Maryland’s Wake-Up Call

The Baltimore Sun’s John Fritze lays out the facts pretty well – federal spending in Maryland is down and Maryland’s congressional delegation just lost a lot of its clout.   Maryland Democrats spend every waking hour pointing fingers and trying to figure out why voters rejected their tax and spend message on November 4th.  Maryland Republicans like Governor-elect Larry Hogan, new Howard County Exec Allan Kittleman, and new Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver are trying to clean up the messes left by years of wasteful, misguided spending and a belief that taxpayers can be plucked like chickens.

Well, in the Once Free State government IS the family business.  Turn to your left.  Turn to your right.  Somebody is working for the federal, state, or local government.  With federal spending down $1.2 billion in Maryland (over $3 billion when you take out entitlement spending and adjust for inflation), times aren’t looking so good.

Economist Anirban Basu has it right:

"No one is suggesting that Maryland should not continue to focus attention on federal contracting and related industries, but these industries will no longer be the economic engines of growth that they have been.”

Maryland can be a great state.  It simply needs to get out of the way of business and allow its job creators to grow and prosper.  This will, in turn, attract new job creators.  Larry Hogan seems committed to doing just that.  Let’s hope.

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A Brighter Future for Wicomico?

The future of Wicomico County begins tomorrow!  At 11:30 AM, Tuesday, Wicomico County will witness the swearing-in of its second County Executive – Bob Culver.  While Culver can seize upon several opportunities, he faces a great number of steep hurdles.  Is he up to the task?  We hope so.

Show Me the Money

More than most places, the relationship between Wicomico County government and its citizens focuses on money.  We have the revenue cap.  Voters seem to believe that taxes can be cut, perhaps ad infinitum, with little or no impact on services.  As with most localities, the bureaucracy at the local Board of Education (WCBOE) equates quantity of money spent with quality of education.  For the last several years Wicomico’s county council has refused to cut spending requested by the outgoing county executive while that same County Executive has refused to trim the county payroll despite cutting back on services.  Rather than maintain its existing physical plant, the local Board of Ed wants to build more schools and the county government (both executive and council) have acquiesced.  Wicomico County keeps borrowing while debt and pension obligations keep growing.  Despite the wishful thinking of some, there are no easy solutions.

We would suggest Mr. Culver attack low hanging fruit first; while planning for the more difficult tasks ahead:

  1. Cut the Budget NOW!
  2. Require Accountability from the Board of Education
  3. Implement Zero-Based Budgeting
  4. Make Voters a Part of the Solution
  5. Pension Reform
  6. Grow the Local Economy

[Read more…]

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The Dunn / Day Era in Salisbury?

SALISBURY, MD – Is Salisbury returning to the fiscal disaster experienced under the now infamous “Dream Team”?  Only time will tell, but it appears that the huge sums thrown at the Jacob Day campaign by national real estate interests may be starting to pay off certain special interests.

A letter to the editor in this morning’s Daily Times by Chamber of Commerce president (and real estate developer) Brad Gillis outline the benefits already starting to flow to real estate developers … and promises more to come:

Together, the Chamber and the city successfully collaborated and amended the city’s paving policy. This legislation, Resolution 1312, gave greater discretion to the Department of Public Works and its professional engineers, thus creating a quality process and end product for both the developers and the citizens of Salisbury.

We were also successful in amending the city’s policy that required the warranty and maintenance of new infrastructure to be bonded for five years; no other cities researched required a five-year bond.

Without further delay, it’s time to act on another community win: an equivalent dwelling unit incentive zone.

We support the city moving forward with this Incentive Zone, which would create a bank of credits to be used for the development of the downtown area and enterprise zones.

Having this tool will enhance the pro-business climate in our great city without costing the citizens a single dollar. Salisbury’s comprehensive plan calls for high-density growth in our downtown area; this is the time and the place to create such banks.

Approving this incentive zone will send a message to local, regional and national builders and developers: “Downtown Salisbury is primed for both commercial and mixed use developments.”

