It’s All About Relationships…


Founded in 1745 by German and English settlers, Frederick City is the County Seat. If you’ve never visited City Hall, it’s certainly worth the trip. The current building, originally the County Courthouse, was built in 1862 after the previous structure burned down. When the new courthouse was completed in 1985, this became City Hall. Fittingly, that’s where our Economic Development Day began.

Helen Propheter (Director of the Frederick County Office of Economic Development) kicked-off the morning with a highly informative Q & A with County Executive Jan Gardner and Mayor McClement’s Executive Assistant, Nikki Bamonti. Responding to questions submitted by the “best class ever,” the picture began to develop. This would be a day focused on the importance of relationships and partnership. It was apparent from the start of this lively discussion that successful development begins with extraordinary leadership. Helen and Bobby Baumler (Manager, City of Frederick, Dept. of Economic Development) continued the Q & A by sharing how the city and county work together to retain existing businesses and incentivize new employers. As Helen said, “It’s all about jobs”. Frederick is perfectly located geographically, attracting businesses seeking a high quality of life and a skilled workforce. Bobby noted that the objective is to attract a broad diversity of employers, including manufacturing, IT, and advanced technology.

After laying the foundation, Bobby led a panel of exemplary homegrown local business owners and community leaders, Tony Checchia, Jason Lee, Tom Clagett and Tonya Hatosy-Stier. A lively discussion ensued as each panelist, a visionary in their own right, shared their thoughts about what it means to be a leader and their visions for Frederick’s future. We heard about integrity, risk-tolerance, commitment to community, strong communication skills, creativity, inclusiveness, passion, creativity, and hard work. Tony noted the importance of “being real,” while Tom suggested that “keeping it simple” is important to building on small goals. Tonya pointed out the importance of “not dwelling on what doesn’t work” and Jason advised us to network and surround ourselves with “smart people”. In short, it’s all about relationships. Isn’t that what the Chamber is all about?

Next, it was a brisk walk along Carroll Creek, led by Bobby and Kara Norman (Executive Director, Downtown Frederick Partnership). So cool to learn that the linear park we were strolling sat on conduits that carry water from the Frederick storm water retention facility, known to all as Baker Park. Yes, Baker Park! Anchored by the C. Burr Artz Library, Carrol Creek Linear Park is an extraordinary example of public/private partnerships developed to solve the problem of flooding in the city.

Next stop, military base, Fort Detrick is the county’s largest single civilian employer. The facility, led by USAG Commander Colonel Bob O’Brien who humorously describes his job as the “Fort’s City Manager,” generates $11 billion into our local economy. Colonel O’Brien emphasized the great working relationship he shares with our Mayor and County Executive. One of his goals is to tear down the walls that separate the base from the community as much as security will allow. The group also heard from LTC Felicia Langel about the MRMC (Army Medical Research and Material Command) about its partnership with FCPS to encourage young scientists. The National Laboratory for Cancer Research is also housed at Fort Detrick. Walter Hubert and Frank Blanchard shared information about clinical trials and how they “translate knowledge into therapeutics,” hoping to find cures and treatments.

The group then traveled to the “old Bechtel” facility and heard from Bob Wrightson (Avison Young Commercial Real Estate). To adapt the buildings for the current market, the property is being renovated for multi-tenant use. He noted that “live-work-play” is now a corporate focus, so that employees are not always tethered to their cars. Continuing through this development tenant, the class heard from Brad Benna (Matan Companies) about commercial and residential plans for future growth.

Final stop of the day was to Flying Dog Brewery, the largest craft brewery in the State, for a tour and tasting. Ben Savage, Chief Marketing Officer, shared the breweries history, vision for the future and challenges they face.

It was a great day of learning how relationships, partnerships, fearless and visionary leadership combine to ensure a thriving Frederick. “Rich history, bright future!”

-Hermine Bernstein, in collaboration with Corinne Farneti & Mary McCormack

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