Members’ Corner: Alex McCoy, CEcD
Alex McCoy, MBA, CEcD
Director, Garrett County Department of Economic Development
Tell us a little about your background in economic development
My career began in 2003 in South Georgia. From there I went to another South Georgia community, and in 2008 I moved to North Florida. I completed Oklahoma University Economic Development Institute (OU EDI) in 2009, earned the CEcD and FEDC’s Young Professional in 2012, and am currently working on my IOM.
Q: What are your key priorities within your current position?
A: Having been here for about a year now, my current priorities include: (1) working with neighboring communities to share in a regional asset mapping, labor shed analysis, and target industry studies; (2) with the data generated, refining our marketing efforts with a focused message to the people and businesses that could best benefit from it; (3) completing the needed infrastructure within Keyser’s Ridge Business Park at the intersection of I-68 and US 219; 4) relocating the Department’s office out of the Courthouse and onto Garrett College’s campus to build stronger synergies with our partners there (SBDC, Workforce Development, College Small Business Development Efforts, etc.); and 5) working with Garrett College to start a local leadership program that would teach communication skills and community / economic development principles to local leaders to build even more long term support for the Department.
Q: Does one particular project spark your excitement? If so, describe it below.
A: Working with my neighboring counties to try to conduct the regional studies mentioned. Projects don’t look at counties and see jurisdictional or state lines. They look at the assets within a region to support their business operations. Economic developers must help their communities move past acting like silos and become more collaborative to meet project needs. I believe we have to work together to get projects interested in our area, and then let the projects pick from the best options we have for them to locate upon.
Q: What professional pressures keep you up at night?
A: In short, what can I get done and how fast? No matter where you are, people are funny. The public has a very mixed view of how things are. Some think you’re doing too much, not enough, we shouldn’t exist, they don’t know we exist . . . but think we should, etc. Maintaining an acceptable balance, all in the efforts to bring job opportunities to people who desperately need them. So in short, what keeps me up at night is the thought of a small child going to bed hungry because I didn’t do all I could that day to help their single parent have a decent paying job.
Q: What attributes are unique to your community?
A: We have a really progressive and pro-business group of county commissioners. In fact, Commissioner Jim Hinebaugh had served as the Economic Development Director for 17 years. It’s rare to have a group who really like and trust each other, AND have someone who completely understands the important role the Department plays.
Garrett County is also about 4 hours to Columbus, Ohio, which makes us a potentially great location for tier 2 or 3 suppliers to manufacturers in Eastern Ohio or Western / Central Pennsylvania. Garrett County also sits on top of Marcellus Shale Gas. Regardless of one’s personal position on the practice of “fracking,” it has the potential to create wealth. We also have a tremendous amount of undeveloped land that creates many scenic vistas up here in the mountains. Last but not least, with all the annual visitors to Deep Creek Lake, locals get to enjoy many restaurants and specialty shops that add to the local flavor and quality of life.
Q: What is your locality’s top three “selling points” for future growth?
A: 1) Upgrading US 219 North to an Interstate: Once completed, this project would make Buffalo, New York a little over three hour drive to Deep Creek Lake (DCL). DCL really blossomed once I-68 made access to Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh convenient. Making Buffalo three hours away would not only make Garrett County equally convenient for new tourists, but also for potential tier 2 – 3 suppliers and distribution centers.
2) Gateway to the Mid-West: Garrett County has a great location and proximity to OEM or Tier 1 manufacturers within Ohio and Pennsylvania. Added to this, we have more than 10 percent of our workforce engaged in manufacturing, and large workforces in neighboring communities also with strong manufacturing backgrounds, along with I-68, creating a lot of potential value for many types of projects Governor Hogan wants to attract to our state.
3) Responsible Shale Gas Extraction: With Garrett County sitting on top of shale gas formations, someday that may present an opportunity for tremendous private sector jobs and investments.
Q: How do you bring momentum to Maryland?
A: Having worked in both Georgia and Florida for 11 years before coming to Maryland, I’ve gotten to see best practices elsewhere in states that have been considered as having strong economic development programs. In addition, having completed both OU EDI and the CEcD shows site location consultants and other similar groups that Maryland does have a strong capable team. I’m committed to creating professional development opportunities for community and economic development professionals, having in the past worked with the Institute of Government at Florida State University to create the North Florida Economic Development Academy, a program that helped train more than 130 community volunteer sales team members.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with MEDA and your fellow members?
A: All parts of Maryland have something to offer prospective businesses. We are truly moving in the right direction to capitalize on the value we’re able to create to make “Maryland Open for Business” not just a slogan, but also a way of life.