“This is a mile, but that mile will make the difference in how we can literally have kind of an intercollege connector between the Hagerstown Community College and Meritus Medical Center,” Mikulski said. “What does this mean? Jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Mikulski, D-Md., made the remarks during a visit to Hagerstown Community College as part of a statewide “job tour.”
The Appalachian Regional Commission — a federal-state partnership supporting economic development in Appalachia — has committed $600,000 in federal grant funding toward the $9.3 million Yale Drive extension project.
The planned extension will introduce road access to the Mount Aetna Farms property, where the land’s new owners envision a future technology park. The Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, known as CHIEF, completed its 173-acre purchase last month.
Mikulski called the road project a “strategic public investment to create private-sector jobs.”
Health care delivery, health research and cyber security are some of the biggest areas of current economic growth, and HCC is preparing students for jobs in all three areas, she said.
Companies in those fields “come because of talent, and the talent is right here,” Mikulski said.
The technology park is expected to bring about 2,000 jobs to Washington County, according to a press release from Mikulski’s office.
Brien Poffenberger, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said he sees the Yale Drive extension as a “long-term investment” and the Mount Aetna Farms project as key to Washington County’s post-recession prosperity.
With Maryland’s biggest counties already built out, growing companies will look west to counties like Washington, where Hagerstown could be considered the western terminus of the Interstate 270 biotech corridor, Poffenberger said.
“‘Where,’ I guess, is the question, and there is no better answer to the question than Mount Aetna Farms, because Mount Aetna Farms — this tract of still sort of open farmland — really connects two centers of work-force development and biotechnology,” Poffenberger said, referring to the college and hospital.
Poffenberger invited Mitesh Kothari, one of the principals of Capital Women’s Care, to the podium to weigh in on the importance of road infrastructure through Mount Aetna Farms.
Kothari said his practice had outgrown its office space and recently constructed a new building that will open later this year, with at least six new jobs and 10 to 20 more expected to be added over the next few years.
“Had this (Mount Aetna Farms) location been available to us when we were making our decisions, we would much have preferred this location,” Kothari said, adding that many other growing practices likely would be eager to open offices in the new park.
“We think the medical community will certainly occupy its allotment of spaces for medical buildings,” he said.
Asked about her support for additional road infrastructure for the Mount Aetna Farms area, including a bridge over Antietam Creek, Mikulski said she was focused on the Yale Drive segment for now.
“Right now, I want to just work on this particular project, make sure we have the federal money to get it done, and we’ll evaluate next steps,” she said.
Mikulski said her visit to Washington County also included a visit to the Volvo Powertrain plant on Pennsylvania Avenue.