2023 NACo Achievement Awards: Spotlight on Maryland County Winners in Community and Economic Development

Introducing Our Celebratory Blog Series: Showcasing the Remarkable Achievements of Maryland’s Award-Winning Counties!

Join us on an exciting journey as we embark on a special blog series dedicated to honoring the exceptional accomplishments of the counties that triumphed in the National Association of Counties (NACo) 2023 Achievement Awards. Each week, we will shine a well-deserved spotlight on a few remarkable counties, delving into their accomplishments, innovative initiatives, and the profound impact they have had on their communities. Let’s dive in!

Community and Economic Development

Howard County – Apprenticeship ProgramBe an Apprentice

Howard County believes a robust solution for the demand for talent is through apprenticeships. In 2018, our office hosted an apprenticeship week event to outreach to businesses and potential employees. We have hosted roundtable events, including B2B discussions, apprentice testimonials, sponsor conversations, and access to related training providers. We hosted a virtual apprenticeship week in 2020 and 2021, and our program participation grew. In 2022, we were proud to host two new events supporting National Apprenticeship Week; one was an event for job seekers held in English and Spanish, and the other was for businesses focused on Women in Apprenticeship. With the return to in-person meetings, we have continued our community awareness events and developed innovative ways to recruit, train, and keep highly skilled employees by becoming apprenticeship sponsors and developing the many benefits of apprenticeships. Much of our work with businesses have included information sessions to engage them in discussions on how they could grow their business and understand staffing and employment needs, along with looking at innovative ways to recruit, train and keep highly skilled employees by becoming apprenticeship sponsors and developing their own workforce.

Howard County – Business Revitalization Initiative Through Entrepreneurship (BRITE)white and black wooden quote board

The Business Revitalization Initiative Through Entrepreneurship program (BRITE) fast-tracks innovations toward commercial success by supporting early-stage startups and established firms in Howard County. Managed by the Maryland Innovation Center (MIC) under the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA), this initiative offers a direct pathway for aspiring entrepreneurs to achieve their goals. The BRITE program provides a comprehensive suite of resources, enabling budding and seasoned businesses to scale at the right time. This support encompasses professional skills development, partnership development, business acceleration, counseling, and expert guidance. The program encourages an inclusive environment that fosters innovation by emphasizing the importance of diverse perspectives. Women, veterans, minorities, LGBTQ+, small disadvantaged, and historically underutilized businesses all contribute to the vibrant tapestry of this collaborative community.

Montgomery County – Customer Engagement Analysisblack and white printed textile

Montgomery County Alcohol Beverage Services (ABS) undertook a customer engagement analysis and outreach program based on one-on-one conversations with 125 license holders and facility managers in their own establishments. ABS recognizes that the hospitality industry has been hit especially hard by the pandemic and continues to struggle with supply chain disruptions, a labor shortage, inflation, and changed customer expectations for dining and entertainment. Because of this, ABS met license holders and facility managers where they were, both physically and conceptually, to assess evolving trends and needs and provide information to the licensed establishments. Notably, many license holders responded that the personal visit was a big and important step in bolstering communications, even when they did not have particular concerns to report. Using a conversational approach with a trusted interviewer, ABS was able to extract meaningful data that would not be accessible through online surveys or public focus groups. The in-person visits helped to identify and update alcohol policy, training, and resources for licensees and their staff, and they confirmed that many of ABS’s health, safety, and compliance programs are working. ABS recognizes that a robust control system is the healthiest and safest model for communities and sees improvements to all aspects of its business model to safeguard the community’s health and welfare. In general, ABS learned from the customer engagement and outreach program that license holders make good use of the department’s two main teaching tools: the annual wall calendar and the twice-monthly regulatory training class. In addition, license holders are looking for enhanced customer service at the ABS retail stores and find their delivery drivers to be key resources.

Howard County – Fort Meade Workforce Development Partnershipwhat was the most important aspect of your transition into the civilian workforce

The Fort Meade Workforce Development Partnership provides career and employment services and resources to veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses on the Fort Meade military base, which is in the central Maryland region yet very close to the Howard County line. This partnership is between two jurisdictions (Howard and Anne Arundel counties offices of Workforce Development) and Fort Meade. Veterans and military spouses face elevated levels of unemployment or underemployment. Transitioning service members often face uncertainty regarding their move from military to civilian life and benefit from career counseling and mentorship. This program supports these groups by ensuring that job-seeking individuals needing employment help, such as career planning and job placement, have access to services. Howard County and Anne Arundel County share the salary cost for one full-time employee who provides career and employment services to veterans, recently separated veterans, active-duty spouses, reserve/national guard spouses, veteran spouses, and other transitioning service members. Services may include training, licensing, certifications, employment assistance, ‘work and learn’ opportunities, and supportive services.

Montgomery County – Residential Deck Detailelevated deck off of a single family home

The Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services annually issues over 500 residential deck permits. Most permit applicants are homeowners with little to no construction and plan drafting experience. The Montgomery County Residential Deck Details guidelines allow homeowners to submit only a site-location plan to obtain permits for rectangular one-level decks. Once the permit is issued, the homeowners will only need to follow the detailed deck guidelines for construction.

Harford County – The Modernization of the Workforce Technical Training Grant ProgramTraining Button on Keyboard Stock Image - Image of computer ...

The Workforce Technical Training Grant is a competitive reimbursement grant program that incentivizes intermediate and advanced technical training to establish a more highly skilled workforce in Harford County. In November 2021, the Harford County Office of Economic Development implemented a new streamlined online application portal and complementary webinar series to explain the new submission process to county business owners. The revamped application portal modernized the entire grant program and added additional levels of protection for sensitive employee information. The webinar series explains eligibility requirements and criteria for submission, and the new application process is detailed from start to finish. The new technology-driven grant submission procedure invites business owners of all sizes and socioeconomic levels to consider the Workforce Technical Training Grant as an option to help with training costs, as its improved efficiency and simplified required documentation appeals to companies with anywhere from one to 1,000 employees. The fundamental goal of the modernized program is to attract more business owners to utilize the grant, thereby developing more highly skilled workers, increasing economic output and revenue for businesses, and allowing local employees to gain new expertise.

Together, let’s explore the remarkable stories behind these award-winning counties and draw inspiration from their passion, creativity, and commitment to making a positive difference. View all 2023 NACo Achievement Award winners through their interactive and searchable map. View our full series of 2023 Maryland Award Winners.