As we start the new year, we have the opportunity to make Howard County even stronger — more productive, more prosperous and better positioned to help our citizens be secure and successful.

I am honored to serve the citizens of our community as Howard County executive. I believe there is no higher calling than working to improve the lives of everyone in our community, which is one of the primary goals of economic development; to help provide the tax base that allows residents to enjoy the quality of life they seek.

Economic development will be a key focus going forward. Howard County has many strengths, and as county executive I hope to leverage our existing opportunities and to create new ones.

We know that small business fuels and drives our economy; small firms make up the majority of companies in our county. We want to help them grow and, when possible, ease burdensome regulations and work with owners to better understand their needs.

Howard County has taken many positive steps recently and is now able to provide loans to companies seeking to grow their businesses and create new jobs. The Howard County Economic Development Authority has played a key role in establishing Ellicott City as a Main Street Maryland Community, which clears the way for state support to drive that important business district forward.

The Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship is a major part of our effort to attract small business to Howard County, and provides the mentoring and support necessary for those companies to be successful.

My administration will work closely with our friends in higher education to address any workforce gaps in the energy and manufacturing sectors; there is growing demand for workers in those sectors for jobs that pay $60,000–$80,000 a year. We will work with our educational institutions to prepare young people for these opportunities and provide skilled workers for companies that need them.

We’ll also advocate in our schools for more vocational training so many students can be career-ready on graduation from high school for high-demand sectors of industry.

As much as we want to grow our own businesses, we know we live in a global economy and we will work to attract both national and international companies to Howard County. Silicon Valley has already taken notice of the major impact Howard County companies are having in cybersecurity, and we want businesses everywhere to know that we have one of the most dynamic, talented workforces in the world.

We are not only a great place to live, but also a great place to do business. Moving forward, we will build on the momentum that our local businesses have created.