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Harford County executive highlights economic growth in annual address to Chamber of Commerce

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Harford County Executive Barry Glassman highlighted successes of his first term while looking ahead to the next four years in his annual address to the Harford County Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

“I am pleased to report that the state of Harford County is strong, and our amazing turnaround story continues and bodes well for my next term,” Glassman said.

He was the keynote speaker at the chamber’s State of the County Luncheon, held at the Water’s Edge Events Center in Belcamp. Glassman spoke to an audience of county government, public safety and education leaders, as well as municipal officials and representatives of local businesses that make up the chamber’s membership.

While Glassman’s speech was billed as a “State of Harford County Address,” it was not his official State of the County speech delivered to the County Council at the start of the year. He will deliver that address to the council in early February, as required by the county charter pertaining to the State of the County address that follows an election year.

Glassman was re-elected to a second term leading the county government last November. He was recently named the 2019 president of the Maryland Association of Counties.

“Barry has stayed true to his core values in terms of roots in public service, promoted a spirit of giving back to the county, the county he proudly calls home,” Bob Gilbert, president of MedStar Ambulatory Services, said as he introduced Glassman.

MedStar Health, which operates a medical campus off of Route 924 in Bel Air South, was the primary sponsor of Thursday’s event.

Glassman showed two short videos promoting Harford County as a premier destination to invest in a business or live, based on its proximity to Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City along I-95, the presence of the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground — Harford’s largest employer — strong finances, schools, and multiple recreational opportunities, including the minor-league Aberdeen IronBirds baseball team.

“Our economy is growing, and we have made key investments in education and public safety,” he said.

He highlighted recent accomplishments in the county’s finances, such as maintaining the county’s top AAA bond rating and recently raising $40 million through the annual bond sale for capital projects at 2.79 percent interest, the fifth straight year the county has sold bonds at below 3 percent interest.

Glassman said home values “have fully recovered from the depths of the Great Recession,” with a nearly 11 percent increase in the assessable base since its lowest point in 2014. He said the real estate market has stabilized and is on a “sustainable growth pattern of about 2 percent a year.”

He said the county issues about 700 to 800 permits for new residential development each year, and he hopes to increase that to 1,000 to 1,200 as young renters get older, start families and look for a house, so a new “burst” in residential permits is expected in the coming years.

“Harford County is a great place to settle down,” Glassman said.

Glassman reviewed the development of a 24-hour crisis center in Bel Air to serve people dealing with mental health or addiction issues. He said Gov. Larry Hogan recently pledged $750,000 to complete the the facility.

He said the local crisis hotline has fielded 688 calls since it launched in October, and a mobile crisis team has responded to 138 calls for “face-to-face visits — 56 of those calls were for youths under age 17 in crisis.

Glassman touched on the county’s “Choose Civility” campaign, a partnership with the Harford County Public Library launched last June.

“In a time when our nation has become so paralyzed, by those that want to divide us ... we are hoping to reach for our better angels so that we might be a model for the state and the nation in our discourse, promoting respect, empathy and tolerance everywhere,” he said.

Forest Hill resident Melissa Belsinger discussed her experience being treated for breast cancer at the Georgetown Cancer Institute at MedStar’s campus in Bel Air.

The 46-year-old wife and mother of two children, who was diagnosed last August, lauded the center for how she can see all of her doctors and receive all treatments in one location.

“I can say that, without a shadow of a doubt, that having MedStar in Bel Air is a blessing, it really is,” Belsinger said.

Glassman expressed his wishes for Belsinger’s full recovery.

“We’re so blessed, here in Harford County, to have options and to have great health care providers like MedStar, so you’re in our prayers and we know you’re going to do fine,” he said.

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