"House of Cards" set up shop in Harford County three years ago and its economic impact has been felt ever since.
The wildly popular Netflix series has drawn hundreds, if not thousands, to a host of casting calls for extras, but what it's done for Harford County and its economy is even more significant, so much so that the Harford County Office of Economic Development introduced a new honor for this year's Harford Awards. The Economic Enhancement Award was created specifically to recognize Knight Takes King, the production company for "House of Cards," the political thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.
As the name suggests, the new Economic Enhancement Award was presented to a company or organization, the producers of "House of Cards," that significantly impacted the business climate of Harford County through increased employment opportunities and revenue flow.
"I would say in terms of working with that many local businesses, I can't think of any other business, except Aberdeen Proving Ground, that had an impact as far as local businesses they contracted with," Denise Carnaggio, deputy director of the office of economic development, said. "They're here for a short time, but they have a huge impact when they're here."
That impact is about $200 million for both seasons, including working with 300 Harford businesses during season one and 475 for season two, which also included 1,600 people, Carnaggio said. No details are available for season three, work on which began in May and will continue through mid-December.
Local companies that have benefited include Arrow Electrical Supply, The Mill of Bel Air, Tractor Supply Company, Edgewood Thrift and Chesaco RV, according to the Maryland Film Office.
The Harford Awards are presented every year to local businesses and organizations for their commitment to the Harford County community. These groups are honored for their focus, vision and determination to improve the quality of life in Harford County, according to a press release announcing the winners.
Each winner demonstrated business growth, increased employment, service to the community, unique and creative business strategies, technology innovation, support of public and private education, as well as diligent work to enhance Harford County's business climate.
Other Harford Awards were presented to:
• Ecotone Inc.: Entrepreneur Category Winner – James Morris and Scott McGill founded Ecotone in 1998. Their vision to preserve Maryland's natural landscape and enhance the water quality of the state's streams has come to fruition through their dedication and creativity.
• It's PayDay: Service Category Winner - It is easy to find testimonials from the 500-plus companies served by It's PayDay. In one way or another, they say "we are happy customers." A desire to provide a needed service to small and medium-size businesses spurred owners George and Kathy Heidelmaier to put their efforts into their small business.
• The Laurrapin Grille: Main Street Category Winner - "Laurrapin" is not a term familiar to most, but one that some folks in Harford County know and sometimes repeat. It is an Appalachian word meaning "tasty," which summarizes the food visitors will find at the Laurrapin Grille on Washington Street in downtown Havre de Grace. Owners Bruce and Sherifa Clarke has their eatery offering daily specials, live music and farm-to-table food.
• The Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County: Non-Profit Category Winner - Imagine 4,000 young people, ages 6 to 18, being guided to work, play and learn together. The Boys & Girls Clubs are building leaders by celebrating the talents of Harford County's precious resource: children.
• Raytheon: R&D Technology Category Winner - Raytheon is a defense contractor focused on performance, involvement in the community and focus on customer relations. Since its move to Harford County in 2010, Raytheon has become an integral part of the area. The firm's dedication to serving the community and the warfighters has made a meaningful impression on the county.
• Harman's Farm Market: Retail Category Winner - The year was 1988 and two young people pulled a red wagon filled with their corn and tomatoes out to Route 22 for sale to the public. Today, employees welcome customers to a 26-acre farm where they can pick their own strawberries and pumpkins, as well as buy produce and flowers. Owners and farmers Tom and Paula Harman are the ones who started the retail operation.
As for the winner of the new Economic Enhancement Award, "House of Cards" has filmed throughout Harford in its three seasons, most recently in Churchville and Aberdeen.
Two weeks ago, crews were filming in a residence as well as at Union United Methodist Church in Aberdeen, where the American Legion was also turned into Bettenberg Union Hall. Filming was also being done at the Churchville Quarry off of Route 136.
During the summer of 2012, some scenes were shot in and around Havre de Grace, which served as a stand-in for the South Carolina hometown of Spacey's character, Frank Underwood.
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Last summer, crews were shooting on a residential street in West Bel Air and at an Edgewood apartment complex.
"House of Cards" has several undisclosed Harford County locations used for staging and filming interior scenes
Production employees also spent a total of 4,600 nights in Harford hotels during season one, according to the county's economic development office.
The show has been a major boon, "if you look at the numbers and you look at the 300-some businesses that they have worked with for supplies, electrical, all the stuff that they have done there, and they have employed over 1,000 people from the area for things they need done there," Harford County Councilman Dion Guthrie said in April.
"The comeback to the community is fantastic; it really is," he added.
The Harford County Chamber of Commerce strives to be the premiere networking and business development organization in Harford County. Through a series of more than 40 annual diverse networking opportunities, innovative programming and partnered events, businesses can be showcased to the local and regional market. Through its legislative efforts, the Harford County Chamber of Commerce advocates for the business community at the county and state levels while educating its members on key areas of legislation and regulation that will impact businesses.
The 2014 Harford Awards were formally presented Sept. 10 at a dinner hosted by the Harford County Chamber of Commerce at the Richlin Ballroom. The event was made possible by the support of sponsors, including the Harford County Office of Economic Development, Harford County Public Library, BG&E, The Daily Record and Harford Community College.