Luxurious waterfront resorts, retirement communities and large financial institutions -- these are among the industries suggested in a blueprint for the expansion of Southern Maryland's economy.
Military installations, such as the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, fuel the area's economic engine. Leaders in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties are discussing ways to ensure that their communities are not overly susceptible to the ups and downs of decisions by the Pentagon and Department of Defense.
"It's like investing in the stock market; you want to have a diversified portfolio," said David M. Jenkins, executive director of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, the group that commissioned the study, which was conducted by two economic development consultants.
The three Southern Maryland counties have diverse needs, said John Savich, director of economic development for St. Mary's County. For example, 60 percent of working residents in Charles and Calvert commute to jobs beyond the counties' borders, the study said. In contrast, 26 percent of working residents commute out of St. Mary's, where there are more than 10,000 jobs at the Pax River Naval Air Station.
"For different reasons in all three, there's a need to keep looking for types of businesses that at least the numbers say have a chance to succeed," Savich said.
The county commissioners and business leaders will discuss the study's findings in the coming months. The draft report suggested eight potential economic areas for leaders to consider:
* Homeland security, such as the National Security Agency in Anne Arundel County.
* Federal government offices, such as the new IRS headquarters in Prince George's.
* Corporate services, such as Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Frederick.
* Retirement communities.
* Marine industries, such as boat building and marine research.
* Applied technologies.
Lloyd B. Harrison III, chairman of the board of directors for the Calvert County Chamber of Commerce, said the region should play to its strengths. Those include the beautiful settings provided by rivers and the Chesapeake Bay as well as the area's aging population, he said.
"That makes a pretty compelling case that this is a desirable place," he said.
The report mentions the Chesapeake Beach Hotel and Spa and the Asbury-Solomons Island retirement community, both in Calvert County, as examples of the types of businesses the region might want to attract.
Harrison, the president of Mercantile Southern Maryland Bank, was less optimistic about the area becoming a hub for credit card issuers, customer service and marketing. Attracting young workers would be difficult because of the area's lack of affordable housing, he said.
Savich said clustering regional and corporate offices for financial businesses was probably unrealistic in St. Mary's because of the county's distance from Washington and a major interstate highway.
The study, which used figures from the 2000 Census, said Southern Maryland residents are less likely to hold college or advanced degrees than residents in Anne Arundel, Frederick, Prince George's and Carroll counties.
James Shepherd, a business development specialist for Calvert County, said the region's educational opportunities are expanding with programs offered at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center.
The report was also instructive because of what was not included, Savich said. The bio-tech industry was not mentioned as a possibility for Southern Maryland even though it is often seen as a growth opportunity elsewhere. Its exclusion here, Savich said, shows that the tri-county area is fostering the right, compatible types of businesses.
"We're a region with growing income that's performing well," Savich said. "We're motivated by a desire to do better, not by any serious problems."