Ed Note: Every month, part of The Business Monthly’s mission is to provide business news, development information and current affairs in Howard and Anne Arundel counties. This month, Howard County Economic Development (HCEDA) CEO Larry Twele shares an update with our readers.

The past year was marked with great successes and great challenges. We had many opportunities to celebrate the achievements of businesses here and even greater opportunities to positively impact the businesses that call Howard County home, and to help them to grow and succeed.

Certainly, our greatest challenge was the Howard County Economic Development Authority’s (HCEDA) role in the Ellicott City flood response. The circumstances are well known: six inches of rain dropped in a two-hour period, causing massive flooding and infrastructure damage in Historic Ellicott City, impacting the 141 businesses and their 950 employees.

The HCEDA was proud to play a key role, along with other departments, in the county’s response. From escorting merchants and property owners on “gators” into the restricted area to access critical property and inventory, to coordinating financial and technical assistance to help businesses begin the long journey of rebuilding and reopening, it was a team effort, and it truly demonstrated that economic development comes in many different forms; however, the end goal is the same — to help our community.

Since the flood, the HCEDA team has logged more than 5,000 hours of work supporting the recovery of the district, and the work is not yet done. We continue to support the rebuilding and revitalization of Historic Ellicott City by opening a business resource center on Main Street to provide a convenient location for the impacted businesses to receive support; it also will have co-working space to serve as a catalyst to attract entrepreneurs who want to do business there. We also will be active working with the county on the future planning of Main Street, and will continue to work closely with our partners with Howard County Tourism and the Ellicott City Partnership to attract new business and visitors to this unique destination.

We also will publish our new five-year strategic plan this year. This document is the result of the hard work of the board of directors and community stakeholders, and will guide the direction of the HCEDA. Major emphasis will be placed on continuing to build a robust business retention program and inspiring innovation in our community, across all industry sectors. In fact, whether it is in our Center for Entrepreneurship, where we help smart entrepreneurs accelerate their ideas into businesses; or in our efforts to encourage redevelopment, innovation will be a major theme throughout our work.

The agriculture industry in Howard County continues to remain a growing force. With the introduction of several new breweries and distilleries in the county, we are seeing new connections being made between them and the agriculture community. As demand has increased for locally grown barley, wheat, corn and rye, the farmers have responded. This past spring we saw the establishment of the first on-farm micro malting facility in the county.

We know that a healthy agricultural community is a necessary part of creating a well-rounded and economically diverse community, so the more connections made between the agriculture and the business community, the better we are as a county. We also are taking deliberate steps to more closely align our agriculture business development efforts to new technologies to not only support our farming community, but open new markets for our technology companies.

The team at the HCEDA is excited to build upon the momentum of previous years before us and we will continue to lay the foundation needed to enjoy even greater successes for years to come. We are proud to be part of such a supportive community, and our work would not be possible without the support that we receive from our board of directors, County Executive Allan Kittleman and the Howard County Council, as well as the various departments throughout the county and the community at large.