The Greater Cumberland Committee’s Annual Meeting was held on Friday, December 1st, with a full complement of members and guests represented. During their regular Board meeting, Chair Bill Meagher, three new members were featured: Kendall Ludwig, Curly Red Designs, Greg Winger, First National Bank, and Jeremy Irons, Belt Construction.
Executive Director Brenda Smith provided the 2017 Accomplishments and highlighted the following few: the I-68 Regional Economic Partnership, with active engagement from Allegany, Garrett, Mineral, Monongalia, and Preston counties, City of Frostburg, Cumberland Economic Development Corporation, Maryland Department of Commerce, Tri-County Council, and Appalachian Regional Commission/Maryland Department of Planning, announced their commitment of a site location consultant to secure a regional asset map, targeted industry study, workforce analysis and county specific recommendations. Theory in Practice (TIP) Strategies, out of Austin, TX, was ranked number one among eight proposals received, and through a competitive review and overall scoring structure, they were selected to participate in a telephone interview with the partners; the number two choice also receiving an interview was Garner Economics, LLC from Atlanta, GA. Following this process, TIP was unanimously selected to lead the ARC grant answering the regional economic questions of what do we have, who wants what we have, and what do we need to do to be competitive. The Project Kick-Off meeting and regional tour are scheduled for December 13 and 14 with 100% participation by the partnership.
Smith also reported, as promised at last year’s meeting, the regional college presidents, including Allegany College of Maryland, Eastern WV Community and Technical College, Frostburg State University, Garrett College, Potomac State College of WVU and the University of MD Center for Environmental Sciences, held their first ever meeting in March at Potomac State with President Gee leading discussion. Great synergies and collaborative efforts took shape resulting in quarterly, as needed meetings, planned for this core group of leaders.
The Annual Energy Forum was held in May at Garrett College that included a panel representing coal, wind, natural gas, solar and biomass, an updated from the MD Department of Environment, information about the Natural Capital Investment Fund, a higher education perspective offered by Dr. Ron Nowaczyk, FSU, and a WV Energy Policy Update provided by keynote speaker Sam Taylor of the Energy Institute of WVU. Additionally, two $2,500 scholarships were made possible by the 2016 inaugural Mountain MD Renewable Energy Bike Ride. These scholarships will be granted under a broad scope focused on sustainability and have been awarded as part of the spring 2018 semester at FSU.
With an underlying theme of treatment, education and prevention, an Addiction Symposium hosted in June welcomed 200 people and five sub-groups (healthcare, education, legal/judicial, treatment and community agencies) creating ten short and long term goals. These initiatives are being supported across a multi-county/state effort by a committed group of community leaders representing every walk of life and professional affiliation. Retired Major James Pyles of the MD State Police and now Security Director for the MD Department of Health, along with Briana LaVorgna of EWVCTC, were both acknowledged as unsung heroes of this event’s success. An anniversary event will be held on Friday, June 8, 2018. Members and guests are encouraged to save the date for the next installment of this important initiative.
Identified as TGCC’s #1 initiative following their 2016 Board retreat, several regional broadband meetings were held throughout the year with a group of specialists and industry leaders doing great things in their respective counties. Smith promised a more detailed program update would be forthcoming for the March 2018 membership meeting.
On the heels of the North/South Annual Meeting held in November, Smith reminded members and guests that the trade corridor project is moving along nicely, but it is not without some specific funding challenges on the Pennsylvania side for the final file miles to the Maryland state line. The North/South Core Work Group continues to be diligent in their outreach efforts with a true understanding of regionalism – what is good for one state and/or county is good for everyone. These advocacy efforts will continue as we await the opening of the 11-miles of US-219N in late summer 2018.
In her closing remarks, Smith reported that after spending two years trying to engage the business community about the benefits of the Regional Job Intern Bank though traditional media outlets and community partner presentations, the TGCC’s Executive Committee made the conscious decision in September to not continue the effort moving forward. It is their hope, through discussion with the regional college presidents, to prove more support as a conduit to the business community and partnering agencies to support existing intern programs established by their higher education partners. Both Allegany and Garrett counties government were once again thanked for their financial contributions to this effort.
Chairman Bill Meagher shared the plans for what’s next outlining continued broadband and addiction outreach efforts, as well as the organization’s plan to move their offices to the campus of Frostburg State University during the first half of 2018. Chairman Meagher also sought a change in the organization’s By-Laws to legitimize expanding the service area currently expanded upon to include counties impacted by both the I-68 Regional Economic Partnership and continued efforts of the North/South Trade Corridor. Executive Director Brenda Smith and her assistant Sharon Corwell were complimented and praised for their leadership and organization in carrying out the day to day activities of TGCC’s mission.
The most anticipated part of the program was the announcement of the 2017 Greater Good Award Recipient. The criteria utilized by the Nominating and Selection Committee includes membership in any category (Corporate Council, Area Affiliate, Leadership Legacy, Partner in Progress or Legacy), an individual who demonstrates a commitment to TGCC by active participation, by involvement in identified initiatives, an individual who promotes the concept of regionalism with support actions and finally, the remarkable individual who recognizes and practices the philosophy of “less fame, more gain.”
In keeping with TGCC’s tradition, Dave Moe, the 2016 Greater Good recipient, did the honors of announcing the 2017 recipient and provided the following introduction to long-term member Tom Finan, citing him as “honoring a strong work ethic, tradition, family values and a commitment to public service with integrity and character.” Finan, who was deeply humbled by this recognition, offered his thanks and gratitude to the Nominating Committee, as well as the leadership and staff of TGCC, sharing that what a privilege it has been to watch the organization grow and flourish through notable projects and partnerships.
The first meeting of 2018 will be held on Thursday, January 4, at 11:30 a.m., at the Cumberland Country Club with a presentation from the Honorable Kelly Schulz, Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations to discuss workforce challenges and the overwhelming needs for skilled labor across the state.
The Greater Cumberland Committee, established in 2000 by a group of thoughtful business leaders, is a not-for-profit member based organization of 80 civic and businesses representing Allegany and Garrett counties, MD, Preston, Mineral, Monongalia, Hampshire, and Hardy counties, WV and Bedford, Cambria and Somerset counties, PA. For more information, please visit their website at www.greatercc.org