Wicomico touting its economic potential

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Wicomico County will open an economic development office in Downtown Salisbury.

Bob Culver made economic growth and development his pet issue when he ran for County Executive last year. Now, nine months into his term, his plans to spur the issue are becoming more visible.

Two billboards announcing Wicomico County’s desire to attract business have gone up on Route 50. One can be seen when entering Salisbury near Nanticoke Road; the other is placed in a high traffic section of Worcester County, just east of Stephen Decatur High School.

“I can’t wait to get all of this off the ground,” Culver said in an interview.

Two high-profile hirings are also on the Culver task list. The County Council approved a little more than $680,000 in economic development spending in the budget that took effect last month.

With some of that cash, Culver will be hiring a Director of Economic Development and an associate to run an office in Downtown Salisbury.

That office will be across the street from the Government Office Building on North Division Street.

“Having a street presence for economic development will be advantageous,” said Culver.

The county has leased the former PNC Bank building, agreeing to pay $22,000 for the year.

Economic development won’t be the only activity going on there: Culver said some employees with the county’s Public Works Department ─ particularly those who interact with the public ─ will also be based there.

Public Works Director Weston Young will work from there so he has better public access, Culver said, as will an engineer who does draftsman work related primarily to stormwater management.

Culver made clear that there is no available office space in the Government Office Building, which the county essentially shares with the city. He said the new building “doesn’t need any real work” to be ready for county use.

The Economic Development Director will also serve as a grants writer for the county, seeking state and federal monies to support various local programs. Whoever wins the position will have the authority to represent the County Executive and county government in seeking to attract businesses.

He said the position will also work closely with Dave Ryan, executive director of Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development Inc. SWED is a public-private group that receives some county funding but is overseen by local business leaders.

Culver has tapped various community business leaders to serve on his Economic Development Team, whose members meet with him every other week.

Culver said the billboards are just the first step in a larger marketing effort. He said he’s like to see commercials produced that would show the county at its best, to grow its reputation and position it as a potential business destination. “We should have ads that show that we have a lot to offer,” he said.

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

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