Howard County business to get a dose of 'Eckernomics' County economics chief submits development plan to Charles Ecker.


Howard County Economic Development Director Dyan Brasington may have coined a new word for the lexicon of local residents when she unveiled the county's 20-year-economic development plan.

"It's Eckernomics," she said, referring to Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker, who was handed the plan yesterday. "It's doing something with nothing."

Brasington conceded that the plan, which contains sweeping goals for the county, avoids placing a price tag on its recommendations. But, she said that for the most part private, state and federal dollars would foot the bill.

The plan, which is the work of a subcomittee of the county's Economic Development Advisory Committee, proposes that the county will have some of the following by the year 2011:

* Affordable housing.

* A public transportation system that easily carries commuters to Baltimore and Washington.

* A small business development center; a revolving loan or venture capital fund; grants to encourage exporting; and a center to service agricultual businesses.

* Howard County will be an established center for health-related businesses and institutions, scientific research, as well as for light manufacturing.

However in 1991, Howard County has an incomplete east-west road system on Maryland routes 100, 32 and 216. Projected traffic volumes are growing faster than the state's ability to add highway capacity.

The county doesn't have a incubator program for small businesses or venture capital fund.

A family needs a yearly income of about $67,700 to afford to buy a new house in Howard County. Average prices range from $150,000 to $185,000 for new townhouses and from $210,000 to $250,000 for new and existing single-family detached houses. Young families and first-time buyers are literally being priced out of the new home market, according a county housing report released last month.

While the plan addresses the issue of affordable housing, it does not say how the county is going to encourage developers to build affordable housing.

How much is it going to cost to build affordable housing?

"You can't put a price tag on advocacy," Brasington answered following the official release of the plan.

Ecker said the county is exploring several options that include allowing developers to build more houses closer together, increasing the density for houses, as long as a certain amount are designated for low-to-moderate priced homes. However, the plan doesn't lay out any specifics in that area.

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