What’s Carroll County’s secret to economic success? Helping the companies there continue to grow, according Jack Lyburn, director of the county’s department of economic development. With both high productivity and low turnover, businesses are thriving and families are happy to be here, he says.
When it comes to new businesses, county officials are eager to work with companies and the state, but their number one priority is retaining the businesses that have already brought so much to the area.
Local businesses that are expanding include the Taneytown-based EVAPCO, which is adding 125 jobs over the next five years and building a new facility; Lehigh Cement Company in Union Bridge, which recently expanded to a quarry in New Windsor; and Strouse Corporation, which last year announced plans to build a new 60,000-square-foot building in Westminster.
During the department’s annual economic outlook address, Lyburn told a crowd of around 300 business people about the county’s successes over the past two years, including capital investments of close to $339 million and the expansion or addition of 10 manufacturers into the county. Carroll County also has added about 1.4 million square feet of new commerce and 1,400 new employees.
“We are becoming the county for manufacturing,” Lyburn says.
The reason companies want to come to Carroll County is the labor force, he says. In addition to the high productivity levels and extremely low turnover rates for county businesses, Carroll County has one of the highest high school graduation rates in the state.
One of the largest employers is Carroll Hospital and its subsidiaries, which
has about 2,000 employees and is now part of LifeBridge Health. About 75 to 80 percent of the hospital’s workforce live in the county, according to Ellen Finnerty Myers, the hospital’s chief development officer and vice president of corporate development.
In early February, the hospital opened a new urgent care facility in Hampstead. In a partnership with Frederick Regional Health System, the hospital also opened the Mt. Airy Health & Wellness Pavilion in late 2016. The site had formerly been a grocery store and now features urgent care, physical therapy and radiology. “We saw that as a repurposing of a building and bringing new business to the area,” Finnerty Myers says. “We are always working on new projects and programs.”
Another of Carroll’s largest employers is McDaniel College, with nearly 900 employees. The only four-year higher education facility in the county, the college also serves as a community resource, says Cheryl Knauer, director of media relations. “Every admitted student from Carroll County is eligible for a Carroll County Student Grant Program scholarship funded through gifts from area businesses,” she says. “Our students also make a difference in the community through internships with local businesses and volunteer opportunities, from serving as mentors at the Boys and Girls Club of Westminster to providing free tax assistance for low-income residents through the college’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Our professors, administrators and staff are also active in the community, serving on numerous boards.”
The college has partnerships with a number of area businesses and the county’s chamber of commerce, public schools and libraries. It also hosts an annual Innovation Challenge, giving McDaniel students the opportunity to present entrepreneurial ideas and products to a panel of experts and compete for prize money. Last year’s grand-prize-winning team presented “Ride with Pride,” which addresses the need for accessible, affordable transportation for those in the county with disabilities. Its creators are currently looking into ways to implement the project.
These community connections are part of the reason that companies look to come to Carroll County. Vendors often want to be closer to their clients there, and the county’s economic development staff is quick to point out another plus to the area: “We have ready-to-go land,” Lyburn says. “We have buildings that are ready to go, so it makes it easy. When a company comes, we can show them land and say ‘Hey, look, water and sewer are here. All you have to do is file a permit.’ … We’ve had a lot of success in manufacturing (with this) and that is really what we are going after.”