Patapsco's Silicon Valley Luring new business: More marketing needed to achieve goal of a technology cluster.

November 12, 1997

THE COUNTY that leads the state in job growth can do a better job of attracting businesses. It is not enough that Howard has a generally positive track record for economic development. Its commercial tax base lags behind goals set by County Executive Charles I. Ecker. Outside firms looking to relocate may never notice Howard County on a Maryland map, let alone learn about its virtues.

Two reports released five weeks apart tell how the county can be discovered by companies that would thrive there.

The most recent report, commissioned by the county's Economic Development Authority (EDA) and conducted by a New Jersey site-location firm, concludes that Howard should improve its marketing efforts for new businesses.

The survey recommends that the county pursue national, regional and divisional headquarters for companies. What kind of companies? High technology, bio-technology and information processing offices are at the top of the consultants' list.

It takes money to appeal to businesses, of course, but county economic development officials are fortunate to have some cash to reach well beyond state borders to carry out this mission. The consultants say the EDA must spend more to lure outside businesses although its marketing budget is among the area's healthiest at about $125,000. An increase would be money well spent.

If the county is serious about establishing an identity as a high-tech haven, as a September EDA report suggests, it must be aggressive. Competition for technology companies is furious. Jurisdictions that don't take positive steps will lose out in the scramble for these firms, their high-paying jobs and the partnerships they sometimes form with area colleges and universities.

The recommendation for improved marketing by the EDA coincides with the recently announced $11.5 million, 5-year effort by the Greater Baltimore Alliance to spread the message in the business world about the region. The GBA's move is bound to raise the area's profile as a better place for commerce. Within that framework, Howard County can distinguish itself as a small powerhouse that already has a growing high-tech and bio-technology portfolio with room for growth.

Pub Date: 11/12/97

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