It may seem a bit of an exaggeration to label a span of only two years an "era," but that is what Howard County experienced in the tenure of recently departed economic development director Dyan Brasington.
Ms. Brasington, who left last week to lead economic development efforts for the state of West Virginia, deserves credit for shepherding Howard County's business development office away from the step-child status it held when she came here from Montgomery County in 1990.
The task of her successor, William H. Howard Jr., a former banking executive from Ellicott City, is far different. With the county seeking state legislative approval to turn the economic development office into a quasi-governmental authority, and with hopeful signs for the economy, Mr. Howard's stewardship comes at a critical juncture.
A special authority will give the local business community, which felt ignored during the term of then-County Executive Elizabeth Bobo, greater representation in mapping the county's development future. It would also give whatever authority is created greater leeway in raising funds and dispensing them on special projects.
Funding flexibility could prove beneficial in the quick maneuvering often necessary in competing with other jurisdictions to attract new business. The county must attract enough new business to fill a vast pool of office vacancies, which impact on tax appraisals and ultimately threatens the county's bond ratings. By targeting foreign, bio-medical and distribution industries, officials hope to attract the kind of firms interested in Howard County's strategic location between Baltimore and Washington.
Coca-Cola Enterprises' recent decision to establish a regional headquarters in Dorsey was a plus for which Ms. Brasington can claim some credit. Mr. Howard must work to make his era as distinguished as the previous one. To his credit, his banking background suits him for his new role.
One potential pitfall lies in there being a split between the goals of a quasi-independent authority and those of county officials. As long as County Executive Charles I. Ecker is in office, however, the county and its development office are likely to be in sync and Mr. Howard should enjoy a period -- or dare we say it, an era -- of smooth sailing.