$30,000 study of workers planned

Data on work force could help recruit business, officials say

Carroll County

November 09, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Looking to bolster economic growth, the Carroll commissioners will spend about $30,000 to survey the county work force and determine commuter destinations, occupations, education levels, job skills and related labor statistics - information that might attract business and industry.

"This will give us an idea of what is going on," Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said yesterday. "The results will be good for us and our companies. It could also guide industry here."

The board unanimously approved the expenditure yesterday and will likely award the survey work to the Jacob France Center at University of Baltimore. Graduate students would call 800 randomly chosen households.

The results could be an invaluable marketing tool, said Jack Lyburn, Carroll's director of economic development.

"It will help us tremendously," he said.

Carroll has a work force of about 85,000, more than half of whom commute to jobs outside the county. The commissioners have been working to raise the county's industrial tax base, which is about 12.5 percent, the lowest in the metropolitan area.

The survey would provide information about available employees, their skill levels and salary requirements, details that could be offered to prospective businesses, Lyburn said.

"The 2000 census could provide us with some of this information, but not until 2003," said Chris Winebrenner, the county's marketing manager. "They could also tell us how many people are leaving the county each day, but we have known that all along. "

Before drafting the survey, the Jacob France Center would talk to commissioners about what questions surveyors should ask. The center's staff members would analyze the data they collect and summarize the results. The phone surveys would begin early next year, and a final report would be presented about May 1.

"We can say we have people with skills," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier. "We have a general idea now, but it has never been quantified. With this, we can say and we can be confident."

In other business yesterday, county officials received an update from Lyburn about the 218-unit Westminster Mews, a senior housing project scheduled for construction on 8 acres along Gorsuch Road next to Cranberry Station Elementary School. The $24 million project will take about two years to build and could generate as much as $240,000 annually in property taxes.

"Senior living is one of our top 10 taxpayers," said Lyburn. "These projects have no impact on schools and little impact on roads. The residents often are our best volunteers."

Several years ago, the county bought 115 acres at Gorsuch Road and Center Street for $2.2 million, intending to use it for schools. In addition to the elementary, the county is building Winter's Mill High School there.

County officials later sold 13 unused acres - 8 for the senior complex and 5 for a commercial development - for $1.9 million.

"The county got land for two schools for a minimal cost," Lyburn said.

Also yesterday, the commissioners decided to draft a strongly worded letter that gives three property owners a final opportunity to rid their yards of car parts, tires and untagged vehicles. If the residents do not comply, county crews will clean the yards and attach liens to the properties for repayment of the work.

The county is under court order to clean up the properties - two in Westminster and one in South Carroll. Owners who cannot pay the costs of the work could lose their homes.

"I wish the courts would not get us involved," Frazier said. "These people could lose their homes, and I don't want the county to be in that situation."

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