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County economic strategy focuses on nine employment centers

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Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced on Feb. 14 a "strategic operations plan" for the county's Department of Economic Development, one that he said is focused on expanding the county's employment base.

"This more deliberate, strategic economic development focus builds on our county's core assets: a diverse business community with strengths in competitive business sectors, a highly-educated workforce, and excellent infrastructure that makes the most of our mid-Atlantic location," Kamenetz said in a news release.

The plan targets nine employment centers where private investment could bring "game changer" projects and improve overall growth in the following areas:

• The University of Maryland, Baltimore County and all of southwest Baltimore County.

• Federal Center at Woodlawn.

• The Liberty Road Corridor in Owings Mills.

• The Hunt Valley and the Interstate-83 corridor.

• Towson.

• White Marsh and Middle River.

• Essex and the Pulaski Highway corridor.

• Sparrows Point and Dundalk.

In Towson, the list of "game-changer" goals for the area includes a fully-leased Towson Commons complex, development in the Towson Triangle, a fully-leased Towson City Center, the completion of Towson Circle III, and additional high-rise apartments for empty-nesters and the university community.

The report notes several challenges in the market — including aging buildings that don't always meet corporate needs.

"Areas such as Federal Center at Woodlawn and Essex-Pulaski are dominated by older office and industrial buildings that often lack the functionality, energy efficiency and amenities that many companies seek in today's competitive real estate market," states the report.

According to the release, economic development efforts from the county should focus on meeting the needs of businesses in six high-growth employment clusters, with emphasis on corporate headquarters, federal agencies and contractors, health care and manufacturing.

The report outlines more than 20 "key objectives" for the county, including:

• Developing the UMBC-Southwest area as a premier location for cyber security and high growth companies.

• Championing redevelopment of the Spring Grove Hospital site to integrate amenities for the community and new facilities for technology-based firms.

• Making Woodlawn a location of choice for federal health and social services agencies and private businesses that support them – including modern offices and restaurants, hotels and retail options.

• Attracting more professional office space, local and nationally recognized retailers and restaurants to the Liberty Road corridor to complement its residential communities.

• Bringing to fruition a fully built-out, signature-designed Owings Mills downtown area with access to transit and a mix of retail, residential and entertainment uses.

• Enhancing the appeal of the Hunt Valley I-83 Corridor as a location for corporate, manufacturing and R&D facilities.

• Making Towson a dynamic, contemporary destination with appealing residences, corporate offices and distinctive retailers, drawing people to live, work, shop, dine and socialize.

• Promoting White Marsh-Middle River area as a premier live-work community with connections to the rest of the mid-Atlantic region.

The report also focuses on the new Small Business Loan Partnership to help small businesses access capital for growth. The Department of Economic Development will work with 20 private financial institutions to leverage $12.35 million in a loan pool for real estate and fixed-asset loans for companies.

The county will also launch "Source Local," a campaign to grow county businesses by encouraging companies to use county vendors and support other local firms and services.

"Given the enormity of today's economic challenges, we concluded that our new approach to economic development must start from the investor's perspective," said Daniel Gundersen, executive director of the Department of Economic Development, in the release.

"This plan looks at what businesses need in order to grow and create jobs, then drills down to how we can work together to improve the economic climate, target resources, and form new collaborative ventures," he said.

The full Baltimore County Department of Economic Development Strategic Operations Plan is available at http://www.baltimorecountybusiness.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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