Howard County is the wealthiest locality in Maryland and the sixth wealthiest nationwide, according to the U.S. News & World Report.
The report analyzed median household incomes and ranked the top 15 localities with the highest numbers. Howard County, Maryland’s sixth-largest county with 332,317 residents in the 2020 census, was reported to have a median household income of $124,042.
The top spot on the list belongs to Loudoun County, Virginia, with a median household income of $147,111. Howard County was the only Maryland jurisdiction to make the list.
In addition to being the wealthiest locality in the state, Howard County was ranked 18th nationally in the magazine’s list of healthiest communities for 2022.
“I think it just reaffirms our dedication and commitment to an excellent quality of life for all,” County Executive Calvin Ball said in an interview about the wealth ranking.
While Ball said he was happy with this designation, he added there’s still work to be done. He said one in every six county residents report having food insecurity. Additionally, some residents face problems with housing affordability, mental health and transportation.
To address the housing crisis, Ball announced a $5 million investment that will create a Housing Opportunities Trust Fund to assist first-time homebuyers and make housing more affordable.
“I think what the pandemic has shown us is that there are people in every ZIP code, in every neighborhood, who are struggling, who are potentially vulnerable to significant health challenges, whether that’s physical or mental health, to being laid off, to, because we have so many entrepreneurs, supply chain challenges,” Ball said. “And so I think that at any given time, we have neighbors who are struggling, and we’re going to continue to support our neighbors and help them not only survive but to thrive.”
Alicyn DelZoppo, a county resident and real estate agent with Northrop Realty, said while she’s not surprised about Howard being the wealthiest locality, she’s worried the title comes with unintended consequences.
“I do worry about having that title because then people don’t think that they can live here,” DelZoppo said. “And in addition to that, the flip, people forget that there are people that have trouble living here in general.”
While he doesn’t expect the report to have much impact on Howard’s business landscape, Leonardo McClarty, president of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, said the distinction highlights the benefits of working and living in the county.
Further, he said the location of Howard, its accessibility to Interstate 95 and its inclusivity of those with diverse backgrounds, cultures and viewpoints make the area attractive to potential businesses and residents.
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“I think part of it just comes from having an atmosphere where people are accepted and can be accepted for who they are,”McClarty said. “So I think that’s certainly something that is extremely, extremely positive as well.”
Aisha Applewhite and Kevin Applewhite, co-owners of AppleCore’s Bake Shoppe in Savage and Howard residents, said the county has supported small businesses, especially minority-owned ones such as AppleCore, and provided them with opportunities to expand.
“There’s always more to be done, but our county has definitely stepped in, and stepped up, and done a lot,” Kevin Applewhite said.
Audrey Fix Schaefer, spokesperson for Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, said the distinction is “pretty fantastic,” and the concert venue is lucky to be a part of the county’s growing economy.
“We’re a magnet for other economic generation for other businesses,” Fix Schaefer said.
Additionally, Ball and McClarty cited the county’s highly ranked school system as reasoning for its desirability. In 2021, the school system of approximately 57,293 students had a 94.05% graduation rate, according to Maryland State Department of Education data, second best in the Baltimore area to Carroll County’s 94.99%.
“I think as businesses see that we have a high concentration of the highest educated population, that we are the safest city, that we continue to make record investments in police and fire,” Ball said. And now that we have this designation, I think we’re going to be even more competitive when businesses look to invest anywhere in the nation.”