Hogan Announces $50M Fund To Boost Rural Economy

Hogan Announces $50M Fund To Boost Rural Economy
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan made a number of stops on the Eastern Shore last weekend. In addition to announcing a new $50 million Rural Maryland Economic Development Fund, Hogan visited Ocean City to celebrate the expansion of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. Above, Hogan is pictured with state and local leaders at a ribbon cutting ceremony last Saturday. Submitted Photo

SALISBURY – More than $50 million in grant funding is expected to promote economic development in rural regions of Maryland.

In a press conference last Friday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced the creation of the Rural Maryland Economic Development Fund, a $50 million initiative to address infrastructure, broadband and workforce issues within the state’s rural areas.

As part of the program, grants of up to $10 million will be provided to each of the five rural regional councils to fund economic development projects.

“In August, here on the shore, we announced Connect Maryland, a $400 million investment in broadband to make sure every single person in Maryland has access to high-speed internet across the entire state,” Hogan said. “And today we are taking the next important step forward in our efforts to help rural Maryland come back better and stronger than ever before.”

Hogan said funds can be used to develop infrastructure – like utilities and broadband – that not only attracts and retains business, but promotes industry sector development such as manufacturing, cybersecurity and the life sciences. The funding can also be used for workforce development and job training programs, as well as projects that stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation. The state reports the program is designed to be flexible and allow each rural council to determine the best use of funds within the program’s guidelines in coordination with the counties they represent.

“I think this unprecedented $50 million investment in rural Maryland will help us put up even more ‘open for business’ signs in the windows in our Main Streets and small towns, help us create thousands of new jobs in rural communities, and transform neighborhoods and communities for the better all across our state,” Hogan said.

Hogan noted this latest grant opportunity is just one of recent several initiatives that support rural development. He pointed to Project Restore, a $25 million program to revitalize small towns and Main Streets, as well as Connect Maryland, a $400 million investment in universal broadband.

Through the new Maryland Economic Development Fund, counties that will benefit include Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Garrett, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico, and Worcester.

“Through our regional representatives, Maryland Commerce works very closely with our rural regional councils to give them the one-on-one support and resources needed to spur job growth and investment in all regions of the state,” said Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill. “We recognize that every county, especially our rural counties, has unique challenges and these additional funds will help them to better compete for economic development projects and look for opportunities to collaborate regionally.”

Over the weekend, Hogan made a number of stops on the Eastern Shore, including to local businesses, the Ocean Downs Casino and Ocean City, where he joined local leaders for a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the expansion of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.

“We changed the entire mission of government over the past seven years to be unabashedly pro-jobs and pro-business, and we said we are going to keep Maryland open for business,” Hogan told attendees. “This ribbon cutting is another shining example that we’re doing exactly what we said we would do.”

The $38 million addition – funded in partnership between the state and the Town of Ocean City – features a 30,000-square-foot exhibit hall and a 15,000-square-foot gallery. For his part, Hogan recognized both state and local leaders for supporting the project.

“In total, the expansion of this facility is expected to generate I believe up to 30 new events per year and support more than 600 jobs here in the city,” he said. “The job creation and all the associated economic benefits of this expansion are a game changer for Ocean City.”

He continued, “We’re pleased to be taking these steps forward to invest in Ocean City and the shore. And the completion and ribbon cutting of this transformative project today is just one more sign of our continued health and economic recovery, which is leading the nation, and our commitment to coming back stronger and better than ever before.”

Mayor Rick Meehan recalled the convention center’s namesake, Roland E. “Fish” Powell, and his contributions to the facility’s expansion.

“He continued to press upon us that the convention center business was the backbone of our tourism industry and that it was essential that we move forward with the expansion,” he said.

The Town of Ocean City partners with the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA), which contributed 60% of the funding for the project.

“The Maryland Stadium Authority values our successful partnership with the Town of Ocean City and was pleased to partner once again on a project that provides enjoyment and enrichment for Marylanders and visitors,” said MSA Chairman Thomas Kelso.

(Managing Editor Shawn Soper contributed to this report.)

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.