Development officials plan education study

Strategy also includes coordination with neighbor counties

September 24, 2001|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Howard County will be looking to its neighbors to bolster economic development, studying the role of higher education in the county and getting closer to its elected officials, the board of directors for the county's Economic Development Authority said last week.

The board outlined a plan to encourage business growth over the next 10 years.

The plan, announced at its annual meeting Thursday, calls for a yearlong study of the county's higher education system, better collaboration with neighboring counties, better transportation, commercial revitalization and a closer connection to elected officials.

Quality of life

The focus is on quality of life in the community, said Patrick Huddie, former chairman of the board.

"It's not just about jobs," Huddie said. "It's about the quality of jobs, how well they pay, whether people can develop themselves in the area and whether people can get where they need to quickly and without congestion."

The county's talent pool is one of the most important factors for businesses considering a move to the area, said Richard W. Story, executive director of the authority. The study of higher education is designed to look at how the county is meeting the needs of employers.

Although a number of educational training companies exist in the county and schools such as Loyola University, the University of Phoenix and the Johns Hopkins University have established campuses here, county residents still have to travel outside Howard for degrees in many subject areas.

"What we do not have here is a resident campus of a degree-granting university," Story said. "The question is, `Do we need it?' If the answer is yes, what will it look like?"

Aiding the work force

Huddie said education is one of the most important components in the plan because it promotes development of the work force, which is critical for employers as well as employees.

"People who want to change jobs or get promoted, they know they need to learn," he said. "We can't assume we've done everything we can do for education. We need to do more."

Another part of the plan focuses on revitalization efforts that will be needed.

Revitalization

The county is working on plans to improve the appearance and quality of businesses along U.S. 1, one of the older but important commercial corridors in Howard.

That effort could be a model for revitalization efforts along U.S. 40 and in some parts of Columbia, the leaders said.

"Revitalization is starting with Route 1, but we need to answer the question, `Where do we grow from here?'" Story said. He said the county's general development plan shows businesses will run out of commercial space in about 15 years.

Transportation also will play a part in the revitalization goals, Huddie said. The authority needs to look at ways to provide more public transportation to relieve congestion, he said.

Revitalization and improved transportation are factors that will make regionalism, another part of the plan, more important. The plan calls for the authority to join with economic development organizations of neighboring counties to ensure that efforts are coordinated. The first step will be to meet with representatives from Anne Arundel's Economic Development Corporation, Story said.

The final piece of the plan creates an advocacy council to keep the authority in closer contact with elected officials.

Huddie and Shirley Collier, the current chairwoman for the EDA board of directors, will be part of the council.

"Howard County has to connect [with lawmakers] and have a consistent message about what Howard County needs so that governments can participate," Huddie said. "Our role is to provide information and keep government aware of the economic needs of the county."

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