Montgomery Co. Exec Elrich talks economic development, equity in ‘State of the County’

One of Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s major goals is to bring businesses back to the county, he said Wednesday in his “State of the County” address. Another goal? Addressing equity throughout the county.

Elrich said, right now, Montgomery County has a reputation for being unfriendly to business.

“I am proposing a future for Montgomery County where, because of our changed business climate, businesses are clamoring to come here, and the businesses located here are growing and prospering,” Elrich said.

Among the plans to reach that goal are making it easier to bid on county projects, streamlining business contracts and making it easier for people to keep an eye on what’s happening with their contract once they’re working with the county.

Additionally, Elrich has proposed a 10% procurement preference for local businesses.

“I want more Montgomery County companies to grow and contribute to our economy,” Elrich said. “Our preference includes being willing to pay a little more for local contracts. Why are we going to pay more for local contracts? Because every dollar I give to a Montgomery County company is probably staying in Montgomery County.”

Elrich also talked about his goals to make the county more equitable and inclusive.

He said Montgomery County has come far already, with the passage of a massive racial equity bill at the end of 2019, but he said there’s much to do to be the community he envisions.

“It means we can assure people have access to quality health care,” Elrich said about what he hopes will come. “It means that our schools are strong and educate everyone, that our streets are safe and our neighborhoods are clean, and we can have a county where a person’s ZIP code does not define their future.”

Elrich said 40% of his proposed capital improvement budget is earmarked for Montgomery County Public Schools.

Some of the other items he wants to see funded include projects to preserve affordable housing, increasing the availability of mass transit, ending homelessness in the county and increased pedestrian safety measures.

So, how will these programs and plans be funded? Before talking tax increases, Elrich said he is looking within. “I know we have resources tied up in places where we can liberate them,” he said.

Elrich is asking county employees and unions to help find places to trim the fat.

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