Originally posted, December 18, 2008, 12:02 AM:
Recently, a question was asked in the Hagerstown, MD Herald-Mail if people thought biotechnology could play a major role in the region’s economic future. Aside from a few stupid comments that prove just how stupid the person is who wrote them, there were some simple, yet straight-forward comments that people had.
To give you a sense of the area, Hagerstown, MD, was at one time a bustling farming and manufacturing city in Western Maryland. With the downturn in the 1970’s, the little city faltered and struggled. Businesses went under; manufacturing ceased. Many of the people who called the area home for several generations had to either move to Baltimore or take up much lower paying jobs. Fortunately, the city is the center of transit leading from the Eastern Ports to the West of the US. For example, two major Interstates (I-70 and I-81) run nearby and there are several major train lines running out of Baltimore, Pittsburgh, that interconnect near Hagerstown, thus it has the nickname, Hub City.
Another benefit to the region is that Maryland has infused capital into the higher education options in the area, establishing a consortsium with Frostburg State and thecommunity colleges to have a Western Campus of the University of Maryland in Hagerstown. Thus, students from the surrounding region have access to college-level education.
That said, there is still the reality of unemployment in the region and a lack of job diversity. To that end, there was a recent article in the Herald-Mail regarding the interest by the County Commisioners to pursue companies in the biotech economic niche to come into the region for laboratory and corporate headquarters.
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So in addition to voting yes, I also placed a comment on the site. Here is my comment:
Biotech can certainly be a major driver. Yes, lab employees and medical directors are going to need advanced degrees (MS, Ph.D., and MDs). But support services become crucial to maintaining and advancing these cos. Support services are in the areas of HVAC for the labs, construction and building maintenance, IT staff for servers and interconnected lab equipment, med. comm. firms, and journal publishers. But the real key is for the Regional DevCo to market the support services to companies in other economic sectors. Draw in different economic sectors and the support services for those sectors will follow. This diversifies the job market in the region. The whole point is to provide enough job options for those growing up in the region to see a panoply of options and no longer have to “settle” so they will want to pursue a diverse education and still remain in the region.