Harford County Office of Economic Development Has the Tools to Support Business Success
By Lisa Baldino
Apr 12, 2017
The opportunity for entrepreneurs and businesses both large and small to thrive in Harford County has never been greater. In addition to the county’s ideal location and logistics, its strong education and training offerings, proximity and access to Aberdeen Proving Ground, and a premiere R&D military installation, Harford County also has assembled an impressive array of business support tools to help businesses achieve success.
According to Maryland’s Small Business Development Centers, small businesses make up 99.9 percent of all businesses in the United States. These companies generated 65 percent of new jobs in the last 17 years and they employ more than half of all private sector employees. While Harford County is home to many government, military and public sector organizations, as well as several large companies that make a huge contribution to our economy, it still mirrors the national trend for small businesses.
“Helping businesses thrive and contribute to the local economy through job creation and product or service generation is an overarching goal of this Administration under County Executive Barry Glassman,” says Karen Holt, Director of the Harford County Office of Economic Development (OED). “We’ve been able to meet the challenge of consolidating many resources under one roof and provide easy access for businesses to take advantage of the various services. Businesses of all sizes can utilize experienced business development associates to help them navigate the intricacies of workspace and site selection, permitting, exporting, financing, marketing and more,” she continues.
Holt says OED has four business development associates assigned to various industry sectors. Eileen Frado, a 23-year veteran of the OED, utilizes her expertise with manufacturing and distribution companies, supporting industrial growth expansion and e-commerce, filming production site coordination, and utility and alternative energy support. Tucker McNulty, who has been with OED since 2008, is charged with the growth and development of the 137-plus defense contractors in Harford County. McNulty also serves as liaison to health care, biosciences, IT and cyber companies.
Two new associates, Jake Adler and Bonnie Barresi, are on board to execute and expand redevelopment and finance programs available through OED. Adler will focus on commercial development and attracting companies for redevelopment in the Route 40 Corridor, as well as administer Harford County’s two Enterprise Zones and related tax credits. Barresi will work with the county’s banking industry and financial services companies, and she will serve as OED’s administrator for a variety of financing tools that target contemporary business needs while also providing training opportunities such as the Work Force Technical Training Grants program.
“Our role in assisting businesses has evolved over time from developing programs on an as-needed basis to a more proactive approach that provides resources every step of the way during a company’s development,” Frado notes. “Our team of business development associates works collaboratively to give small businesses access to a variety of resources when they need them.”
Indeed, these resources touch on nearly every aspect of starting a new business – financing, research data, business planning, work space and site selection, workforce development, manufacturing, transportation and marketing. Designed to assist growing companies with capital and equipment costs and incentivize job creation, the loan, finance and tax credit programs continue to be among the most sought-after programs requested through OED and provided in partnership with the Maryland Department of Commerce. Programs like Harford’s Business Edge give fledgling entrepreneurs the opportunity to obtain one-on-one guidance from veteran entrepreneurs who will give them the “real scoop” on the trials, triumphs and tiers of entrepreneurship. Young companies can also get free expert business advice from the Small Business Resource Office co-located with OED at the Swan Creek Shopping Center in Havre de Grace on U.S. Route 40. Consultants from the Small Business Technical Development Center (SBTDC) and the Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) are available for advice in a variety of areas, including business plan development. These experts can also recommend valuable sources for Industry data and research that will help in decision-making and growth planning.
For those small businesses that need work space outside their home or simply want the opportunity to collaborate with other like-minded start-ups, the GroundFloor at Harford is an ideal launch pad. It offers collaborative workspace and incubation for entrepreneurs and technical startups. Also co-located with the OED office and the Small Business Resource Center, the GroundFloor hosts a variety of workshops and programming such as Shark Tank competitions and Start Up Maryland’s Pitch Across America. Other work space solutions include pods, clusters, conference rooms, a training room, reception and business services where small businesses can get customized tools and facilities they need for support.
When a start-up company is ready to graduate to its own workspace or building, the OED business development associates are still a big part of the equation. They can assist with site selection and space requirements. They can also help with fast track and priority permitting by coordinating with other county departments. If projects meet the scope and job creation threshold, this program assists in expediting permitting and other aspects to quickly get doors open. The OED also has the resources to plan and execute groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings and milestone recognition events. Cost-saving energy programs like BGE’s SEED program and the PACE program which provide utility savings and defer equipment costs, are recommended and can be navigated with assistance from OED.
For the new workforce at these young companies, OED partners with the Susquehanna Workforce Network. SWN focuses on job skill training, retooling, career pathways, certifications and rapid response to meet a variety of employer needs in Harford County. Consolidating Harford Transit within OED focuses collaboration on workforce transportation and utilizes Harford Link and Harford Ride Share to promote transportation options to both potential and existing employees throughout the county and region.
Finally, OED can help companies coordinate efforts for events or marketing opportunities among the local municipalities of the Cities of Aberdeen and Havre de Grace and the Town of Bel Air, as well as tourism-related activities through VisitHarford, the county’s state-recognized, designated marketing organization for tourism.
“We have a talented team of professionals who are ready to assist with business needs every step of the way,” Holt says. “They’ll help guide businesses toward success and demonstrate why Harford County is Maryland’s new center of opportunity.”
For more information, contact the Office of Economic Development at 410-638-3059 or visit the website at www.harfordcountymd.gov/oed. I95 Content Marketing