Carroll to study high-tech networks

With $52,500 from state, county plans to examine infrastructure for holes

January 24, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

County government is set to commission its first study of "technological infrastructure" such as electrical and fiber optics lines to identify gaps that could deter businesses from locating in Carroll.

"The mapping will help us identify problems and address them to meet the needs of business," Denise Beaver, Carroll's deputy director of economic development, told members of the county's Economic Development Commission yesterday.

"Right now, we don't have the total picture of the technological infrastructure in the county, and it has been a big struggle," Beaver said. "We really need to look at electrical capacity and find out exactly what and where it is. There is also the question of making it easier for businesses to tap into what we have."

A $52,500 grant from the state Department of Business and Economic Development will help pay for the survey. The county will pick up the remaining $22,500 in costs.

The Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore, which conducted a commuter survey for the county last year, will serve as the lead consultant for the Carroll County Technology Development Feasibility Study and Plan. The institute has put together a team that includes consultants experienced in the field of mapping, real estate, information systems and marketing research. The study should be finished by June.

"The JFI team has worked on related development projects in Carroll County, most importantly the Warfield site [at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville] and on general work-force development issues in the county," according to the institute's proposal.

John T. "Jack" Lyburn Jr., county director of economic development, said the study's emphasis will be on technology parks planned in Westminster and at Warfield.

The county expects the restoration of the Warfield property to bring up to 1,000 white-collar jobs to the area. Information on availability of fiber optics and electrical lines is critical to the development, Lyburn said.

"This study will tell us where the infrastructure is and where we would like it to be," he said. "We have to know where lines are when prospects come to us."

Also yesterday, members of the Economic Development Commission - an advisory panel of business, government and academic leaders - asked commissioners to save available land that is zoned for industrial uses from the persistent demand for commercial uses.

"We have to make a concerted effort to preserve," said Robert Rosen, who is developing the Carroll County Commerce Center, a business and biotechnology complex in Westminster. "The erosion of industrial land to commercial is leaving little land left."

The county might not need to fund a study of potential industrial sites to bring the two newest commissioners up to date. A 1996 research project, conducted by several leading business owners, should still be relevant, Lyburn said.

"They looked at every piece of land available and decided where we should put industry and why," he said. "They were right on."

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