DENTON — Maryland Department of Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz toured Caroline County on Thursday, June 20, meeting with local business leaders and elected officials to learn how the state’s top economic development agency can help the county grow.
Schulz, who took over the department Jan. 1 after being appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan late last year, is visiting all 24 jurisdictions in the state for similar tours, in an effort to get to know each one’s economic landscape.
In Caroline County, she toured Choptank Transport in Preston, where she also participated in a roundtable discussion with county commissioners and state legislators who represent the county; Dart Container Corp. in Federalsburg; and the Chesapeake Culinary Center in Denton.
Schulz said she was impressed by the businesses she visited and was happy to finally have seen Denton’s downtown area, which she called quaint and beautiful, after driving around it on state Route 404 so many times.
The major issues facing Caroline County’s business sector, Schulz said she heard, are public transportation and workforce recruitment and retention, particularly for growing industries like logistics and manufacturing.
“(Workforce issues) can be more difficult in rural areas because (public) transportation is a little bit harder to come by,” Schulz said. “But it’s a similar story to what we’ve heard even in the urban and suburban counties.”
Schulz said attracting and retaining a specific, qualified workforce is becoming more competitive everywhere, across Maryland and the United States, due to the low unemployment rate and expansion of available jobs.
At the business roundtable, Schulz said, she told elected officials her department is working to increase its ability to respond to local business owners’ concerns, not just with its own resources but also those of partnering agencies.
“We will be working together to make sure we identify issues that pop up for business owners in this part of the state, and putting together regional teams to make sure we provide very individualized customer support,” Schulz said. “That is very much the governor’s top priority.”