From the Harford Economic Development Advisory Board:
Harford County boasts some of the most innovative thinkers and effective leaders in the region. Bring them together for an “out-of-the-box” idea session, and the results are far-reaching and astounding.
That’s what the organizers of the second annual Connect Harford are anticipating when close to 400 of the region’s most savvy business, government and education leaders gather to discuss the future of Harford County. Many of the successful companies and budding entrepreneurs choose to do business in Harford County because of its location, workforce and education prospects. It makes perfect sense that they would want to help shape the opportunities available in the county by sharing not only their success stories, but also their frustrations and challenges.
While Connect Harford is a Herculean undertaking for its organizers, the efforts proved worthwhile both during and after last year’s inaugural event, and this year’s event promises to tee up even more strength. The involvement of government, education, finance and philanthropic organizations has made this year’s docket exciting. From keynote speaker Mark King, CEO of TaylorMade Golf Company, and the panel of discussions on potential growth areas to the break-out idea sessions and a themed lunch, this event will be more than just a brainstorming meeting.
Designed to be an interactive forum to help establish Harford County’s “vision” for the future, Connect Harford is dedicated to promoting and inspiring economic growth and prosperity. The event has benefited from the endowment and partnership of the Dresher Foundation and Harford Community College, along with many local organizations who have generously provided resources.
The topics of this year’s panel discussions on additive manufacturing, farm to table and entrepreneurialism address the traditional heart of Harford County’s identity: military, agriculture and business. Each of these platforms already has an infrastructure in place. Each has shown promise in reaching that overarching goal of growth within the county. As these opportunities evolve, the lines between the various sectors begin to blur. In addition, leaders see the value of working together toward a common goal.
For example, while additive manufacturing began as a technology of the U.S. Army on the grounds of APG, it is now growing into a valuable business that will not only use state-of-the-art equipment initiated by the armed services, but it will also generate new and profit-making businesses. For agriculture, farm to table is the course that will allow the industry to gather momentum. Restaurants making healthy, home-grown foods a priority are enjoying the patronage of health-conscious citizens, who, in turn, become the role models for a Healthy Harford – yet another high-profile initiative. All of these opportunities make way for entrepreneurialism, which finds support in organizations like the Harford Business Innovation Center, The Ground Floor, The University Center (former HEAT Center), and the Small Business Administration.
At last year’s Connect Harford Inaugural Forum, an estimated 350 people participated in discussions about the future of Harford County. Attendees represented generational groups from Millennials to Boomers, although Millennials made up only 13 percent of the audience. This year, organizers have made a concerted effort to attract the Millennials, citing this group as the county’s future. These men and women, ages 20-34, have very different ideas and lifestyles than Baby Boomers, who grew up and rose to the top of their careers without cell phones, texting or electronic books. While many Boomers and Gen X’ers have embraced technology, the differences between the generations are often glaring. The contrasting communication styles and measured success are sometimes at opposite ends of the spectrum. If we hope to continue to attract talent to the region, we need to make it attractive to our target audience. Who better to identify with their goals and needs than Millennials themselves?
Some of the outcomes from the 2013 summit were recommendations like: expansion of public transportation/bike/walking paths while maintaining a rural feel, preventing sprawl, creating a cultural hub, and increasing collaboration and communication between entities along with an all-encompassing bipartisan oversight group. These ideas hit the ball on the green. To make the prize-winning putt, our stroke has to be refined.
Tee time is October 1 at 8 a.m.