Economic Diversity, Entrepreneurs and Established Companies Celebrated
“Every day should be Business Appreciation Day,” says Karen Holt, Director of Economic Development for Harford County. It’ s a daily practice in the Office of Economic Development, but Sept. 21-25 offered a particularly high-energy marathon of several spotlight events and 70 company visitations intended to showcase Harford County’ s economic diversity as part of Business Appreciation Week.
“We have a great array of talented and committed businesses here in Harford County,” says Barry Glassman, Harford County Executive. “From multigenerational, family-owned small businesses to international corporate headquarters; our diverse economy is one more reason that makes Harford County Maryland’ s new center of opportunity.”
In addition to a skilled workforce, Harford’ s economic diversity has been cited as a key asset, including a strong defense base and businesses in manufacturing, medical services, retail, IT and finance. This diversification lends itself to Harford County’ s Triple A bond rating, a status shared by only four counties in Maryland and only 37 jurisdictions across the United States.
Creating the right balance of business attraction and business retention is also critical. With the majority of business activity in Harford County small-business related, ensuring they have the supports to sustain and grow is a focus of the Office of Economic Development. Entrepreneurial efforts are also encouraged in Harford.From collaborative workspace to an incubator program under a newly-launched Harford’ s Business Edge to a small business resource center, OED wants to ensure new business opportunities get the solid start they need to be successful.
Business Appreciation Week included site visits to more than 70 companies across the county – from downtown walking tours, tourism related fund recipients; from those just opening their doors to those celebrating 97 years in business. OED staff covered Aberdeen, APG, Bel Air, Edgewood, Forest Hill, Jarrettsville and Joppatowne. The week launched with a kick off breakfast with the Economic Development Advisory Board whose members then co-presented Good Neighbor Awards to peer tenants at Swan Creek Village Center. A slight modification to the African proverb, “it takes a Village to raise a child,” Karen Holt, Director of Economic Development stated, “It takes a Village to raise an entrepreneur!” noting the amenities like a bistro, a coffee house, a bank, telecommunications store and a variety of medical services all within Swan Creek Village and close to OED’ s facilities. On Sept. 22, Holt was the guest speaker at the Aberdeen
Chamber of Commerce’ s Business Awards luncheon held at Waters Edge Events Center. Other highlights during the week included a peer business breakfast in the Perryman Peninsula hosted by Clorox.
“We are excited about this format and hope it encourages business synergies and solutions among companies in close proximity,” said Holt who envisions the pilot replicated with other industrial complexes and their tenants over thenext year. A Harford tour of Start Up MD’ s Pitch Across Maryland came to the GroundFloor where 11 entrepreneurs or innovative companies hopped on the bus and “pitched”their business idea to compete statewide for investor funding. David Kuraguntla, founder and CEO of GraftWorx, a smart medical device start-up company who just recently raised $1.9M for a seed round for pre-clinical trials, offered an inspiring message for other entrepreneurs, encouraging innovators not to be afraid of failure and to lead by example the team you create. “Speed of the leader, speed of the team,” he emphasized.
A 3-D demo studio supported by RAMP MD and Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC)’ s Product Development Facility and tours of the incubator and collaborative workspace were also available for those in attendance to cheer on the entrepreneurs. Harford Awards, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, recognized six outstanding companies before a crowd of 255 at Richlin Ballroom during the Sept. 24 gala where the stars did indeed come out to celebrate these business success stories! The week culminated in two ‘ Meet & Greets’ with OED staff, elected officials, and area business owners to reflect on a great week of recognition – one was held at La Tolteca in Aberdeen, (which recently opened a fourth location in Harford County in Fallston) and the other at Wargo’ s Forest Hill Inn, which celebrated 35 years of business.
“This week allowed the Office of Economic Development staff to meet the individuals that are committed every day to providing quality service and product delivery to their customers here in Harford,” said Holt. “The sense of pride in these businesses, large and small, is apparent across the county.”
Enjoy the pictorial recap that visually demonstrates Harford’ s economic diversity and reinforces why every day should be business appreciation day! Visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HarfordsEntrepreneursEdge to view our full coverage of Business Appreciation Week site visitations and events. I95