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Harford ranks among best counties for employment gains

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Harford County is one of top 25 counties in the nation in employment and wage gains, according to a new federal Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

During Wednesday's Economic Development Advisory Board meeting in Aberdeen, county Economic Development Director Jim Richardson said Harford County was the third fastest county in the U.S., and first in the state, in over-the-year wage growth, increasing 8.8 percent from the second quarter of 2010 to second quarter 2011.

The average weekly wage in Harford County in the second quarter of 2011 was $890.

The increase "puts us as the third fastest growing weekly wage gaining county in the nation," Richardson said Thursday. "That means there is more money in Harford County's economy for circulation. Instead of the average citizen buying say, mac and cheese, they may be buying franks and beans, chicken and salad. It puts more in your disposable income."

From a retail side, he said, the wage increase speaks volumes.

"More disposable income brings in a new, different group of retail providers to serve the county," Richardson said, citing DSW and Home Goods as examples.

Harford also had the largest employment gain in Maryland, up 2.8 percent from June 2010 to June 2011.

In addition, Harford also ranked 108 out of 322 large counties in the country for average weekly wages.

It came as no surprise when Richardson also announced that Harford had a 6.2 percent unemployment rate in February, considerably less than the national average of 8.3 percent and the state's rate of 6.2 percent for the month.

Harford's unemployment rate has been on a steady downward track along with the nation's, he said.

"It's the economy turning around, and I also believe the statistics are catching up with employment numbers. It takes a while for new jobs to show up in the statistics," Richardson said. "The BRAC effect is truly showing."

APG carpooling, mass transit use urged

Representatives from Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor's BRAC office are encouraging carpools and mass transit for Aberdeen Proving Ground employees to alleviate traffic congestion, as on-post employment continues to grow in the aftermath of base realignment.

"The goals are incredibly high," Steven Overbay, BRAC coordinator for CSSC, said about reducing highway congestion and the post, but "[road] construction money is slow to come."

Painting a picture of BRAC's impact on APG and Harford County, Regional BRAC Manager Karen Holt said there could be upward of 32,000 people employed at APG by 2015. Around 27,000 people already work at the installation.

With so many employees commuting to and from APG every day, CSSC has been working to complete several transportation initiatives, including the Aberdeen multi-modal train station study and prioritizing the key intersections that impact the surrounding community.

Numerous other projects are still ongoing, however, such as implementing an enhanced train service to the installation, a Route 22 corridor study and constructing a new Edgewood MARC train station.

Another priority: an APG transportation management plan.

The point of the plan, Holt said, is "to get cars off the road and mitigate congestion."

Because of BRAC, Overbay said, APG bound traffic went up 70 to 145 percent between 2011 and 2012.

To reach their lofty goal of reducing traffic by 22 percent, CSSC is promoting alternatives to people commuting to and from work with just one person per vehicle.

They also hope to create an incentive program that encourages employees to carpool, giving the drivers reimbursements.

This all ties into CSSC's primary objectives, Overbay continued, which are to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips during weekdays and increasing mass transit use, including the MARC train, bus service and APG shuttle.

"We're looking for ways to support our installation," Overbay said.

'House of Cards' movie

Richardson recently had the opportunity to visit the production set of the Netflix original series "House of Cards," which stars Kevin Spacey.

At the set, Richardson said he saw "a small army of artisans working there," mostly from Harford County and some from Baltimore.

The Annapolis office of Spacey's character, a House of Representatives majority whip, has been recreated on the Edgewood soundstage.

Production is slated to begin in mid-April, Richardson added.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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