Anne Arundel County should build conference and visitors centers in Annapolis and aggressively promote the BWI business hub, a business group's long-range economic plan says.
To attract new businesses and allow existing ones to thrive, the county also might need extensive bus, trolley and light rail routes, specialized job skills training and development costs that fall at or below other counties', the Anne Arundel Trade Council suggests.
Members of a trade council subcommittee representing key industries presented their ideas to County Executive Robert R. Neall yesterday.
The report, done at the council's expense, attempts to establish where the county should commit its resources, and raises the possibility on increased public-private partnerships.
The plan calls for improving transportation, education, the environment and marketing and for keeping the county competitive. It lists three major goals: Developing facilities and support services for a strong economy, balancing economic resources and creating programs to enhance the quality of life.
"They're right on target," Mr. Neall said after seeing the plan.
"They've come up with a great road map, and all we have to do is check off the places on the map we want to visit."
"With funding cuts everywhere, we felt the private sector had to use its own initiative," said Jeannette Wessel, executive director of the trade council and a subcommittee member. "We had a responsibility to help the government and to let them know what people who do business here every day see as problems.
"This should improve life for everybody, not just businesses," she said. "Certainly we're not looking at having everything accomplished next month. If we don't have the cooperation of the county, the plan is not likely to be totally enforceable. But I'm not anticipating that to be the case."
When the nine-member subcommittee got started early this year, it decided to concentrate on what could get done within a three-year period, said Rick Morgan, an Annapolis banker who helped write the four-page document.
"Are we going to bring light rail in in three years? No. But in three years, we'll have a damn good idea of what it's going to cost and what it will take to do it."
To expand mass transit, the plan recommends improving bus feeder routes and setting up an intra-county trolley network to better serve businesses and employees.
It also suggests creating a competitiveness council of government officials and business people that would compare services and costs of doing business in the county with services and costs in other counties.
The committee also recommended trying to attract environmentally sensitive industries, creating a summer internship program for county teachers and offering incentives for builders and developers to build low-income housing.