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County commissioner candidates weigh in on economic development, jobs

It doesn't matter if the problem is aging infrastructure or inadequate services, people believe that economic development is always the answer to government issues.

That's because economic development brings in more companies and employees to help pay for the services, facilities and infrastructure provided by Carroll County government. Carroll has struggled to generate revenue because there has never been a large tax base.

As a result, services and infrastructure have begun to suffer. Candidates for the five open seats on the Carroll County Board of Commissioners were asked to weigh in on economic development and job growth.

We asked all 20 of the candidates for the board of commissioners: What will you do to encourage more economic development and job growth in Carroll?

Here are the responses from the candidates who chose to answer the question:

District 1

Cynthia L. Foley, Republican: Chose not to answer the question

Robin Bartlett Frazier, Republican incumbent: Businesses and families are still struggling in today's economy. Seniors on fixed incomes are having trouble paying their taxes, small businesses are hesitating to expand due to the uncertainty of inviting new code requirements and the unknown of the effects of ObamaCare, plus never-ending new fees, taxes, water/sewer increases and regulations. Seniors and families are working two and three jobs to keep up with the rising costs. The county should focus on retaining the businesses we have, and finding relief for families. The same actions that help us retain business will help us attract new business and give Carroll families relief. We need to reduce taxes, look for solutions to rising utility costs, find ways to be more efficient in county government so local bureaucracy doesn't grow and push back on over-reaching regulations and policies, like the "Rain Tax."

Jackie Jones, Democrat: Suggest the development office closely work with the Maryland Development Office. Add a little more funding to be able to do more of an outreach, locating businesses to transfer to Carroll County. I'd like to see more agriculture related businesses.

Tina Mawhinney, Republican: To promote more economic development and job growth in Carroll County I would solicit businesses outside the county and let them know of all the empty space we have available that has infrastructure in place and affordable rent.

Stephen Albert Wantz, Republican: We currently have a very strong and active economic development office and I would assure they continue and even step up their efforts with any support needed. I would support our Career amd Tech Center and the Carroll Community College to assure local job and education training reaches our local job market. I would improve communication by working regularly with our municipalities and their economic development efforts to support main street development. I will work with the Chamber of Commerce and associated small business organizations. I would work to streamline permit and inspections procedures and eliminate or lower tax rates for certain industry. I would sit down with bankers and Realtors to fill empty buildings to allow for balance in our communities. Most importantly, funding education because its one of the main reasons businesses and families relocate here.

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District 2

C. Richard Weaver, Republican: Job growth starts with the development of small businesses. We need to have a small business incentive package that makes Carroll County attractive. This may be different for each business according to their needs. Each tax on small businesses needs to be carefully evaluated.

William Niner, Republican: I will encourage citizens to buy locally especially at small businesses. People spending their money locally will help stimulate and grow the local economy. With increased spending locally it will increase demand at local businesses. Increased demand at a business means people will be hired to work locally — therefore creating local jobs. Carroll County needs to be more business friendly and let local businesses grow instead of having so much red tape.

Brian K. DiMaggio, Republican: I believe our county's view of business is somewhat flawed. It only views new business as a way to increase our commercial tax base. This is absurd and doesn't even identify the most valuable thing businesses bring to this county, and that is jobs not taxes. I believe we should change the structure of our economic development to a model that moves some of our current staff into a position of project managers similar to what Howard County does. These project managers would then be responsible for guiding new and expanding businesses from start to finish through what is often a very complicated process. This would keep them from being bounced back and forth between county agencies, and from getting bad information and advice. Additionally, I would not continue our current practice of lending to businesses with bad credit. Our county should not be in the High Risk Loan Business.

District 3

Mae Alexander, Unaffiliated: Chose not to answer the question

Dennis Frazier, Republican: I will push for a high speed fiber optic system in all business and industrial parks. We have started this in the City of Westminster and the buzz it has created is great. We have been asked many times to include other businesses in the pilot programs and if they can't be included now how soon until the whole city is up and running? Businesses want this and will come when we build it.

Matthew P. Holbert, Republican: I plan to help establish local craft making opportunities, as well as supporting local businesses by lowering the tax rate on local and small businesses and increasing the tax rate on conglomerates.

Lyn Mallick, Republican: One of my focuses will be to strengthen the existing small businesses — the true job creators. We will need to identify regulations which hinder growth. Equally we need to be proactive with our tax policies in order to mitigate state and federal actions.

Kenneth J. Mercer, Republican: Carroll needs to move its current fiber optic network system that is currently at all county buildings and public schools from stagnant to available for commercial use immediately. In addition we need to find suitable land for commercial development without changing the character of Carroll. Last I plan to incorporate the Chamber of Commerce, key private industry business owners and education into the mix of the office of economic development actively promoting and recruiting industry to move to Carroll County.

Dave Roush, Republican incumbent: The first thing we need is more land zoned for industrial/commercial use. Then we need to provide infrastructure — roads, water, sewer — to that land. When a business is looking for a place to locate, the need for a decision is current. That business will not wait to see if appropriately zoned land will provide an appropriate site and be ready to go at some time in the indefinite future. We also need to streamline the project/site plan approval process so that once a business decides to come to Carroll County, they have a positive experience. We also need to be in regular contact with the site locators that businesses rely on when looking for new locations. We need to promote each successful location so that business people will know that Carroll County is friendly and open for business.

Maria Warburton, Democrat: Chose not to answer the question

District 4

Barbara Joan Biller, Republican: Commercialization of a portion of the Carroll County Fiber Network to provide access to high-speed internet will make the difference between vacant commercial space, local companies having access to new markets and businesses being attracted to coming to Carroll. Bring new revenue into the community by encouraging local business to expand their market reach both nationally and internationally. On April 21, I was a panel speaker at the Maryland District Export Council's International Trade Forum held in Montgomery County entitled "Competing for a place in the Global Economy." My company has customers in 26 states across the U.S. and began exporting in 2005. I bring first-hand experience and a network of colleagues who can share expertise with Carroll companies. When companies successfully expand to new markets, typically jobs are created to fill the demand.

Richard Rothschild, Republican incumbent: Lower taxes, shovel-ready sites, simplified regulations and education choice (Education Opportunity Fund) help attract executives to Carroll. They also want to locate in a county where elected officials will defend their companies from government gone wild. Strong conservative officials that are willing to stand their ground against hostile federal and state regulations create a sense of stability for executives. This encourages investment. On the other hand, we must remember that most of our citizens moved here to escape the intense commercialization of many surrounding counties. Citizens do not want Carroll turned into another Gaithersburg or Randallstown.

Sean Shaffer, Republican: I want to make it easier for citizens to start their own businesses and increase the job skills and abilities of our students. By improving the talent pool we can attract businesses without our students leaving the county for jobs and supporting local businesses will create opportunities without relying on outside corporations coming into the county.

District 5

Cathey Allison, Republican: Chose not to answer the question

Doug Howard, Republican incumbent: Since taking office in 2010, I have made economic development a top priority. It is vitally important that the county continue to improve its ability to attract and retain companies. This is done primarily by our commitment to keep moving toward lower taxes and our commitment to keeping Carroll County schools the very best in the State of Maryland. Due to anti-business policies of the state, it is harder and harder to attract businesses from other states to locate here. And yet Carroll County, through our sustained marketing efforts, has recently seen the relocation of a women's clothing manufacturer from New York to Carroll. We also can look within the state to find companies that desire to be in this general area, but find a competitive advantage in Carroll due to our lower costs of land and operation, educated workforce and access to broadband. I strongly support good economic development.

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