Caroline County Economic Development

Industry Leaders Discuss Economic Trends and Insights at the 2023 Caroline Economic Symposium

An expert group of industry leaders shared the latest economic trends and insights about the state of banking, innovative ideas on hiring and keeping workers, workforce housing, and school-based workforce development programs at the 2023 Caroline Economic Symposium on April 6th. The symposium, hosted by Caroline County Economic Development and Tourism, took place at the North Caroline High School Auditorium in Ridgely, Maryland.

“We had a fantastic turnout,” says Debbie Bowden, Director of Caroline County Economic Development & Tourism.” More than 160 people joined us to learn from experts in economic development, banking, broadband, housing, and education.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Anirban Basu, Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, kicked off the symposium with an in-depth analysis of the major factors shaping economic outcomes, including business confidence, central bank policymaking, worker attitudes, and geopolitics. He then offered a forecast for the year to come, highlighting the major risks that economic stakeholders will likely encounter.

Dr. Basu characterized the economy as overheated despite the Federal Reserve’s fight against inflation, and says that we are in a wage/cost cycle with central bank policy driving the economy right now. Small business and consumer sentiment is lowering, and we are starting to see the seeds of recession being sown. His goal is to provide information to allow business owner to make their own determination about whether a recession is coming and what to do about it.

Attendees heard an update on how Choptank Fiber is bringing broadband internet to Caroline County communities by Tim McGaha, VP of Technical Services for Choptank Electric Cooperative and VP of Operations for Choptank Fiber. Then Eric Cook, CTE Teacher Specialist & Youth Apprenticeship Coordinator for Caroline County Public Schools, and Morgan Cox, Event and Communications Specialist for the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education offered updates on youth workforce programs, Youth Apprenticeship and NextGen. Both programs provide information on jobs and careers from mid-shore businesses to students, with a goal of bringing young adults into the local workforce.

The symposium also included two Featured Insights discussions moderated by Debbie Bowden. Melissa Quirk, President & CEO of Provident State Bank, joined Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Jacob Day for a conversation on Banking and Housing for Workers. Melissa Quirk discussed how inflationary pressures have impacted business, the effect of raising interest rates on homebuyers, and the future of capital markets and lending. Secretary Day shared his plans for serving rural communities, programs that serve the spectrum of housing needs, and how his department is navigating the trifecta of inflation, tightened lending, and lack of inventory.

The second Featured Insight highlighted Behavioral Health in the Workplace and Innovations in Human Resources in a discussion with Jessica Tuel, Director of Behavioral Health for the Maryland Health Department, and Courtney Stewart, Director of Human Resources for Tri-Gas & Oil. Jessica Tuel shared the importance of behavioral health in the workplace, and ways that employees can help their fellow workers and employers can support their workforce. Courtney Stewart discussed the latest innovations in recruiting and retaining workers, and shared her thoughts and solutions for low market participation.

Additional speakers included Caroline County Commissioner Frank Bartz, who provided opening remarks, Dr. Derrick Simmons, who offered a warm introduction to Dr. Basu, and Dan Schneckenburger, Executive Director of Upper Shore Workforce Investment Board, who gave closing remarks.

At the end of the symposium, Debbie Bowden also unveiled her department’s new podcast  Featured Insights, a podcast for businesses of Caroline County and the Eastern Shore of Maryland to learn from experts at the local, state, and national level.

“The podcast is inspired by the success of the Featured Insights sessions we moderated at the Symposium,” says Debbie. “There is so much we can learn from our community members, business leaders and elected officials, and the Featured Insights podcast is a way to share that wealth of knowledge and make it accessible to all. You can find the podcast at or on your favorite podcast provider.”

The Caroline Economic Symposium was made possible with support from Caroline County Public Schools, Choptank Electric Cooperative, Provident State Bank, and Pep-Up Tri-Gas & Oil.

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