Charles County Director of Economic Development Kwasi Holman

La Plata, Md – Over and over throughout the recently concluded election, pundits and politicians in Charles County continually talked about the need to bring new business to the county.

On Monday, Nov. 10, Kwasi Holman, director of Charles County Economic Development; Marcia Keeth, business development manager for Retention and Expansion; and Debra Jones, business development manager for Attraction and Recruitment, tried to explain to the Charles County Planning Commission how they intend to do just that.

Holman pointed to recent successes, including Mid-Atlantic Health Care, which has brought a $23 million facility investment and approximately 80 new jobs, along with JBO Printing & ABR Services, which chose Waldorf over its existing Northern Virginia facility, bringing 45-plus jobs to Charles County.

He added the department was looking at different incentives, and working with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development had created a half-million dollar incentive fund, which focuses on the county and creates those kinds of jobs above median wage for the county and provides support for them.

“I’m not at liberty to divulge the details, but we are working on a federal government facility that we’re hoping will bring 30 new jobs to the county,” he added.

Holman said that Competitive Power Ventures is looking at a 15-year, $750 million investment which is looking at a projected 400-plus construction jobs in 2015 and 2016 and 24 permanent, high-paying jobs in the future.

Rockfish Solar is planning the county’s second solar generation facility which is predicted to also generate $12 million in tax revenue over the next 20 years.

“Charles County is ideally located to be the home for many of these projects,” Holman said

Keeth told the commission that in order to attract companies to the county EDC has implemented a building relationships with business visitation survey which asks business owners pertinent questions. “We need to know how to help them,” Keeth said.

The plan is to focus on 150 target industries, she said, bring back the results, identify trends and needs, and develop a strategic plan.

“This will be a plan we can then implement in the following year,” she said. “This will become a bi-annual event.”

“We hope we can have a better relationship with the businesses, as well as better create that environment where businesses can thrive and grow, and pay those business taxes we are all looking for,” Keeth added.

She pointed out that a strong relationship with local businesses is crucial, and having those types of bonds have made a differenence in retaining some companies.

“A company that is located here at one point was thinking about leaving the county,” she said. “We were lucky enough to have good relationships with them, and as the result of our interactions they have decided to stay here in the county and are going to expand and are looking to add to their product line.”

Jones said the question for new business they have to ask is, “Can we attract them? Do we have places for them to come in and live and places for the employers?’

“Charles County is well positioned for investment and growth,” she said. “We have several employment parks under development, hundreds of acres for build-to-suit sites, shovel-ready sites, and flexible workforce training programs. There is a high potential for growth going forward.”

Planning Commission Member Gilbert “Buddy” Bowling Jr. asked Holman his thoughts on the Waldorf revitalization project and if he thought it might be possible to focus some thought there.

“The infrastructure is already in place to enhance the business community,” Bowling said. “Instead of reinventing the wheel, maybe there’s something compatible with the existing businesses.”

Holman noted that what is lacking in Waldorf is what is also coming, but down the road, and stressed that accessing the Washington Metro system would be key.

“That provides the missing link we need,” he said. “If we can somehow find a way to connect to Branch Ave. and the Metro Station, the pace of development will increase immediately. We want to get that project moving and long term, that will revitalize the county in ways we can only imagine right now.”

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com