The “Incentive Zone” of which Gillis speaks is designed to subsidize residential developers, not attract employers.  While Gillis applauds these subsidies (not surprising since he directly benefits), there is no mention of the across the board pay hikes proposed by his ally Mr. Day.  These, and other spending hikes, will ultimately result in tax increases on the citizens and businesses of Salisbury.

Does Mr. Gillis believe that tax hikes will attract business?  Of course not.  These “incentives” are not pro-business; they are simply a little league version of crony capitalism.  As Salisbury goes back to “giving away the store”, who benefits?  The very people who spent tens of thousands of dollars to elect their champion – Jacob Day.

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NASA Hosts Space Apps Challenge

SALISBURY, MD – This weekend NASA will host the second International Space Apps Challenge.  Scientists, software developers, hackers, and ordinary citizens from around the world will gather in over 75 cities, including Salisbury, to help solve various space exploration problems.  The program is part of the Open Government Partnership.

Individuals and teams will tackle one of 53 challenges.  The Salisbury site for the challenge will be at the HotDesks small business incubator at the Tri-County Council building across from Wor-Wic Community College.

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Commercial Air Service to Resume in DE

NEW CASTLE, DE – Commercial air service will return to Delaware after a five (5) year absence.  The Associated Press reports that Frontier Airlines will begin offering three (3) flights per week to Chicago and Houston beginning on July 1.  Additional flights to Orlando, Tampa, and Denver will begin soon after.

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Could Salisbury Use an “Extreme Makeover” Downtown?

It’s been tried in San Antonio.  This weekend it will be tried in Norfolk.  Perhaps Salisbury could benefit from a quick and dirty “Extreme Makeover”?

This weekend a group of volunteers and the urban planning firm Team Better Block will unveil a temporary “makeover” of a neglected section of Granby Street (once Norfolk’s vibrant main thoroughfare).  The key word in this is “temporary”.

Why would a municipality spend thousands of dollars to temporarily fix-up a section of town?  It gives people a chance to not only visualize, but actually experience, a re-vitalization plan.  Rather than spend hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars on a plan that may be good … or bad, Team Better Block’s approach is simple:

  • Do Something
  • Do it CHEAPLY
  • Do it QUICKLY

People get to see the potential of an area.  Potential developers / investors can be attracted.  Bureaucracy is curtailed.  The advantages are almost endless.

[Read more…]

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Fisker Heading Towards Bankruptcy?

Another beneficiary of millions in taxpayer subsidies appears headed for bankruptcy.  Fisker, the electric car company, has fired three quarters of its staff according to Wilmington’s News-Journal.

In 2009 Fisker received a $529 million Federal loan and $21 million in other incentives from the state of Delaware.  President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden heralded Fisker as a big part of the administration’s “Green Energy” initiative.

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Ireton Views on Business and Profit

Last week, Don Rush of Delmarva Public Radio interviewed both candidates for mayor of Salisbury.  The contrast was startling.  While this was not candidate (and SBYNews publisher) Joe Albero’s best interview, he was relaxed and discussed the issues facing the city.  Incumbent mayor Jim Ireton was agitated, sarcastic, interrupted Rush numerous times, and let the world know that Salisbury is NOT a business-friendly community.

See the interviews below.  Ireton’s starts at about 29 minutes in.

Ireton claims great accomplishment.  Nothing is his fault.  If something didn’t happen it was because of the city council, specifically Debbie Campbell.  If businesses believe that Salisbury isn’t business-friendly, it’s THEIR fault, not the city’s.  Oh … and he PLANS to do lots of things IF he’s re-elected.

For every ten people that come to the city, five feel they’ve been treated OK. – Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton

What is most disturbing is Ireton’s attitude towards business.  If you make a profit, you need to pay more.  If the police have to come to your business TWICE in TWO YEARS, the city (NOT a judge) should be able to shut you down.  If you appeal, you have to appeal to the same person who already decided to close your doors.

If you are a businessperson looking to move to Salisbury and you hear the mayor sarcastically asking questions like, “Who made that profit?” or “Somebody’s making money somewhere.” do you think that Salisbury is a great place to do business?

