Cumberland Times-News

July 30, 2013

County officials to consider economic development plan

Rural counties coalition also up for discussion at Thursday meeting

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND  — Allegany County commissioners will consider the new county Economic Development Plan, to be presented by Matthew Diaz, the director of economic and community development, at their public meeting Thursday.

Economic development in the county has been a sore spot since Allegany County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stu Czapski, a member of the economic development work group, caused a stir when he said the county has no vision for economic development.

Diaz has said the county’s economic development office is putting the finishing touches on a new strategic plan.

The plan will contain goals and ideas aimed at economic development.

The work group, originally formed last fall, has reviewed the strategic plan several times over the past few months, Diaz said.

The group supports the county’s strategic plan, local businessman Tom Finan recently said.

Its goal is to find a way to assess successes and failures in the county’s economic development efforts; so to that end, Thomas Sigerstad, a professor at Frostburg State University, is developing a series of metrics to measure economic development in the county, Finan said.

The metrics will allow the county to see where things stand now and measure whether the strategic plan implementation is successful, Finan said.

The discussion will take place during Thursday’s commission meeting at 5 p.m. at county offices on Kelly Road.

Also on the agenda is an update on the Rural Counties Coalition during a work session at 4 p.m.

The coalition of rural Maryland counties is already beginning preparations for the 2014 legislative session, said Allegany County Commissioner and Maryland Rural Counties Coalition chairman Michael McKay.

While some things haven’t been decided yet, McKay believes the coalition will hire a lobbyist, as it has for the past two legislative sessions. A full update for his fellow commissioners and county staff is planned for the commission work session. The update will be presented by Frederick County Commissioner Blaine Young, a founder of the coalition.

Funds forwarded by member counties are primarily used for lobbying efforts, including a reception for legislators.

The coalition includes Allegany, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick, Kent, Somerset, Washington and Wicomico counties. These elected officials represent nearly a million Marylanders.

The organization is not meant as a rival to the Maryland Association of Counties, McKay has said. He said there is a need, though, for the rural coalition as an independent organization.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.