More jobs, space sought Economic officials urge increase in business growth

Industrial sites needed

Area also promoted as location for filming, retirement

October 14, 1998|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

As a place for business, Carroll County attracts Hollywood filmmakers, retirement-community developers and world-recognized manufacturers.

But the once-rural county remains a more popular place to live than to work, county economic development officials told Carroll political and business leaders yesterday.

Carroll reportedly has the lowest wages in the Baltimore region, does not have enough industrial space and lacks jobs for spouses of new county residents.

"You can see why half the county leaves every day," said John T. Lyburn Jr., the county's economic development director, noting that 50 percent of the labor force works outside the county.

Despite these challenges, Lyburn provided an upbeat message to members of the Economic Development Commission during its annual retreat yesterday at Carroll Lutheran Village. The 29-member commission, which helps attract businesses to the county, meets monthly to discuss economic development.

Lyburn displayed a list of 10 projected business deals worth $157.5 million. They include projects of two manufacturing companies, which Lyburn declined to name; a $30 million distribution center by Sweetheart Cup Co. near Hampstead; a $36 million private school near Finksburg; and two Wal-Marts, in Hampstead and Mount Airy.

If all 10 projects are completed, they would help correct the imbalance between residential growth and business growth, Lyburn said. Business provides slightly less than 12 percent of Carroll's tax base -- the lowest business-to-residential ratio in the region.

That figure has made economic development one of the key issues in the county commissioner race. The seven candidates, Democratic, Republican and Independent, have emphasized the county's need to attract new businesses.

Lyburn also highlighted his department's efforts to market the county to Hollywood. In January, a color ad will run in a publication of the state film commission. The ad, featuring a photograph of horses grazing in a field, asks producers to "ROLL 'EM! in beautiful Carroll County, Maryland."

Universal Studio's seven-week filming of "For Richer For Poorer" in Carroll last year generated $2.5 million for the local economy, he said. Lyburn plans to attend Sundance Film Festival in Utah next year to promote the county's rural setting, main streets and historic homes to film producers.

Hollywood might return this year. Film scouts are looking at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in New Windsor to film a scene for a new movie, "Runaway Bride," to star Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.

Carroll's commercial growth continues to be dominated by manufacturers, including the recently completed expansions of Evapco Inc. in Taneytown and Marada Industries Inc. in Westminster.

The county must develop industrial sites for manufacturers, Lyburn said. While Frederick County can offer more than 30 different sites to businesses, and Baltimore County more than 100, Carroll has few, he said.

The planned 400-acre North Carroll Business Park in Hampstead will help this situation, Lyburn said. "We need more industrial-zoned land, and we need it fast," he said.

The county will also continue to grow as a retirement destination, he said. "Everybody wants to open a retirement community in Carroll County. They are cropping up everywhere," Lyburn said.

Though Carroll might compete with its neighbors, Louna Primm, chair of the Economic Development Commission, reminded members of the county's role within the region.

In a presentation to the commission, Lois Yates of the Greater Baltimore Alliance, a regional economic development corporation, agreed, saying Carroll's success is linked to that of the Baltimore region and the state.

In a survey of business leaders in the Baltimore region, the alliance found that the state needs to improve its business environment.

Besides naming problems with permits and taxes, business owners said the region's community colleges fail to train enough students for new jobs demanding skilled labor. "We are lagging behind other states in our ability to respond and adjust to global markets," Yates said.

However, she added, Carroll County's work force was complimented in the survey for its productivity and strong work ethic.

Pub Date: 10/14/98

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