Ireton states, “For every ten people that come to the city, five feel they’ve been treated OK.”  Ireton thinks that’s acceptable!  Do you deal with businesses who take the attitude that they only need to satisfy 50% of their customers?  If you are a business do you want to move to a city that takes this attitude?  If you are a businessperson in Salisbury, do you want to expand in a city that takes this attitude?

You don’t have to give away the store to attract businesses.  You don’t have to make Salisbury unsafe to encourage businesses to expand.  You do need a sea change in attitude.  Satisfying 50% of your customers is NOT acceptable.  Making Salisbury “more progressive” isn’t going to attract business.

Thanks to PAC-14 for providing the video.

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Jim Ireton’s Respect for the Salisbury Taxpayer – Part 2

Giving YOUR Money Away to a Select Few

Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton LOVES to spend other people’s money.  OK, he’s a liberal.  Actually, Jim’s politics are somewhere to the left of Karl Marx.  Ireton has seldom seen a government program he didn’t love.  If Ireton is re-elected, AND if Jake Day is elected to the city council, Jim has a plan to spend some MORE of YOUR hard earned money. It involves re-developing downtown.

Ireton wants to sell the downtown parking lots for a song, subsidize them by waiving the capacity fees for water and sewer, and HOPE that Salisbury will somehow be re-born.

Does anyone believe that adding 500 “affordable housing units” downtown is going to re-vitalize Salisbury’s local economy?  Evidently Ireton, along with Jake Day, councilwoman Laura Mitchell, and councilwoman Shanie Shields do.

The “logic” goes something like this:

  1. You build X “affordable housing units” downtown.
  2. Businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers will RUSH to build stores.
  3. Downtown will be MAGICALLY re-vitalized.
  4. The world will be a better place.

Does that make sense to you?

500 Affordable Housing Units

OK, we sell off the parking lots, take EDU’s (water and sewer capacity) away from industrial development that could actually create jobs that pay a living wage, and 500 more housing units appear.  Do you think that businesses will then flock to downtown?  Ireton and his pals do.

Grocery Stores, Pharmacies, and Boutiques … OH MY!

Before a retail business decides to invest in a site they look at certain things, including traffic count and parking.  Would you build a grocery store based on a target population of less than 2,000?  Of course you wouldn’t!

But wait, wouldn’t people from outside the immediate area come?  Would they?  I live to the southeast of downtown.  There are at least  three grocery stores and at least seven pharmacies closer to my home than the downtown plaza.  Well, maybe the people who live over on the west side will come?  I can think of at least two grocery stores and two pharmacies that are closer.  Well maybe the folks from Newtown?  Maybe.  Where are they going to park?  Remember – Jimmy, Jake, Laura, and Shanie have sold all of the parking except for the parking garage.  Do you really believe that those folks from Newtown are going to walk across US 50 and then schlep their groceries back on foot?

OK, I’ll agree that one convenience store might succeed under the Ireton plan.

It’s MAGIC!

The notion that this will re-vitalize downtown, much less Salisbury’s local economy is too ridiculous for real comment.  Downtown CAN be salvaged.  It CAN be re-vitalized.  It just won’t happen by throwing subsidies at a few developers.

You need a solution that drives traffic.  Business people will then be willing to invest their own capital.  Look at Joe Albero’s plan.  It not only makes sense, it offers a REAL, free-market driven solution for downtown as well as a plan for the city’s entire economy.

Subsidizing residential development was a failure during the real estate boom!  Salisbury borrowed millions of dollars that were handed over to a select group of residential developers.  What did that yield?  Temporary construction jobs.  Subsidizing retail doesn’t yield jobs that pay a living wage.

The key is to allow development without unnecessary government interference.  The key is show potential employers – not just downtown, but throughout Salisbury – that the city will treat businesses, and residents, like valued customers.

Why can’t Jimmy Ireton learn from past mistakes; both his own and his predecessor’s?

Part 1 – Thrift Travel Inn

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Salisbury Council to Tackle Enterprise Zones, Give Fire Grant Another Try

SALISBURY, MD – The Salisbury City Council will meet at 6 PM this evening and vote to renew their enterprise zone for another 10 years.  At the end of tonight’s agenda, the council will also decide whether or not to accept a $1.4 million federal grant for the Salisbury Fire Department.  In most jurisdictions neither measure would be controversial, but this is Salisbury.

