County business leaders are considering creating a non-profit corporation with fund-raising capabilities to lure new businesses to Carroll and help others expand.
The Carroll Chamber of Commerce's Economic Development Task Force, which is spearheading the study, met with the County Commissioners on Thursday to elicit their comments on forming such a corporation and their goals for economic development.
"First we need to know what the commissioners want to have happen," said James Schwartz, chairman of the task force.
What transpired was a meandering dialogue about the trials and tribulations of economic development in Carroll, with fleeting attention given to the suggested new approach for expanding the county's tax base.
The corporation -- which could be established as a chamber affiliate, a quasi-governmental agency or by some other way -- could raise money for travel, recruitment, advertising, marketing and infrastructure projects to develop industrial sites.
The commissioners expressed concern about forming an entity to pursue economic development goals if it wasnot affiliated with the county government.
"There's something about going out to the business community and having government backing that's stabilizing," said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge, who would liketo study the proposal further.
Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy Jr. agreed, saying the commissioners would discuss the issue before giving the chamber a firm reply.
"I'm convinced county government should have a hand in it," he said. "I don't know about 50-50, but a good hand."
But several task force members said government often creates obstacles for businesses that want to locate or expand in the county,forcing companies to choose alternative plans. Business owners who demonstrate that they have been successful in Carroll are the best marketing representatives for the county, chamber leaders said.
They said the county often has not spent enough money to pursue key prospects aggressively nor provided the infrastructure and incentives necessary to land them.
"If you have a real hot prospect, government doesn't have money in the budget to wine and dine them to help get themhere," said Manchester developer Martin K. P. Hill, a task force member.
"If we wine and dine them, will the county help us get them here? Other counties make deals that are impossible to cut. Carroll isn't offering the same thing."
The corporation could be similar to the Greater Baltimore Committee, the independent business organization that promotes economic development in the Baltimore region, said Lloyd Thomas, chairman of the county Economic Development Commission.
The EDC, which advises the commissioners and promotes business growth, asked the chamber to help research the issue.
G. Melvin Mills,owner of Mills Communications Inc. in Westminster, said he would notbe inclined to contribute to a non-profit economic development corporation "if county government keeps putting the clamps on business andnot letting them grow."
O'Conor Piper & Flynn realty sales manager Dottie Wells said she has heard "nightmare stories" about business owners spending $25,000 and two years to cut through the bureaucraticmaze for approval to expand.
Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said he agreed that government regulations are too restrictive and discourage enterprise. The zoning ordinance and other regulations should be revised and response from county agencies improved, he said.
Gouge said that the county must ensure that industrial development meets high quality standards or "all we'll get is the dregs."