Promoting economic development Carroll County: Town cannot be pitted against town in effort to gain new business.

September 11, 1996

SOME CARROLL TOWNS are complaining that they are ignored in county economic development promotion in order to benefit the Westminster area.

While it's true that these municipalities lack industrial development, and suffer the effects of an eroding tax base, the problem in the county runs much deeper: Carroll as a whole has a painful lack of industrial/economic development. Westminster is not lapping up all the gravy.

After years of simply toying with economic development, the county committed funds and a full-time director to the job of promoting it. The full fruits of that new effort remain to be tasted. But there's no evidence that the county seat has been the major beneficiary of that marketing program. Indeed, that would be self-defeating for the county and the towns.

Decisions by the municipalities themselves play an important role: local taxes, laws, public services and utilities, industrial parks and land-use plans are a few of them. Circumstances outside town control -- property values, transportation facilities, schools -- are also crucial.

Mayor Gerald Johnson of Mount Airy aired his criticism of economic development promotion to the county Planning and Zoning Commission last week. His town, which straddles the Carroll-Frederick county border, has access to Interstate 70, a rail line, public utilities and a great location to serve Baltimore and Washington. It should be a prime development candidate.

Yet Jack Lyburn, the county economic development director, pointed out that land prices are higher in Mount Airy than elsewhere, and that the town lacked finished lots that businesses prefer. New businesses are going to choose the best location for them; they are not going to limit their survey to one choice or one area, unless that clearly meets their needs. But it has long been true that good business activity attracts others; more developed business areas will naturally draw more interest. Westminster, the third largest city in the Baltimore region, will get more attention.

This renewed discussion of economic development factors should result in a more concerted effort throughout the county to improve the promotion of and attractions for industrial growth.

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