Even Democrats aren’t opposed to enterprise zones anymore.  Enterprise zones provide tax credits for companies that place businesses in depressed areas.  Unfortunately, Salisbury has drawn its enterprise zone to include the choice US 13 and US 50 corridors.  Because of this, businesses such as Walgreens and the Residence Inn have been able to take tax credits for investing in areas that they would have invested in anyhow.

Two weeks ago the council refused to place the grant acceptance on the agenda.  Tonight they will vote on whether to accept $1.4 million to hire additional fire fighters.  Again, in most places this would be a no-brainer and on the consent agenda.  The fire department says it can use the additional fire fighters.  The federal government will pick up the cost for two years.  What’s the problem?

As always, the devil is in the details and Salisbury’s council majority always looks at the details.  This matter would probably have been settled, but Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton doesn’t like details and doesn’t like to answer questions.  Instead he prefers press conferences where he can attack said council majority without giving them a chance to respond.

Questions that need to answered include:

  • How does the mayor plan to pay for the new firefighters after the grant runs out?  Is he planning on laying them off or is he going to propose an increase in the property tax rate (of 3 – 4 cents)?
  • The Mayor, the fire department, the Daily Times, and the chattering classes have all claimed that Salisbury needs these additional fire fighters.  Why has the administration failed to request them?  Why has the fire department refused to ask for them in their annual departmental budget request?
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Virginia vs. Maryland … Again

According to the Daily Record:

Maryland lost 4.71 percent, or 6,494, of its small businesses from 2007 to 2010, a decrease that one fiscal policy group chalks up to the state’s tax increases.

The difference between the tax policies, and the flight of capital and jobs, was recently highlighted on the Fox Business Channel:

A key statistic – Virginia ranks as the 7th best place to do business.  Maryland?  40th.  While both states depend heavily on federal dollars, Virginia actively courts business – small and large.  Maryland actively drives businesses away.

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National Harbor to Announce Vegas Partner for Probable PG Casino

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – The Baltimore Sun’s Michael Dresser reports that the Peterson Companies, developer of the National Harbor complex in Prince George’s County, will announce a partner for its proposed casino at the development.

Peterson said the partner his company selects will be a major Las Vegas player but declined to identify it before the announcement. He said his company will not take a direct role in a running any casino — a field in which Peterson Co. has no experience.

National Harbor is expected to receive a license for a casino in a proposed special legislative session later this summer.  In addition to adding a sixth casino license, the legislature is expected approve table games.

READ MORE …

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Moving to Virginia?

Larry Hogan, chairman of Change Maryland and possible 2014 gubernatorial candidate, has an interesting article over at Reason.com.  Hogan outlines the steady exodus of Maryland-based businesses from the Once Free State to points north, south, and west – particularly to Virginia.  Thanks to the policies of O’Malley administration, along with increases in the state’s income tax rates, this exodus includes small businesses as well as large.

READ MORE …

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Dogfish Head Receives Re-Zoning to Allow Expansion

MILTON, DE – The Milton Town Council has approved the re-zoning of 40 acres adjacent to the Dogfish Head brewery to allow the Milton-based brewer to build a new warehouse and bottling line.  While there was some opposition to the re-zoning at public hearing, the council voted unanimously to approve the zoning change.  Councilman Emory West abstained because he was not able to attend the public hearing.  Councilwoman Deanna Duby was absent.

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Sussex Considers New Bonding Proposal to Spur Development

GEORGETOWN, DE – The Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission has proposed a new scheme to permit small developers to begin construction without having to post a performance bond.  Under the proposed rules a bond would not be required if improvements are completed prior to lots being sold or a developer could begin construction of a subdivision and only have to post a bond if the improvements are not yet completed, but the developer wishes to begin selling lots.

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Eastville Inn to Re-Open

EASTVILLE, VA – The historic Eastville Inn will re-open under a new operator.  The Northampton County Board of Supervisors have approved a new operator for the inn, which dates to 1726.

Tim Abraham, a restaurateur who currently owns a restaurant at the Cherrystone Campground, has been selected to operate the inn.

