In his third annual State of the County speech, Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman Thursday touted the county’s continued strong economic growth and pledged continued focus on many fronts including public health and safety, education and efficiency in government.
According to a Howard County press release,
Kittleman addressed an audience of nearly 500 at the Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon at Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center, saying that, despite the flash flood that devastated Historic Ellicott City in July, the county remains strong due to an emphasis on fiscal responsibility and shared values.
“We, as a county, have been tried and tested. Yet we’ve weathered these challenges and have continued to make progress with our priorities,” he said. “After last year, our county has not only shown that we are resilient, but we have redefined the meaning of resilience.”
In the six months since the storm, Kittleman said 75 businesses have reopened, three new businesses have set up shop and nine more have committed to coming back to Main Street. “Residents have returned, traffic has returned and economic activity has returned,” Kittleman said.
Kittleman announced that Freshly, a gourmet meal delivery service, plans to invest $8 million in a location in the Route 1 corridor and will add 500 new jobs over the next several years.
Kittleman said he supports a much-needed detox and outpatient treatment center in the county, vowing to include the project in his Fiscal Year 2018 capital budget. Opioid overdoses and deaths are one of the greatest challenges currently facing the county, he said.
Saying that education “doesn’t start when students enter a school and doesn’t stop when they leave it,” Kittleman unveiled details of his Education 24/7 initiative. The county’s Local Children’s Board will implement a strategic, five-year plan to identify needs and gaps in resources, avoid duplication of services and ensure that money is most efficiently spent where most needed.
Other key successes and initiatives highlighted by Kittleman include:
- A transformation of the Columbia Gateway business park into an “innovation district,” where leading-edge companies will work with educational institutions and startups on new technologies and services.
- The launch of READY HoCo, a county-wide campaign led by the Office of Emergency Management, to help residents and businesses better prepare for natural disasters.
- A commitment of $10 million for road resurfacing to catch up on a $56 million, 10-year backlog.
- Early success with TRACKHoward, the county’s new performance management system, which already has netted $250,000 in savings through a more efficient, online procurement system.
- A package of legislation filed recently to assist county farmers with everyday operations and help restore their property rights.
- Progress with plans for a public-private partnership to replace the aging Circuit Court House with a new facility that will meet the county’s needs.
Kittleman said that many needed projects across the County had languished for years. He has been able to “fast forward” several projects as a result of bipartisan cooperation.
“This kind of collaboration is what makes us a stronger county. By working together, we know we can tackle our challenges more completely and effectively,” he said. “I know there is a lot of uncertainty right now about what’s happening at the federal level. But there should be no uncertainty here. Our values of inclusion and opportunity, understanding and responsibility, and collaboration and innovation will continue to drive our priorities as a county.”
To read the full text of Thursday’s State of the County address, go to https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Branches/County-Executive/State-of-the-County.