County Chamber of Commerce Presidential Inauguration Dinner on Jan. 26.