Entering 2024, the Allegany County Economic and Community Development Department is set to continue its initiatives aimed at regional growth and progress. This year, residents, business owners, and partners can expect to see critical long-term investments materialize, along with the commencement of various additional projects.
A major focus for Allegany County Economic and Community Development is to make the area a more livable community through accessible housing, diverse quality-of-life services, robust business attraction efforts, and ample job and career opportunities.
“All parts of the economic and community ecosystem need to improve to move Allegany County forward,” impresses Jeffrey Barclay, Director of Economic and Community Development. “Businesses can thrive here if housing is available for employees. Residents can work if childcare services are accessible. Added amenities in the area make it more enjoyable to live here. We have improvements to make, and all areas of our community are strengthening in 2024.”
Addressing Allegany County’s long-needed access to market-rate housing, D.R. Horton’s redevelopment of the former Allegany High School site will offer dozens of non-apartment housing units, greenspace, and walking trails to the community. The project is expected to break ground on the 12-acre plot in spring 2024. Homes are expected to be priced around half of the average cost of a typical new, 1,500-square-foot home in Maryland.
Two downtown Cumberland projects similarly capitalize on the adaptive reuse of formerly-occupied real estate. A project to convert an abandoned building on Polk Street into viable housing will be complete this year. New upper-story apartments have been added to a North Mechanic Street commercial building that overlooks Will’s Creek. The site of the Cumberland landmark, Geatz's Restaurant, is set to become a commercial and housing space. Each project received funding through the Invest Allegany program, which provides financial help for the redevelopment of underutilized downtown buildings across the county.
A housing triumph in 2023, the McMullen building renovation brought 14 new apartment spaces to Baltimore Street, all of which have been leased! This year, the same developers are focusing on the continued renovation and transformation of the Rosenbaum building. The converted bank/department store will offer another 25 residential units to Downtown Cumberland as well as business and office spaces. The building is already home to AJ’s Cookie Jar and Basecamp Coffee Co. and is set to welcome Lefty’s Place, a Detroit-style pizza and wings restaurant, in the summer of 2024. The full project is 75% complete and will finish in early 2025. Allegany contributed $500,000 collectively to the projects through the Invest Allegany program.
The City of Cumberland’s Baltimore Street project is scheduled to open in October 2024. The county contributed $1 million in state funding and $500,000 of county funding to support the 18-month comprehensive streetscape renovation. From road and walkway reconstruction to landscaping, lighting, and new street furniture and utilities, residents and vendors can soon experience increased convenience and aesthetics.
In recent years, Allegany County Economic and Community Development has been curating and supporting projects that improve business attraction, expansion, and retention. This has included carefully considered opportunities to support Allegany’s growing notoriety for sustainable businesses and the circular economy. By supporting eco-minded waste management businesses, such as Nexus W2V, Burgmeier Hauling, Geocycle, and Clym Environmental Services, Allegany has gained a foothold in the industry.
“[Circular Economy] is an innovative field which creates highly-valuable career paths for residents.” Economic Development Specialist, Adam Strott.
“Businesses in this field take what the average consumer will consider waste and convert it into a valuable product, minimizing the use of new resources and focusing on sustainability. The office is investing a lot more in this industry to hopefully become a leader in this circular economy,” adds Strott.
Programs such as the Clean Tech Research and Development Program provide grant funding for businesses looking to use the UMCES Appalachian Lab for research and development initiatives. This program makes it more financially feasible for companies to obtain critical information that will shape their processes, products, and services using the Lab’s expertise in environmental science.
Strott elaborates, “By partnering with local anchor institutions, like the Appalachian Lab, we can offer businesses a benefit for locating in Allegany County, driving the workforce and job opportunities to our borders.”
Business owners can look forward to the Allegany County Economic and Community Development department’s Business Expansion Loan Deferment Program, which provides low-interest loans to businesses aiming to enhance their products or services through the acquisition of essential equipment.
The appeal of living, working, and playing in Allegany County is enhanced by its scenic vistas, the presence of local businesses, and easy access to environmental tourism attractions. A stalwart goal of Allegany County is to improve livability and quality of life for current residents through access to valuable amenities, “third places,” and activities.
The forthcoming River Park at Canal Place project will offer visitors a chance to engage with Allegany County’s most visible natural resource, the Potomac River, through access to a manmade whitewater course, nature trails, and river docks. The park will add recreational assets to Allegany County’s growing outdoor economy and provide positive environmental and economic impacts to the region. The West Virginia University Research Corporation’s economic impact study on the project estimates the park will attract 1.3 million additional visitors to Allegany County annually. The study predicts the project will also contribute $41.7 million to state and local taxes. State and federal funding is secure for the park, and a project manager will be hired to lead the initiative forward in 2024.
Businesses like Queen City Creamery, 1812 Brewery, Western Maryland Lemonade, and Reptilian Arts continue to boost the county’s economy and create meeting places for visitors and residents. In LaVale, the Vocke Road demolition project, which is set to host a national chain project on the site, is still ongoing.
As the county experiences the joys and pains of progress, the Allegany County Economic and Community Development thanks business owners and residents for persevering through the growing pains.
Strott notes, “A lot of what we do doesn’t become apparent until a few years later. 2024 is the year we see some of our investments take hold. The best way to keep up-to-date with ongoing projects and new developments is to follow us online.”