In Howard County, we pride ourselves on being a diverse and welcoming community for all our businesses and employees. We strive to create a business culture that is inclusive and accommodating. October is Disability Employment Awareness Month. To mark this occasion, we will be holding a Commission on Disabilities Award ceremony on October 5 to celebrate the local businesses and organizations who help us truly be an inclusive community.
There are many ways Howard County Government recognizes the talent of employees with disabilities. Our Human Resources Department partners with Project Search, an international employment organization for persons with disabilities. Through this partnership, our HR department proactively hires and retains employees with disabilities and provides jobs where their skills are welcomed and valued.
Additionally, our Office of Workforce Development hosts our Summer Youth Program. This year, there were 175 participants, up from fewer than 15 before I took office. Nearly half of the participants this year had a disability. This is an especially critical program to expose our younger residents with disabilities to the opportunities where they would not normally be able to receive workplace skills and professional interactions otherwise. Furthermore, our Commission on Disabilities and Commission on Transitional Students with Disabilities work side by side with our Office of ADA Coordination and the Office of Disability Services to create a well-rounded network to support employees to thrive in any setting.
During October, we also celebrate Business Appreciation Week. During the week of October 23-27, I, along with county department heads, government officials, community organizations and members of the Howard County Economic Development Authority will visit various local businesses. Our HCEDA has been accepting applications from businesses who want to receive a visit. This is our chance to hear directly from business owners about the joys and trials of conducting business in Howard County. We encourage feedback on opportunities to continue to improve the business climate in the county. To learn more, please visit HCEDA.org.
Lastly, I invite you to join me for my annual State of the County address on October 24, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. at Howard Community College. This will be your opportunity to hear about the progress we have already made and the next steps we will continue to take on this road to excellence. Together, we will ensure that Howard County is the best place to live, work, play, grow, and thrive, for all.