County's technology is focus of 2 panels

Groups created in effort to attract new businesses

January 23, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Carroll County officials and leaders will explore ways to build on recommendations from a recent study to attract more high-tech businesses to the county.

Two committees - one to focus on the county's technology infrastructure and another to explore connecting the county's agricultural industry with emerging technology - were formed during yesterday's Economic Development Commission meeting.

Denise Beaver, Carroll's deputy director of economic development, said the county is also working with nearby research universities and organizations, such as the Carroll Technology Council, to bring their expertise to local businesses.

The formation of the committees will help "further the technological economic development in the county," Beaver said.

The Carroll County Technology Development Feasibility Study, paid for by a $52,000 state grant and released in October, suggested that to attract more high-tech industry, Carroll should reduce congestion on major roads, create more broadband Internet access, and market Mount Airy, off Interstate 70, as an extension of the Washington area.

Carroll's industrial tax base is one of the smallest in the state at 12 percent of its total. Also, about 62 percent of Carroll residents commute to other jurisdictions for work, according to another survey.

The feasibility study also said the county would be more competitive in attracting new industry if it had more land set aside for business parks. County officials hope to keep more workers in the county by bringing in such parks and high-tech industry.

A month after the study was released, the county commissioners supported a new zoning classification to encourage development of high-tech business parks.

Under the proposal for an "employment campus zoning district," the county can designate parcels for use as business parks as part of its periodic reviews of zoning throughout the county. A public hearing on the proposal, scheduled for March, is required before the commissioners make a decision.

Carroll officials are also working to address the incomplete network of broadband DSL (digital subscriber line) lines, one of several barriers to attracting high-tech industry that was pinpointed in the study.

The county is continuing talks with Verizon to give the county wider broadband access, but recent personnel changes within the communications company have forced the county to re-establish contacts, Beaver said.

John T. "Jack" Lyburn Jr., the county's director of economic development, said Carroll is also speaking with Verizon competitors, checking for better rates and service.

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