Video Touts Charles To Business Leaders

By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 17, 2005

When it comes to attracting businesses, Charles County has an image problem.

A conversation with the uninitiated goes something like this: Where is Charles County? Is that near Baltimore? The Eastern Shore?

"And you say, 'No, on the west side of the Chesapeake,' and that's when their eyes glaze over," said Marcia Keeth Stevenson, marketing director for the Charles County Economic Development Commission and the county's cheerleader-in-chief.

"We want people to think of Charles County as a suburb of D.C., because it is," she said. "People don't realize that."

To rewire business leaders in Washington and Northern Virginia, Stevenson plans to send out hundreds of new promotional videos encouraging them to move to or expand in Charles. The commercial is meant to sell newcomers on what people in Southern Maryland already know.

Yes, there are still rural areas. But Charles -- especially the Waldorf area, where more than 70,000 people live -- is a growing suburb with shopping and restaurants.

What is missing, Stevenson said, are more high-paying jobs. Sixty percent of the workforce commutes to jobs outside the county. In the most recent statistics, the per capita income in Charles is $33,226, compared with $39,247 statewide, Stevenson said.

Stevenson first plans to target people in the professional services industry, such as architects, accountants, engineers and computer system designers.

The theme of the video, which cost $26,000 to produce, is that the county offers the "best of both worlds." In the opening scene, the sun sets over the Potomac River, a goose takes flight from a piling and then a BMW convertible pulls away from an old barn.

The narrator says the county is "a place steeped in history but forward looking."

The video is not subtle in its attempt to overcome the confusion Stevenson says she often encounters about the county's location. There are flashes of the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument.

"It's close enough to the city to get the experience, but you don't have to live in the city," says one of the stars of the show, College of Southern Maryland president Elaine Ryan.

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