"Mr. Abraham has many years experience as a restaurateur, and should be a great choice as Eastville Inn’s next chef and operator," said Mayor James Sturgis in a letter of support sent from the Town of Eastville and read by County Administrator Katie Nunez.

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New Jet Service Coming to Salisbury

SALISBURY, MD – While the public has been aware of negotiations, it appears that the addition of a new carrier out of Salisbury – Ocean City Airport is now a reality.  Allegiant Air will begin offering twice-weekly, non-stop flights from Salisbury to Orlando, FL on February 16th.

The recent extension of the airport’s runway makes it possible for Allegiant’s MD-80 jets to take-off and land at Salisbury.  Although Allegiant initially approached the Salisbury Airport in 2008, the runway extension now makes this service possible.

Orlando is already the most popular destination for passengers flying out of the Salisbury airport.  With Allegiant’s non-stop service, passengers will have a non-stop option in addition to connecting through Philadelphia or Charlotte.

photo courtesy of the Daily Times

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Want To Be “Buried” in Space?

WALLOPS ISLAND, VA – A bill introduced by Del. Terry Kilgore (R-1) would subsidize Virginians being “buried” in space if their remains were launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops.  Virginia would offer a state income tax deduction.

Supporters of the program believe that the program would boost visibility for the nascent spaceport on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  “Burial in space”, where a portion of cremated remains are launched and deployed in orbit, has been around since 1997.  Some of the better known “orbital internees” include James Doohan, Star Trek’s original “Scotty”, Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper, and LSD “guru” Timothy Leary.

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State Picks Sailwinds Developer

CAMBRIDGE, MD – The Maryland Department of Transportation has selected the Jerome J. Parks Cos. to develop the 11.77 acre former Cambridge Marine Terminal property.  Parks plans to build a mixed-use development of residential and retail on the site along the Choptank River.

"It is the council’s hope that plans to redevelop Sailwinds will enhance Dorchester County as a destination and encourage economic development activities," Dorchester County Council President Jay L. Newcomb said. "We understand the developer selection process to date has been based on specific selection criteria and trust that the Parks Companies has expertise and experience to develop this waterfront property in keeping with the local community’s goals that showcases the county while preserving a public use venue and allowing public access (to) the waterfront."

The Parks Cos. and MDOT will hold a series of meetings over the next year to solicit input from area residents and businesses.  One key component of the development will be linking Sailwinds with Hyatt resort via a series of walking / biking trails.

READ MORE …

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Richmond Wants to Ignore the Shore … Again

Residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore think that they have it bad when it comes to state government.  Folks from the nine shore counties claim (rightly so) that Annapolis and the legislators from the Baltimore – DC corridor run roughshod over them.  They should count their lucky stars they don’t live in Virginia.

Official drawings of the Commonwealth have been issued, without the Eastern Shore.  Politicians ignore Accomack and Northampton counties except when a close election is at hand or they want to come over for Chincoteague’s Seafood Festival or the Harvest Festival.  Things would be far worse if not for the hard work and dedication of people like former Del. Bob Bloxom and current Del. Lynwood Lewis.  Now, the administration of Gov. Bob McDonnell wants to strip the Eastern Shore of any say regarding its (potentially) greatest economic asset – the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

Under its current structure, the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority is required to have one board member from each of the two Virginia Eastern Shore Counties.  A report issued for the administration claims that eliminating the requirement will provide “greater flexibility” in appointing appointing board members who better serve the Authority’s mission.  Really?

In order to make the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority successful, a certain amount of local buy in will be necessary.  One more example of Richmond’s cavalier attitude towards the Virginia Shore doesn’t encourage Eastern Shore residents in supporting the spaceport.

What’s next for the people of Virginia’s Eastern Shore?  Will the Commonwealth eliminate its representation from the board of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Commission?

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Amazon Project Approved

MIDDLETOWN, DE – The Middletown Town Council has approved plans for a warehouse proposed by Amazon.com.  The town also provided tax breaks for the project.

