Development plan calls on private sector Partnership urged to boost growth

November 03, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

An updated economic development plan for Howard County recommends creating an authority that would combine government and private sector resources to strengthen the county's ability to promote business growth.

The organizational change is the most significant recommendation in the plan, which updates a September 1991 report by an Economic Development Advisory Council (EDAC) subcommittee.

Under the plan, the Department of Economic Development would become a quasi-governmental organization called the Howard County Economic Development Authority. The proposed public-private partnership would enable the county to pursue a "more aggressive, competitive, flexible, responsive and focused" economic development program, the report says.

At a public hearing before Howard's General Assembly delegation scheduled for Thursday night, county Economic Development Director Dyan Brasington and Robert Cardoni, EDAC subcommittee chairman, plan to testify in support of proposed legislation. The hearing on legislative requests will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building. The proposal has already drawn support from County Executive Charles I. Ecker and the County Council.

A non-profit economic development authority would be an extension of the government with private sector participation. Through monetary and other support from county businesses, the authority could gain leverage in competition for business prospects and eventually ease the burden on government, says a report on privatization.

Its goal would be to increase the county's commercial and industrial tax base to 30 percent, reversing a decline from 24 percent to 22 percent over the past five years.

The plan's objectives are to support the growth of existing businesses; recruit targeted new businesses and attract corporate headquarters; address issues affecting economic development; explain to residents how business growth affects them; foster partnerships; and enhance the quality of life.

The plan cites nine areas that need attention in Howard. Among them are:

* Improving public transportation and commuter access to and from Baltimore and Washington. Road improvements for east-west highways crossing Howard, such as those planned for Routes 32 and 100, are important.

The report recommends adding park-and-ride lots along key corridors. It also advocates pursuing a Route 100 commuter rail station and the extension of the Maryland Rail Commuter train into Columbia Gateway, an industrial park at Route 175 and Interstate 95, and eventually into Columbia's Town Center.

* Increasing the county's stock of affordable housing so entry- and mid-level workers can afford to live in Howard. The report recommends that the county provide incentives for public-private partnerships.

* Improving technical training and basic skills education.

* Developing financing sources for the start-up and expansion of new businesses, such as the recently launched Jim Rouse Entrepreneurial Fund.

* Expanding the county's conference facilities.

* Assuring that water and sewer capacity and roads can accommodate new business projects, and revitalizing older commercial-industrial areas near Route 1.

The report lists 64 businesses that either expanded or located in Howard from 1991 through June 1992, adding an estimated $61.7 million to the county's economy.

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