Howard's new development chief

Running the economic development office of a local jurisdiction with all the resources of Howard County is a job probably any business leader with ambition and vision would love to have.

The man who has it, as of this week, is Richard W. Story, a 48-year-old Reisterstown resident who has held economic development posts in both the public and private sectors around the Baltimore area since 1979.


It's not hard to see why the Howard development job would be desirable. The county has a great deal going for it, including a prime location in the region and a well-educated, highly-paid populace.

Yet Mr. Story will surely find that his new role poses a number of challenges. For starters, he must act quickly to establish the kind of presence and commitment that would soothe the citizens, politicians and business people who worry that the office is unstable after changing directors twice in nine months.


Mr. Story will also have to oversee his office's transition next March to an economic development "authority" funded by private donations and public grants as well as by tax dollars. The authority will aim especially to spur enough commercial growth to meet County Executive Charles Ecker's goal of shifting more of the local tax burden from residents to businesses.

That sounds sensible. But as they begin this new direction, Mr. Story and other officials must take pains to strike a balance between carefully planned growth that benefits the county and the kind of rapacious, uncontrolled growth that can end up doing harm.

More immediately, Mr. Story will be involved in the continuing negotiations with Coca-Cola Enterprises over land acquisition for a waste-water treatment facility abutting Coke's planned bottling and syrup plant in Dorsey. This project of major importance to both the state and the county will have to he handled delicately to ensure success.

Another possible challenge for the new development czar is the limited staff and budget with which he will work. That means he'll be more directly involved in boosting existing Howard businesses and landing new ones for the county than he otherwise might have been.

A desirable job, yes, in a desirable jurisdiction, but one with challenges that must be surmounted if Howard is to continue moving forward in economic development.