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Dewey Beach Property Owners Raise Funds for Lawsuit

DEWEY BEACH, DE – A group of Dewey Beach property owners are fundraising to assist in their lawsuit against the town.  A group of four property owners are suing the Town of Dewey Beach, Dewey Beach Enterprises (DBE), and Ruddertowne Development, Inc. to invalidate an agreement between the town and DBE which allows the company to re-develop Ruddertowne in excess of the town’s 35 foot building height limitation.

The property owners, calling themselves the Dewey Defense Fundraising Committee, are attempting to raise $50,000.

READ MORE …

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State Rewards Worcester County’s Investment in Tourism

SNOW HILL, MD – Worcester County Tourism (WCT) is set to receive a healthy boost in State funding in Fiscal Year 2012. The Maryland Office of Tourism has awarded Worcester County nearly $50,000 more in advertising and marketing grant money than the prior year. This brings the total for state grant funding to WCT from 60,722 in FY11 to $109,836 in FY12.

This is an exciting development for WCT, particularly in light of the decrease in grant funding during the same period to several other counties on the Eastern Shore.

The state awards grant funding to local tourism departments based on several factors, including performance using tourism tax revenues and the level of contribution from the individual counties within the advertising budget. In a nutshell, WCT was awarded additional state grant funding for boosting our overall advertising budget and then seeing a marked increase in tourism dollars as a direct result of that increase. This has been the case for Worcester County during the last two fiscal years, and in FY10, the county saw a 4.3% increase in tourism sales tax revenues.

“This is great news because it means our advertising is working!” WCT Director Lisa Challenger said. “We have ramped up our advertising with the additional county funds, which also helps us become eligible for additional state funds. On those two fronts together it gave us a large grant amount.”

[Read more…]

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ESVA Broadband Director Resigns

MELFA, VA – Patrick Coady, Executive Director of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority, has resigned citing differences with the current board.  In a letter dated November 2nd, Coady states:

… recent changes in the board membership have led to "a continual cycle of second-guessing by some board members of the goals and direction the board laid out and has operated under for the past three years."

Coady began serving as Executive Director in January, 2009.  Prior to that he was a volunteer with the authority’s technical and business subcommittees.

READ MORE …

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West Ocean City Harbor Dredging Project Underway

WEST OCEAN CITY, MD – The long-awaited maintenance dredging project in the West Ocean City (WOC) Harbor area got underway on Wednesday, November 16, 2011. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) is heading up this 90-day project to deepen and widen the federal navigation channel.

The purpose of the underwater excavation project is to assure the continued navigability of the channel and commercial harbor by fishing vessels and other large craft dependent upon Maryland’s only direct access ocean port for their livelihood.

An estimated 23,500 cubic yards of material are to be excavated to restore an area approximately 150 feet wide from the inlet channel to the WOC harbor and 150 to 200 feet wide to the head of the harbor along with two turning basins to a depth of approximately 10 feet.

The dredge material from the channel will be transported to Worcester County’s surface mine site on Langmaid Road in Newark to be used in future reclamation activities at the site.

The anticipated dredging hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the project to be closely monitored by the COE site manager as well as County staff.

For more information, contact COE representative Robert Blama at 410-962-6068.

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Worcester Welcomes New Economic Development Director

SNOW HILL, MD – Worcester County Government is proud to welcome Bill Badger, Jr. as the new director for Economic Development.

Badger comes to Worcester County with years of economic development experience. He worked with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development for 15 years from 1979 to 1994, where he served as a senior business development representative. He then went on to serve as the president and chief executive officer for the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation for the next 12 years from 1994 to 2006. He also served as vice president and group manager of the Mid-Atlantic Government Banking Division for M&T Bank, and vice president of business development for TVM Real Estate Solutions.

“Worcester County is fortunate to have someone with a career’s worth of experience in economic development issues to lead this vital endeavor,” Commission President Bud Church said.

Badger is a Certified Economic Developer and a member of both the Maryland Economic Development Association and the International Economic Development Council. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Towson University and later earned certification from the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma.

“I’m looking forward to serving as the new Worcester County Economic Development Director,” Badger said. “I am also anxious to begin working with business and government leaders as well as private citizens to improve the economic prosperity of the county and focus on job creation.”

