WESTMINSTER — County officials lobbied for state backing of Route 30 expansion plans at a meeting Friday with Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development Secretary J. Randall Evans.
James C. Threatte, director of Carroll's Office of Economic and Community Development, said the proposed 5.8-mile, $40 million Hampstead bypass is a crucial link in the county's economic development.
Large tracts of Carroll land could be developed, but they are notaccessible by existing bypasses and some are not zoned properly, Threatte said.
A fundamental problem, he said, is that Maryland does not "link economic development to transportation."
Evans urged Threatte and the commissioners to institute a self-assessment program with county officials and the private sector "to take a look at how well you're organized for business growth."
Evans also suggested thatthe county "do some fiscal planning" and stressed the significance that commercial and industrial parks have to the tax base.
"Businesses are just as desirable as homes, as parks, as open space," he said, adding that they are "necessary to help pay bills in the future."
On a similar note, Evans declared Friday "Small Business Development Center Day in Carroll County."
Commissioner Julia W. Gouge cut agreen ribbon, symbolically marking the official opening of Carroll'sdevelopment center, which provides free counseling to help small businesses succeed and expand.
Eileen S. Fisher, the economic development office's marketing manager, said Friday's ceremony was meant to recognize the importance of small businesses.
"Small businesses are the ones that are really building America," Fisher said. "The spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well, and that is what small business does."
The development center, which opened March 5, was designed to help new and established businesses in areas such as problem-solving, loan packaging and business planning.
Michael Fish, the center's coordinator, said 80 percent of all small businesses go under within five years of opening.
"Our mission basically is to assist small businesses," Fish said. "We can help people to see whether or not their ideas are workable and realistic and achievable. And whetheror not they're bankable."
Fish is employed by the Maryland Small Business Development Center Network, which serves Carroll, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Cecil, Harford and Howard counties and Baltimore City.
The program, which was established in Maryland three years ago, is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development and other public and private entities, including Carroll's economic development office.
The central region office, which operates out of the county's economicdevelopment office, is one of six in Maryland, he said.
Fish saidan average of three businesses seek help during the half-day he spends in Carroll each week.
"The numbers of people I've seen have been incredibly high," he said, pointing out that a busy full day is four clients.
Rick Baum, owner and president of Shannon-Baum Signs inEldersburg, said after more than a year of trying to make his 41-year-old business more efficient, he went to the development center for help.
Baum, a Sykesville resident, said he does not regret the decision.