Economic official says Carroll County should advertise to industry

He tells commission businesses don't know about area's benefits

Regional

April 01, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County cannot compete for industry that it sorely needs to bolster its tax base until it spends money on advertising, according to John T. "Jack" Lyburn Jr., Carroll's director of economic development.

Carroll's economic development department receives $456,000 annually, 21st in the state among similar agencies. None of that money is for advertising.

"We focus on brokers, go to the right meetings and say the right things, but we also have to advertise the benefits of doing business in Carroll County and the good labor supply we have available," Lyburn told the Economic Development Commission last week. "We are underrated for the people that we can draw from, particularly the professional people who live here and want to work here."

More than half the county work force leaves Carroll daily for jobs outside the county. A commuter survey, to be completed next month, might show the highest percentage in the state of residents working in jobs out of the county where they live, Lyburn said.

`We have the skill base here'

"Our skills base is leaving the county," said Denise Beaver, deputy director of economic development. "We have to look at those industries and demonstrate to them that we have the skill base here."

The county commissioners have been reluctant to spend money on advertising campaigns and marketing studies, though they budgeted $28,000 for the commuter study and about $6,500 for a labor survey.

"Jack is our marketer. That is his job," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier. "We pay him to market us."

They might have to rethink that policy if the county is to be competitive, said Doug Widlake, an EDC member.

"It is really difficult to do this job without some type of advertising budget," Widlake said. "Advertising is necessary to do your job in this fragmented market."

Dick Story, chief executive officer of the Howard County Economic Development Authority, said advertising dollars are the best ones spent, even in lean budget times.

"Now is a good time to advertise because there are fewer people chasing leads," Story said.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he might be willing to look for advertising dollars in what will likely be a tight budget, but "not for marketing studies that end up on a shelf somewhere."

Web site planned

Carroll is preparing a Web site to promote available industrial sites.

"We will be putting everything we have on the Web page," Lyburn said.

Among the sites posted will be three new large industrial sites along the Route 140 corridor near Westminster - "all good, marketable locations," he said.

"There really is no use advertising if we are showing the same things every year," Lyburn said.

"We need more sites and more diversity. We want to offer prospects, choices for research, biotech, back office and distribution."

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