Howard economic development CEO to retire

Richard W. 'Dick' Story leaves in March

November 18, 2010|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

Known for his radio-quality voice, his jokes and his success in helping Howard County achieve what one national magazine has called "economic powerhouse status," Richard "Dick" Story is planning to retire in March after 17 years as CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.

"He is simply the best," said Pam Klahr, CEO of the county chamber of commerce. "It will be a huge, huge hole," she said. "Everyone in Maryland knows Dick Story."

Story, 65, has held Howard's top economic development job since 1993, after several years at the same task in Baltimore County and a few more in private industry. He started in Carroll County after 16 years as a local radio personality and newsman. He said he had planned to retire Jan. 1, but County Executive Ken Ulman asked if he would stay a bit longer.

Known for his fluid on-air voice and his humor as a frequent master of ceremonies, he has often said that his job was made easier by Howard's natural attributes, starting with the county's strategic location between Baltimore and Washington, its proximity to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, and having Interstate 95 and Interstate 70 running through it.

Despite all that, Story said, the job could be quite challenging. The toughest single example, he said, was the complicated task of helping pave the way for expansion of the Dreyer's ice cream manufacturing plant on U.S. 1 in North Laurel — now the largest ice cream plant in the world.

To get it done, Dreyer's had to negotiate with 77 residents of a mobile home park on land needed for the project, build a big pre-treatment plant to avoid overburdening Howard's nearby wastewater treatment plant, and build a power station to serve the huge electricity needs.

Beyond individual cases, Story said, the continuing balancing act between private and government bosses was the toughest aspect of the job overall.

"It took a warped sense of humor and a sense of diplomacy," he said. Still, "It's the best job I've ever had." He said he plans to work a few more years, perhaps in the private sector. "I'd like to find a job to get back to 40-45 hours a week," he said jokingly.

"Over the past 17 years, I have seen Howard County's economy experience both boom and bust cycles, and we have always come out stronger," Story said in a prepared statement. "Howard County has become a national model for positive economic development and I am proud to have been part of the success," he said.

Story, who earns $166,000 before unpaid furlough days, gets credit for adding to those natural attributes from both Ulman, a Democrat, and from former executive Charles I. Ecker, a Republican who was in office when Story arrived.

"Dick has been instrumental in making Howard County such a desired location for businesses both big and small," Ulman said, crediting Story's work as the county's chief salesman with keeping Howard's unemployment rate the lowest in Maryland.

Ecker recalled that the authority had just been created when Story arrived. "I think he did a wonderful job," Ecker said, adding that "a good economic development person can enhance the attributes we have."

County Council Chairwoman Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat who in private life is an insurance executive for businesses, called Story "a tremendous asset to Howard County. He is the voice of Howard County. He is everywhere, at everything."

Peter Rogers Jr., chairman of the authority, also praised Story for performing "at a world-class level for many years."

Howard's Economic Development Authority is a combination private and public agency, so the authority board, working with Ulman and his administration, will search for a successor. The executive recommends a name to the board, which has the final choice.

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