Four years ago, when the U.S. Conference of Mayors ranked the Salisbury-Wicomico County region very low on the list of growing areas nationwide, Dave Ryan, executive director of Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development, told city and county officials not to be concerned.
Numerous organizations rank and survey, he told them, and neither he nor city leaders knew much about the credibility of the Conference of Mayors.
Today, that Conference ranks the local metro statistical area the 42nd-fastest-growing in the country.
“After further research, these guys are credible,” a smiling Ryan told a chuckling audience at SWED’s economic update luncheon on Monday, where Ryan shared good news: In July, Wicomico County had the highest number of people working since 1867.
Among dignitaries attending the meeting, at the Greater Salisbury Committee building, were state Sen. Jim Mathias, Wicomico County Council President John Cannon, Wor-Wic Community College President Dr. Ray Hoy and Mike Dunn, CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee.
Comprising Wicomico, Worcester, Somerset and Sussex counties, the MSA has a population of 400,000. Half the residents are in the labor force.
The unemployment rate is 4.7 percent, less than the national average of 5 percent.
Consumer spending is up about 2.5 percent and income totals $2.6 billion annually. It would likely be $1.3 billion, but the increase is due to an influx coming to Salisbury and Wicomico to shop, have dinner and seek medical care.
Another positive indicator is that, currently, there are fewer than 500 homes for sale and the owners can expect to sell them in four to five months. Previously, there were 1,100 homes for sale, with an expected wait time of two years before they sold, Ryan said.
Among factors driving growth is the leisure and hospitality industry, Ryan said, explaining those seeking recreation need hotels, restaurants and shopping malls, all which are built and managed, thus providing jobs. Growth is also driven by the health care and education sectors.
SWED partners with schools including Wor-Wic Community College and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, to connect job seekers with available positions and provide training.
“We compete by reaching out to experts,” Ryan said, including computer specialists who informed him in-depth reading has been replaced by a desire for quick facts and videos. Complying, SWED is on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Linked In.
Local developer Brad Gillis asked Ryan about plans to work with businesses when many owners feel good about growth, but are simultaneously afraid to trust those feelings.
In the short term, there will be training and in the long-term, Ryan replied, “we have to start early.”
A survey of children in the Raleigh-Durham area indicated children who, before age 5, master kills such as playing well with others, raising their hands before speaking out and listening, are more likely to succeed.
“Early intervention is important. How can we create that capacity?” Ryan said.
He praised the city’s Streetscape project, planned to upgrade and beautify downtown.
“If we create this space where people want to be, people will be here. We are moving forward and creating an ecosystem for growth. We can create an environment that gives us that entrepreneurial spirit,” he said.
Reach Susan Canfora at email@example.com.