Jay Garner of Garner Economics tells the Charles County Commissioners what the county needs to do to promote economic development for the future.

La Plata, MD – Charles County Director of Economic Development Darrell Brown told the Charles County Commissioners Tuesday, May 24 that while it is not a requirement by the state of Maryland to have an economic development plan, it is a necessary thing as far as the county is concerned.

“It’s necessary because the commissioners have goals for the department to meet and to satisfy these goals, there is a need for a strategic plan,” Brown said.

He said the county has established a vision for economic development for the county, what he called a very important strategic plan that will help focus the department’s work.

“We don’t have to worry about where we’re going and how we’re going to get there,” he noted. “We’ve developed a road map. It is an actionable plan.”

“There’s a lot to digest,” admitted Jay Garner of Garner Economics out of Atlanta, GA. “We always find more value when we’re able to engage you in dialogue once the presentation is made.

“We define economic development as wealth building,” Garner said.

He said their recommendations included strengthening the product (the county) and to create investment and recruitment for tourism and retail. Entrepreneurs would encompass 80 percent of all new jobs.

“The end goal is to make you as competitive as you can for your citizens and population,” Garner stated.

He said they looked at different aspects of the county. The College of Southern Maryland and Charles County Public Schools are assets, as are county agricultural products.

He suggested the county be proactive in guiding economic development, encourage more private sector and business leadership, and work to attract companies who take advantage of the county’s labor pool.

Garner also suggested a business climate survey.

“When you have a large population leaving the county every day, they’re not going to be as knowledgeable of events going on in the community,” he stressed.

Garner Associate David Vercel told the commissioners that Charles has had fairly strong population growth (11.7 percent over the past five years).

“Thirty-four-point-three percent of those incoming people are from other states,” Vercel said. “It’s a moving target here. You have a lot of movement in the county.”

The numbers are something county leaders have known for some time, that 47,620 citizens leave the county each day to work in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

“Household income is higher than Frederick County, but not Howard,” Vercel pointed out. “Your work force is definitely a concern.”

Charles has a low share of workers who are self-employed (6 percent). The state average is 8 percent, while that figure is 10 percent nationally.

“You have the labor force here, but it’s mostly geared toward individuals going elsewhere to earn their wages,” he said. “Mainline industries have not been growing here. If it wasn’t for the federal government, you’d be in a lot of trouble here.”

He said the county needs hotels with conference facilities, more research and development, engineering and computer opportunities.

“All people living in Charles County work in these industries all over the region,” he said. “They’re just not working here.”

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com