The county's reputation as a slow-to-change farming area often clashes with its goal of attracting new businesses, meaning officials mustwork harder to lure industry, one county commissioner said.
"People assume this is a farming community, and that it's just not progressive," Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said.
In her efforts to learn more about attracting industry, Gouge today begins her second year of study at the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma.
For one week, she will attend classes about international trade, using computers in marketing, developing effective public relations and advertising campaigns, tourism, manufacturing and other topics.
Her study has given her insight into what has worked in other communities, Gouge said.
"It certainlyhas broadened my whole perspective of what can be done," she said.
The county must overcome a number of weaknesses, some of which are discussed in a thesis she is writing in order to complete the program.
"One of our largest weaknesses right now is our road system," she said.
State highways pass through each of the county's municipalities, and the county is dependent on state money for improvements, she said.
Gouge said she still is considering recommendations for improving the road system.
"Another one of our negatives is that a lot of citizens in Carroll County don't see economic development as important," she said.
They envision new businesses as "smokestack industries," but that wouldn't be true, she said.
New business would allow more residents to stop commuting out of the county to work, she said. Now, almost 50 percent of the county's work force commutes.
More industry would help in other ways, too, Gouge said.
"We need to let citizens understand that with an increased tax base from companies citizens' tax rates would be more stable," she said.
In 1989, Gouge attended institute classes in Indianapolis. This week, she will be in Norman, Okla. To complete the program, she will have to attend one more week of classes, probably next year.
Gouge said she already has had some economic development successes, some ofwhich came about because of information and techniques she gained from her study.
Last year, the county was successful in obtaining about $4 million from the federal government for improvements to the Carroll County Airport. A larger airport helps attract businesses that want to beable to transport visiting executives in and out quickly.
Anotherpositive was a trip Gouge and others from the county made to South Carolina early last year to visit vocational-technical schools and bring back ideas.
Education and training facilities are important forbusinesses that need to retrain workers.
Gouge's thesis is titled"Posturing Carroll County for Economic Growth in a Competitive Regional Marketplace." In it, she compares Carroll's policies with those of other counties in the Baltimore-Washington area and Pennsylvania.
The county paid $1,000 for Gouge to attend the institute this year;$500 for the course and $500 for expenses, she said.
Eileen S. Fisher and William E. Jenne of the county Office of Economic Development have attended the institute in the past, but did not this year because of county budget cuts, Fisher said.