As Harford County continues to attract new businesses, particularly along the U.S. 40 corridor, the demand for employees also is growing, county officials say.
To expand the labor force, a collaborative effort will provide transportation from Baltimore and Baltimore County to Harford business parks.
"We've been able to offer a new perk to area businesses," Harford County Executive James M. Harkins said at a news conference yesterday during which he announced the program. "There is a need for skilled labor. Transportation should not be a barrier."
Starting in October, the reverse-commute program will offer bus service from Johns Hopkins Hospital via Eastpoint Mall to jobs as far away as Havre de Grace. The service will include a guaranteed ride home for employees in case of family emergencies or illness.
"The next frontier in transportation is connecting people to jobs," said state transportation Secretary John D. Porcari. "Connecting people to jobs in the Route 40 corridor is the perfect opportunity."
Harkins said providing a work force to such companies as Clorox, Saks Fifth Avenue and Michel Distribution is essential to the county's economic growth.
New businesses equate to a greater tax base, he said. "As county executive, I often look at the bottom line. It is very, very critical. We must have workers to meet those needs."
Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger also expressed support for the regional initiative. "Together we are stronger," he said. "In the old days, you tried to take jobs away from other counties. That's all changed now."
The $303,500 effort is being funded by Harford and Baltimore counties, Baltimore, and state and federal transportation agencies.
Myra A. Fender, president of the Aberdeen City Council, said she wants jobs to go to the people of Aberdeen but understands the need for additional workers. "We know it takes a tremendous number of people," she said.
Yvonne Gilchrist, director of the Baltimore Department of Social Services, said transportation can be a problem for clients, who often have to rely on family or friends for a ride.
"This is a great opportunity for us," she said. "We're always trying to get our customers out to jobs. Now, we can get thousands of people out here."