Letter: Executive Craig's take on workforce training grant


On July 10, the Harford County Council approved a Workforce Technical Training Grant in the amount of $100,000 for a company headquartered in Edgewood at the request of my administration. I thank the Council for their support on this specific project and for their shared commitment to economic development in the county.

By granting the company these matching funds, they were able to leverage a $750,000 loan package from the state. The company, which currently has 222 employees at their Edgewood facility, will have 325 employees by the end of 2013, at an average salary of $72,000 as a result of these funds, which would provide an additional $100,000 to $130,000 in income tax revenue to the county annually. In addition, the company will be making $1.25 million in improvements to their facility in Edgewood, which will generate approximately $32,500 in additional revenue to the county each year.

Access to a skilled work force is a key factor in a company's decision to relocate or expand. Workforce development is a partnership among government, higher education, K-12 schools, and industry seeking to foster a productive, skilled, and competitive workforce. The Office of Economic Development (OED) offers the Workforce Technical Training Grant on a competitive basis, and these grants provide incentives to local companies to accelerate the delivery of technical training for employees. Over the last three years OED has provided training grants to more than 75 Harford County companies, both large and small, and within a broad range of industries.

Our economic incentives help secure our county's competitiveness in attracting jobs and business growth to our area. New jobs support Harford County families and these families support other Harford County businesses, thereby strengthening and growing our local economy. As other states and jurisdictions have been forced to raise taxes, here in Harford County our efforts to expand our tax base have allowed us to twice cut our tax rate and reduce the property tax cap. It is my intention to continue efforts to expand our tax base so that we can continue to lower the tax burden on individuals and families. Helping businesses grow makes lowering taxes possible.

A lot has been made of the fact that the company involved in our most recent business incentive program has their global headquarters in London. That is true, however the US headquarters for the company is right here in Edgewood. The employees are Americans. The supervisors are Americans. And many of them are Harford County residents and taxpayers. When they have job vacancies, Harford Countians have the ability to apply and have the opportunity to be hired. We are thrilled to have them in Harford County, and we were happy that we were able to assist them.

There are two ways to maintain government services in an inflationary environment: raise taxes and fees or expand the tax base. A true capitalist will seek to expand the tax base. Corporations coming to an area pay salaries and those county residents pay income taxes, the company also pays utility fees, real property tax, and personal property taxes. New companies also use existing business services which multiplies the positive impact on the local economy.

The market for attracting new businesses is extremely competitive and global in nature. Some states and counties offer low cost or no cost land plus free water and sewer services. Other states have extremely large funds that are used to entice firms. As examples, Delaware just landed an Amazon distribution center with a $6 million package, while Texas saw the expansion of Apple in Austin as a result of a significant contribution on the state's part.

Maryland has a significantly high cost of doing business. There must be some incentive for company executives to give us a look. Empty warehouses and offices have the same effect as empty houses in a neighborhood. When an area is void of activity, those that are doing business tend to leave as well.

Business-friendly states like our neighbor Virginia are showing how government can help attract job creators in order to expand the tax base and enhance the workforce. Under the leadership of Gov. Bob McDonnell, Virginia has distributed millions of dollars in loans and grants to businesses large and small, so that they can relocate, expand, or train employees. Virginia's unemployment rate is 5.7 percent compared to Maryland's 6.9 percent and the nation's 8.2 percent. While Virginia has had a net gain in jobs this calendar year, Maryland has a net loss. Maryland lost 11,000 jobs last month alone according to preliminary reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite this, Harford County has gained 5,000 jobs since the beginning of 2010.

Sadly, many of the businesses that have relocated to Virginia did so by leaving Maryland. Rather than creating an environment welcoming to businesses, Maryland has driven both small businesses and large corporations out of the state due to over-taxation and over-regulation. This must change.

Unlike President Obama, I do not feel that government is responsible for business success in America. It is the entrepreneur and the innovator who take risks and make sacrifices who have made this country the world's number one economy. I do, however, feel that a business-friendly government can play a role in fostering an environment where a business can grow and thrive.

Just as the President is wrong for insinuating that it is government, rather than the entrepreneur, that builds a business, so too are those so-called conservatives who would have us turn our backs on businesses when they come knocking on our door.

Harford County Executive David R. Craig

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