Economic Development Trends in 2020 with Helen Propheter

What will 2020 bring?  The Frederick News Post reached out to Helen Propheter regarding economic predictions for Frederick County.  Click here to read Experts predict continued growth for Frederick economy in 2020 amid national recession concerns.  Below is an in-depth, behind the scenes look into what OED’s Executive Director of Economic and Workforce Development has to say.

FNP: What general trends are you expecting to see emerge in economic development and business in Frederick in 2020? 

HP: 2019 was a strong year in economic development with several large prospects considering our county and several current businesses looking to expand. Our belief is 2020 will be even stronger than 2019. As we meet with companies from all industries, we hear that business is better than last year and they are predicting 2020 to continue with this positive momentum.  

FNP: More than half of CFOs in the U.S. at one point in 2019 feared a recession. We made it through without entering one, but is there still fear among the economic development community of a recession? If so, given Frederick’s diverse economy, how could we possibly see Frederick hit by an economic downturn?

HP: The economists we follow are predicting 2020 to be the year we see an economic downturn. In economic development we are working to seize every opportunity we currently have to best position our county for whatever our future brings.  You are correct, our local economy is very diverse and with that industry diversity we are positioned to be resilient as the economy fluctuates.

We always encourage the following:

  1. Continue to buy local as this supports every business, employee and their family.  
  2. While business is strong, cultivate a good relationship with your bank. That relationship will be useful in tougher times.
  3. Stay current and promote an atmosphere of life-long learning. Businesses with strong leadership and knowledgeable workforces will pivot when appropriate and best handle significant changes.  

FNP: How will Frederick continue to adapt to a nationwide e-commerce boom?

HP: E-commerce is an exciting industry.  Frederick County is creating a strong story to share with large Costco and Goodwill’s e-commerce centers.  Our central location to metropolitan areas and excellent highway access makes us a desirable location. In 2020, we will continue to focus on growth in this industry.  

FNP: What is the single most important economic development issue in Frederick County in 2020?

HP: This is a great question. We’ve had several successful years in economic development, and we’ve celebrated wins like Navistar Direct Marketing, Wilcoxon Sensing Technology, Emmes, Asbury Communities, Daly Computers and Kite Pharma. We’ve assisted many of our current businesses with sizable expansions like Thermo Fisher, Music and Arts, Goodwill and Costco’s e-commerce centers, just to name a few.  With all of this economic activity, workforce development is imperative. The most important issue going into 2020 is to ensure current and new businesses have a pipeline of qualified employees.  

FNP: How do you anticipate the community adapting to changes in the minimum wage in 2020? What are you hearing from the business owners? 

HP: For some businesses this isn’t an issue and for others it is a big issue, because it means adjusting their salary scale to make room for the minimum wage increase and increase other employees at the same time. For those businesses, they have communicated with us that they will be forced to hire less staff to both met this law and their bottom line.  

FNP: What are some emerging industries we might see Frederick begin building on in 2020 (ie: what is the craft beer of 2020?)

HP: This question made me laugh! We’ve done well with growing wineries, breweries and distillers and we aren’t done.  In 2020 we will add a few more businesses to this industry.  With the 2019 win of Kite Pharma, we hope a few additional bio manufacturers will choose our county as their next location.  E-commerce is a national trend and we will continue to grow this industry.  In 2020, we hope to break ground on a Frederick City Downtown Hotel and Conference Center.  Accompanying that project will be all the hospitality and tourism businesses.  Lastly, our county is well known for its highly educated workforce and cutting edge technologies. Our hope is to bring some businesses that have cutting edge technologies to Frederick County.