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Industrial growth plan approved Aim is to point agencies in county to shared goals


After almost seven months of work, the Carroll County Economic Development Commission approved its plan for the county's future industrial growth at the monthly meeting yesterday.

Commission members began working on the plan last November to ensure that all municipalities, county government agencies and commissions were pursuing the same goals for industrial growth.

"Our industrial base is going the wrong way," said commission member Michael Burden, who led the group in developing the plan. "We need to all move in one direction."

The plan will now be sent to the county commissioners for review and to receive comments from the public.

A primary concern of the group was that 55 percent of Carroll's residents work outside the county. In addition, since 1985, the county's industrial base has grown by only 50 percent, while residential growth has doubled.

"The demand for services is increasing each day, and we're moving in the direction of having to make some hard choices," Mr. Burden said at yesterday's work session. "We don't want that to happen.

"We want to see industry grow so the county can provide the services everyone would like to see."

Commission members determined that the county spends $1.22 in residential services for each dollar collected from residential taxes. Industries use only 55 cents in services from each dollar the county collects in industrial taxes.

Also, industrial and commercial taxes generate 26 percent of total county tax revenue.

"Industry and commercial development is supporting the services for residents, and that's the way it should be," Mr. Burden said.

The plan, about 10 pages long, is divided into four areas of concentration: Carroll's work force and competition with other counties, industrial land, infrastructure and financial needs.

Each section and the executive summary contains a goal and several objectives for reaching it.

"There are studies on my desk that I haven't even touched, but I've read this one and can comprehend what's in there," said Commissioner President Donald I. Dell, commending the commission for writing the plan concisely.

"When I saw this yesterday, I couldn't believe it was the whole project," he said.

The plan's overall strategic goal is to increase the county's commercial and industrial tax base to 17 percent by the year 2000, generating $4.2 million in additional revenue annually.

Currently, commercial and industrial properties make up 14 percent of the county's assessable tax base, with less than 3 percent coming from the industrial sector.

Commission members plan to stress growth in the industrial sector, while maintaining current levels of residential and agricultural growth.

"The benchmark in most communities is 25 percent," said Mr. Burden. "However, industrial growth has dropped a point and a half since 1984. That growth has all been commercial growth."

In the work force section, the commission proposed creating a positive economic development attitude by forming a trouble-shooting task force to help new businesses locate in Carroll, educating the public about the importance of industrial development, and maintaining a strong educational system.

Commission members also suggested a new professional staff position be added to the county's economic development office.

"The Economic Development Office is spread pretty thin," Mr. Burden said. "As we see an increase in activity, we will need a lot of coordination between groups to move forward with the plan.

"We see a need for increased staff and feel that will be money well spent."

Plans to increase the quality and quantity of industrially zoned land would be carried out by an Economic Development Commission industrial land committee, which would look at zoning ordinances and examine whether industrially zoned land

is being used for industry.

The group, which has already chosen a few sites to focus on, will also determine how much acreage the county should designate for industrial uses.

"We need to identify what is marketable and preserve it," Mr. Burden said.

Building infrastructure, including water and sewer, that will support industrial growth will be accomplished by establishing a standing committee to coordinate with the industrial land committee, group members said.

Also, the commission suggested creating a 10-year plan for infrastructure improvements and aggressively working to get state money and support for Westminster and Hampstead-Manchester bypasses and the relocation of Route 97.

Commission members thought Mr. Dell's plans for the extension of Interstate 795 should be studied before the group supported or rejected them.

"I don't think we have enough information to take a stand [on the project]," Mr. Burden said. "But we do need creative answers to problems that we know we might not encounter for 20 or 30 years down the road."

The plan also suggests that a commission financial committee help oversee the financial health of the county as well as individual projects, such as the Air Business Center.

"I think that [the Air Business Center] would be a great project for a case study," Mr. Burden said. "We think it is a great success, but the usage might not have been maximized as it should. It might come out that the project is not supporting itself."

Commission members and the county commissioners will have a work session about the plan on June 14, Mr. Burden said.

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