The Job of Revitalizing Westminster

November 15, 1994

The good news is that the year-old Greater Westminster Development Corp. has hired its first executive director, one with experience and strong local roots. The bad news? His initial task is to solicit the business community to raise money to pay his salary.

It's not exactly a hand-to-mouth job that R. Douglas Mathias is taking to revitalize and redevelop the business area of the city, even though he faces an immediate budget challenge.

The city government has already given a $50,000 grant to launch the quasi-public economic development organization's efforts.

But private businesses and property owners must come up with an equal amount of money for the entity in the near future. The city grant allows the group to fill the director's position and set up the office on East Main Street.

Mr. Mathias, a former aide to former Rep. Beverly Byron and an official in Allegany County's economic development department, shows promise in understanding the task and also the local landscape. A Westminster native, he has lived in Carroll County most of his life and his family has long been active in city political affairs. He has worked at attracting new business, a primary goal of the Westminster development agency.

A strategic plan to redevelop and market the central business area is getting the finishing touches from a Virginia consultant who surveyed public preferences and analyzed the hard economic and demographic data this fall.

That plan will help to guide the municipality and the Greater Westminster Development Corp. in making changes for the better. One prominent idea is to make the downtown more attractive as a residential area and as a dining/entertainment center, as well as luring more offices and marketing the city's historic and tourism potential.

Neither government nor the private sector can act alone to promote Westminster's revitalization. It must be a partnership, which means shared funding of the agency and shared commitment to the plan. The current strategies have not been effective; decisive change is needed.

The hiring of Mr. Mathias is a positive step toward that transformation in Westminster's economic development outlook.

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