Economic survey results awaited

Residents, businesses polled to assess area's needs, opportunities

Carroll County

March 25, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll's economic development department hopes to turn labor and commuter studies into marketing tools to attract industry, and translate a visitors guide into tourism dollars.

The surveys that detail Carroll's work force should be completed this spring, and 125,000 copies of the new Visitors Guide will be circulating by early summer, John T. "Jack" Lyburn Jr., director of economic development, told Carroll commissioners last week.

"The labor study will show what jobs are available here and at what salaries, and what skills ... our employees have," Lyburn said. "The commuter study will tell us where people are going for jobs and why. Both will help us show prospective companies our labor force."

The guide will show what Carroll has to offer tourists, he said. Advertising dollars paid for the 32-page booklet, published by the county Tourism Council.

Once the commissioners review the survey results, in May, Lyburn plans a public presentation to dispense the information on destinations, occupations, education levels, job skills and related labor statistics. The data might attract business and industry to the county, which has an industrial tax base of about 12.5 percent, the lowest in the metropolitan area.

The county paid about $28,000 for the commuter study conducted by graduate students at the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore. The university is compiling information from 800 households chosen randomly and contacted by telephone.

"The calls are all complete, but as yet, we have no inkling of what people are saying," Lyburn said. "We have to have current, good data."

Callers responded to queries about how far, how long and where they drive for work; how they feel about the commute; and whether they have options to telecommute. They also were asked whether the county offers sufficient employment opportunities for professional workers.

"We feel we will be able to extrapolate from the data, as it is representative of the county," said Denise Beaver, deputy director of economic development.

Carroll has a work force of about 85,000, more than half of whom commute to jobs outside the county. Beaver said she does not expect the results to vary greatly from those of the last comprehensive commuter study. Conducted about 15 years ago. the study showed that nearly 60 percent of the county labor force left Carroll daily for jobs, she said.

Towson University will report and analyze the results of a labor study Lyburn's staff mailed to more than 300 county employers last month. The university's fee is $6,500.

About 90 companies have returned the five-page questionnaires that asked for details about basic and computer skills of job applicants as well as labor demand and availability. The deadline for returning forms is Friday.

"We are doing well with the replies," said Beaver. "We are also doing follow-up with employers who have replied."

Lyburn told the commissioners that his department has seen good results from job fairs and other programs, particularly the town outreach project. During the past 10 months, Mike Fish, small-business consultant, has made numerous visits to all eight Carroll towns.

"We know he is helping county businesses expand and be profitable," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier.

Fish meets with officials and merchants, business owners and those who want to start businesses. He covers main streets and shopping centers. "Each town has its own flavor, and some are doing some really creative ... marketing," he said.

Fish offers a free pre-business workshop every month, and will hold one at 9 a.m. today at the county's resource center, 224 N. Center St., Westminster. He calls it a two-hour crash course in how to start a business.

"It is for people looking to start a small business," Fish said. "We can help develop a business plan, see what loans are available and also discuss why businesses fail."

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