County Ignores Travel Freeze For Vegas Convention

SNOW HILL — Hoping to attract new business to Worcester County, Economic Development Director Bill Badger will be heading to Las Vegas to attend the International Council for Shopping Centers (ICSC), Global Retail Real Estate Convention (RECON) this spring.

While the event should offer opportunities to promote Worcester to new retail, according to Badger, County Commissioner Jim Bunting voted against the excursion after noting Worcester still has a freeze on out-of-state travel due to the recession.

“This is an event where everyone involved in the development community attends,” Badger said Wednesday. “It’s a world-wide event.”

Badger cited the “tremendous development potential” that Worcester has for further retail expansion, especially in areas along Route 50 in West Ocean City and Ocean Pines, as well as many other corners of the county.

“This event will be a prime opportunity for us as a county to get the word out and message out that we are open for development, that we’ve set-up the infrastructure now, particularly in West Ocean City, to attract the kind of quality retailers that we’d like to see in our county,” Badger said.

Badger also promised that whatever happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas since he will be giving a comprehensive follow-up report on the trip, which lasts from May 19-22.

The total cost of the convention will be $2,455 and will include air fare, registration, hotel, meals, transportation and other expenses. The funds will be taken from the Administrative Expense Incentives and Events account.

Though the commission was generally supportive of Badger’s pitch, Bunting did ask about where Worcester stands on permitting out-of-state trips.

“What is our policy as far as going out of state?” he asked. “Didn’t we have a freeze on that?”

Chief Administrative Officer Gerald Mason confirmed the still has an official freeze on travel for business out of Maryland.

“Are we going to develop some type of criteria for the rest of our department heads if they decide they need to go out-of-state that they can submit to us?” asked Bunting.

Commission President Bud Church said the commissioners will “take every request under consideration.”

The commission voted 5-1, with Bunting opposed and Louise Gulyas absent, to approve the trip.