Karl Brendle, a longtime city employee overseeing zoning and planning, has been named the city's economic development officer, a move that Mayor Craig Moe says will increase the city's focus on the emerging issue.
"I felt it was time to focus more citywide on our economic development efforts. We want to make sure we are talking with the businesses community, " Moe said. "Karl has the vision. He understands long term what we are trying to do."
Brendle, 59, has been with the city for more than 25 years, and has served as director of Community Planning and Business Services for the last eight years. Jack Brock, the former deputy director of the department, was named acting director by Moe following Brendle's change in jobs, which occurred on Oct. 1.
Moe said he will nominate Brock to become director at the Oct. 15 City Council meeting, a move that is expected to be confirmed by the council.
"I am really pleased that both Karl and Jack accepted the positions. I think they understand where they are going with it," he said.
Moe said he plans to keep the deputy spot vacated by Brock open, and he added that there will be no impact on the budget as the result of the changes.
Brendle will be shifted underneath the City Administrator's office. He said the change will allow him to focus on economic development, although he said he still will be involved with zoning, especially during the transition.
One of his biggest responsibilities, he said, will be working with the Community Redevelopment Authority, an extension of the city that identifies and advocates for the redevelopment of downtrodden parts of the city.
Brendle identified one particular area that is crucial to the city's long-term economic plans: The Route 1 corridor.
"A lot of it is revitalizing the Route 1 corridor," he said. "We are trying to look at coming from Howard County as a gateway; the CRA is looking at that."
Brendle said the momentum created by the development at Towne Centre at Laurel will be key as the city looks toward redevelopment.
"There is going to be a catalytic effect," Brendle said.
The $130 million, 400,000-square-foot mixed-use project opened its first store in April, Burlington Coat Factory, a long-time Laurel business. Party City and Massage Envy also opened last summer.
In July, the developer announced five new restaurants would open in the development: Buffalo Wild Wings, Nando's Peri Peri, Sarku Japan, Moe's Southwest Grill and Extreme Pita. Also under construction are Modo Nail Bar and Hair Cuttery.
Both Moe and Brendle said another element of the economic development officer position will be working with the state and federal government on grant programs, tax credit and other economic incentives.