Eric Robison brainstorms with representatives from the Maryland Office of Tourism Development
This year marks the third year that Engage Mountain Maryland (EMM) has attended the Appalachian Festival's annual event held at Frostburg State University (FSU). Representatives greeted guests to discuss two initiatives the organization has undertaken. The You+2 campaign asks area residents to pledge that they will vote in the 2018 midterm election and pledge two more do the same. The second initiative is an economic arm of EMM called Adventure Capital (AdCap).
The first public presentation for AdCap took place under the tent on the FSU campus grounds as part of the day-long scheduled events. Those who listened in learned about the ongoing work to build an anchor stakeholder base in Garrett County to welcome internet-connected business to work from the comfort of a relaxed, rural location.
"We have been steadily gathering who we see as anchor stakeholders in this venture," shared Mark Stutzman, President of EMM. "There has been nothing but enthusiasm for the idea and each group or organization sees great potential for the area's economy."
Adventure Capital is operating under the nonprofit status of EMM. The individuals reaching out to the community have nothing personal to gain other than the satisfaction of growing Garrett County's economy in a non-competing way.
"Part of the beauty of this initiative is that the businesses we're looking to attract will not be competing with existing local businesses," explains Eric Robison, EMM Board Member. "These businesses would be locating all or part of their business to a rural location to save money and infuse a quality-of-life component to their existing business model. Their incomes are coming from outside the county rather than relying on local dollars to support them."
Also shared during the presentation is the need for all rural economies to identify their own assets to potentially attract "remote" work. Rural parts of Maryland and other states rely heavily on funding that is generated by the more robust economies found in metropolitan areas. By diversifying the locations of businesses to rural areas, it allows for lateral growth at lower cost while reducing the need for state and federal aid to keep struggling counties afloat.
"Everyone benefits if this becomes a commerce trend," Stutzman continues. "Businesses can afford more office space and more employees. It could also afford the possibility to expand by removing the crushing overhead found in densely populated locations. Metro areas won't miss the numbers we're looking to attract yet we would benefit greatly. "
With plenty of room to welcome new residents to Garrett County, Robison says the growth that would happen would go relatively unnoticed. AdCap is targeting smaller business clusters of 25 to 50 employees rather than larger influxes that could be a challenge to usher in as efficiently.
"We're more interested in seeing growth happen that will be permanent," Robison says. "Setting up a streamlined process that welcomes businesses is more important at this point than the size of the company. The goal is to create a working model that eventually becomes a regular part of our economic development strategy."
The next public presentation in Garrett County will be scheduled in the coming months. The AdCap team is anxious to get the program more widely known since word-of-mouth can be a powerful tool to reach prospective businesses.