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April 05, 2019

Trone talks local economic development at roundtable

Credit: Herald-Mail Media, C.J. Lovelace

U.S. Rep. David Trone made several stops in Washington County on Friday, each focusing on ongoing efforts for local job growth and economic development.

Trone, D-Md., visited the former Fort Ritchie Army base, the site of the county’s proposed Cascade Town Centre project, before meeting with local officials for a roundtable discussion at the Hagerstown Regional Airport.

During the 75-minute roundtable, officials with the city of Hagerstown and county government, as well as local business and education leaders, talked about various development-related issues, including the continued pursuit to widen Interstate 81 through the county.

The freshman congressman said he hears the message loud and clear on I-81.

“As it was said in the meeting today, it’s been talked and talked and talked and talked,” Trone said of the desire to widen the busy highway. “West Virginia has stepped up. Maryland has 12 miles. They’ve got the cost structure where it’s very, very reasonable. It has to happen. So we’re going to do all we can on the federal side, work with Gov. Hogan who has been very interested in helping out here.”

Other topics included the Fort Ritchie project, ongoing redevelopment in Hagerstown, job-training programs at Hagerstown Community College.

Several infrastructure projects also were highlighted as drivers for additional development, like needed improvements to the Interstate 70 interchange at Sharpsburg Pike, the extension of Crayton Boulevard and a new bridge over the Antietam Creek to extend Professional Court.

“Representative Trone is very in touch with what it takes to grow jobs,” said Jill Thompson, the city’s director of community and economic development. “We’re pleased that he’s here to listen to what some of our challenges are and our opportunities, and his willingness to help attract new jobs to Washington County and Hagerstown.”

County Administrator Robert Slocum said Trone’s insight as a business owner — co-founder of Total Wine & More, the largest U.S. independent retailer of fine wine with over 7,000 employees in 24 states — and his willingness to learn about the county’s growth opportunities and barriers is encouraging for the community.

“The fact that he took time to come out here … to talk to us about business, growing jobs, growing development is a wonderful treasure to have,” he said.

Trone, who capped off his visit with a lunch discussion with HCC President Jim Klauber to discuss workforce development plans, said the biggest takeaway from Friday’s visit for him was seeing local government and private-sector leaders committed to creating jobs and working together for economic development goals in the county.

“That’s always the start of success,” he said.