Report Favors Salisbury’s Economic Shift

SALISBURY — The first in a series of quarterly economic updates shows a lot of optimism about the future of Salisbury’s economic recovery.

Experts from Salisbury Wicomico Economic Development (SWED) are predicting a greater emphasis on small-batch innovation versus mass production as the key to an economically viable Salisbury.

“We’ve seen great changes and different shifts of clusters, different types of manufacturing,” said Dave Ryan, executive director of SWED.

SWED delivered its first economic update Monday and will do so quarterly from here out. A lot of trends have already become visible in Salisbury, according to Ryan.

“We believe the future of manufacturing, the future of new business development is going to be more entrepreneurial in nature, less mass production,” Ryan said. “More innovative, more technology oriented.”

Ryan pointed to Jubilant Cadista, a pharmaceutical company located in Wicomico, as a promising step in the right direction for Salisbury. The company is booming and making popular and exciting products. Ryan also hopes to see a big resurgence in small but innovative businesses. He reminded the council that Start-Up Maryland visited Wicomico last year and drew a lot of interest from area entrepreneurs who had ideas but need to find sources of funding.

Similarly, Ryan pointed to Salisbury’s downtown as a strong resource that is poised for growth. The feeling downtown seems similar to what he’s experienced during boom times in the past.

“It was cool. There was an atmosphere, there was an energy downtown and I was sensing that same energy again,” he said.

Though a positive economic report, it is hard to predict a market. The council questioned Ryan about any possible pitfalls in the years ahead.

“Our workforce seems to have contracted a bit over the last year or so and really that goes back to ’08 or ’09,” said Council President Jake Day.

Ryan agreed and noted that Salisbury’s growth had always been heavily reliant on the housing market. When that took a hard hit with the start of the recession, Salisbury suffered more than some other communities and the workforce hasn’t entirely bounced back yet. But the outlook is good with the housing market showing renewed signs of life.

Better yet, Ryan reiterated his belief that the Salisbury of the next few years will be anchored less to the housing market and more flexible in its recovery.

“I’m a positive guy and I look at the diversity that the relatively small community has here and I still think our better days are ahead,” he said. “But I think that it’s going to be different. It’s going to be innovative, more technology driven, a more entrepreneurial economy as we go forward.”

One weakness that businesses need to be conscious of, according to Councilman Tim Spies, is Salisbury’s relative isolation. However, he gave kudos to Jubilant for finding a way to circumvent that.

“They have overcome what is often said to be our biggest downside for manufacturing which is transportation,” he said. “Transportation costs overwhelm a lot of folks because we’re sort of isolated here.”

Ryan and SWED will return in a few months with a new report and the council is optimistic about emerging trends. Salisbury has only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of economic changes, predicted Councilwoman Terry Cohen.

“I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet as far as all of the changes that we’re going to see,” she said, “and I think we’re going to see them happening a lot more rapidly than we have previously.”