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OPINION: Planning for a Jobs Renaissance in Baltimore County

To achieve future growth, economic development initiatives should focus on shepherding key projects, while also supporting the anticipated workforce needs of businesses in essential industry sectors.

 

Recently, Baltimore County unveiled its strategy for fostering the growth of our local economy. This Strategic Operations Plan, prepared by the county's Department of Economic Development, is meant to coordinate various economic development initiatives in a manner that will best serve the needs of businesses and communities throughout the county.

The plan's recommendations focus on one of two key objectives. No. 1: The promotion of economic activity within nine business investment areas. No. 2: The growth of job opportunities in six identified industry sectors.

Of the nine communities identified within the plan, three are located on the east side of Baltimore County, with the one closest to Perry Hall being the White Marsh-Middle River growth area.

A number of game-changing transformations are cited within the report as evidence of favorable prospects for our area.  Positively for us, one of these (the expansion of in White Marsh) is well under way. By 2013, a new electric motor assembly facility will start production at this site, requiring an additional 200 employees. 

However, another of these game-changers seems to be halted on account of a rainy day, as it were. Back in 2008, Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) proposed a truly revolutionary project for our area.

The Nottingham Ridge community was envisioned as a mixed use development, to be located on 88 acres along Philadelphia Road east of White Marsh Mall. This combination of residential, commercial, hotel/conference space and offices would represent a $1 billion investment and generate numerous jobs in our area. 

Unfortunately, since the project was given final approval in June 2010, there has yet to be any development activity or progress toward initiating construction.

This is especially troublesome given that COPT has committed to a series of meaningful investments in the surrounding community as a condition of zoning approval.

Absent real construction, Baltimore County cannot take advantage of these funds, which would help support public amenities like parks/recreation and libraries. I would hope that the staff at the Department of Economic Development could see what needs to occur to end the time-out for this new development.

Looking beyond bricks and mortar projects, the county's economic development plan also highlights six industry sectors that warrant increased attention and support. The sectors identified include:

  1. Corporate Headquarters/Operations Centers/Shared Services
  2. Federal Agencies and Contractors
  3. Healthcare
  4. Information/Advanced Technology
  5. Manufacturing
  6. Port-Related Industries, Logistics & Distribution Centers

The report correctly identifies the importance of helping businesses operating within these various sectors to "recruit, train, and retain skilled talent."

If businesses that seek to expand cannot identify a sufficient quantity of highly trained employees, their ability to grow will most certainly be constrained. 

It would seem to me that in order to respond to this need, Baltimore County should work on developing a comprehensive, stand-alone Strategic Operations Plan to guide efforts for workforce development.

Economic development and workforce development must function as equal partners in order to effectively serve businesses in all of our high growth, high-demand industry sectors.

Are you optimistic about new growth and development in Perry Hall and White Marsh? Tell us in the comments.

Mypointofview February 28, 2012 at 04:44 AM
The "New" Strategic Operations Plan unveiled is just a rehash of the same old song that has been sung for years. It is just a new coat of paint on the same old barn. If history repeats - check out the campaign donations lists to find out who will get the County Exec's "promotion of economic activity" within those nine business investment areas.

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