Badger received the Government Leader of the Year Award from the Annapolis-Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce and the Governor’s Award for Public Service from the Unites States Army.

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Harris Visits Preston Area Business

PRESTON, MD – The First District’s Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) visited Preston-based Choptank Transport last week to tour the company’s facilities and see a new addition built to accommodate the firm’s growth.  Choptank expects to hire approximately 100 new people over the next five years, including 30 – 35 immediate new-hires.

Harris asked how the company has managed to grow in the current economic climate.

Geoff Turner said Choptank works a lot with the food industry, which has remained mostly steady. He said many of the company’s biggest clients are based in Chicago.

Other freight management companies that work closely with other industries, such as the automotive industry, have not fared as well, Turner said.

Choptank will cut the ribbon on their new addition December 9th.

READ MORE …

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Postal Workers Speak Out Against Closure of Easton Postal Facility

WYE MILLS, MD – About 25 people spoke out against the proposed shuttering of Easton’s postal processing facility.  The public hearing, the only opportunity for citizens to speak on the issue, was held last night.  The hearing was held at Chesapeake College on the same night as the opening of Easton’s Waterfowl Festival and before a holiday weekend.

Local officials, postal employees, and ordinary citizens spoke in favor of keeping the facility open:

"This will knock the breath out of the local business community," Easton Town Councilwoman Kelley Malone said.

"The closure will put people out of work. It’s premature and short-sided and the town wants you to reconsider."

Talbot County Councilwoman Laura Price said a closure would pose a significant financial burden for the region’s workforce and families, and would delay delivery of life-saving medications. She also questioned the study’s proposed savings.

"The only thing that has changed are your numbers," she said. "There is quite a discrepancy in the amount you claim will be saved through the closure of the Easton facility."

[Read more…]

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Bechtel to Move Jobs to Virginia

FREDERICK, MD – The Bechtel Corporation announced that they will be moving 625 jobs from Frederick to Virginia.  Bechtel will open a new facility in Reston Town Center in Fairfax County.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announce the move on Monday.  Bechtel will move its Global Operations, Government Services, and civil business units to Reston.  The Commonwealth of Virginia is providing $6.5 million to facilitate the move.  Bechtel is expected to invest $18.5 million in the Commonwealth.

Bechtel Power Corporation, and its 1,250 employees will remain in Maryland.  This follows a $9.5 million conditional loan from the state of Maryland to Bechtel Power.

Maryland GOP Chairman Alex Mooney, who lives in the area, tweeted yesterday evening – “Gov. O’Malley doesn’t get it!”

READ MORE …

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Princess Anne on the Rebound?

PRINCESS ANNE, MD – Today’s Daily Times includes one news article and an op-ed singing the praises of a downtown Princess Anne that appears to be on the rebound.  I hope that their analysis is correct.

If, as expected, the Princess Anne Town Commissioners approve a ban on first floor apartments in commercial space, a major step will be taken towards making downtown Princess Anne more business friendly AND more attractive.  If Princess Anne’s Main Street Partnership is successful in receiving $375,000 in grant funding, downtown Somerset Avenue will become more attractive.

However, there is one question that should be answered.  Will the economic activity from these actions be cost efficient?  Over $6 million in sales will be needed to collect enough sales tax to cover the state’s outlay.  Since such projects are designed to attract retail businesses, such as shops and restaurants, no one can honestly argue that high wage jobs will be created.  I expect that participants will fall back on the tried, true, and unverifiable “Quality of Life” argument.

One thing that should be noted about this plan, the Princess Anne Main Street Partnership has built a coalition of the right stakeholders – UMES, the local chamber, and the Somerset County Historical Trust.  Perhaps whatever organization succeeds “Urban Salisibury” can learn a few lessons.

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Fruitland 84 Lumber to Close

FRUITLAND, MD – With no end to the building recession in site, the 84 Lumber located at US 13 and Cedar Lane in Fruitland will close.  David and Dawn Brown of Eden have announced plans to purchase the 5 acre site.  They plan to develop the property as a mixed-use retail / restaurant site.

photo courtesy of the Daily Times

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