From Eric McLauchlin, chairman, Harford County Economic Development Advisory Board:
The debate over the recent Workforce Technical Training Grant (WFTTG) awarded to Smith’s Detection has brought a key fact to the forefront: to continue economic growth, Harford County must provide a business friendly environment, attracting profitable businesses that will generate jobs and support the local economy.
As published letters from Councilman Guthrie and Executive Craig pointed out, the facts fully support the decision to award a training grant to a Harford County company that has brought jobs, supported the economy and, yes, made a profit. That company has made Harford County its U.S. headquarters, which means its employees from around the country and the world travel frequently to our area, stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and spend money in our county. They have invested in our workforce. The awarding of the WFTTG will further benefit those employees and the 103 new hires.
The WFTTG is one of the many efforts the Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) and the Office of Economic Development have designed to create and maintain a healthy business environment. The program helps employers accelerate technical training to employees. Some key facts:
• Since its inception in 1998, the WFTTG program has supported 120 businesses in the County – from microbusinesses to major corporations.
• All Harford County businesses may apply for a grant through the WFTTG program.
• To be eligible, companies must conduct technical training to enhance their productivity. For many businesses using this program, employees with new technical skills have been promoted (job retention), leading to job opportunities for new hires (job creation).
• In the last three years, more than 60 businesses were approved to receive grants, and over 1,300 employees upgraded their technical skills.
• Training was often conducted by the staff at Harford Community College, and supports their efforts to be responsive to industry needs.
It is important to note that these companies are reviewed and selected not just by government representatives, but by a committee of business leaders, business analysts and business owners who represent EDAB and the corporate community. Additionally, not only does the WFTTG provide training opportunities to the selected business employees, it also offers more opportunities to County residents and to educational institutions through support of technical classes and seminars.
We cannot expect companies to locate or stay here if we cannot provide the infrastructure and workforce talent necessary to support their needs. Nor can we expect our local economy or quality of life to improve if we choose to remain uncompetitive. The County has programs that support companies of all sizes. We know that companies have options and they will move to neighboring counties and even other states for better opportunities, taking those jobs, taxes and residents with them. Rather than cower from robust and industrious programs like the WFTTG, the community should recognize that such programs are a solid demonstration that Harford County is serious about business retention, business attraction and the creation of jobs at all levels. We should support the programs that promote well-planned business growth and the race for an expanding employment base. They are an opportunity to remain attractive in an intensely competitive environment.
While the recent discussion has focused on the selection of one company – which, in fact, met all of the qualifications for the grant — it has opened a door to the bigger picture: maintaining a healthy economy in Harford County – an effort we should all support.
Chairman, Harford County Economic Development Advisory Board