Caroline County Economic Development
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2022 Caroline Economic Symposium: Agenda, Speakers & Resources

Welcome to the 2022 Caroline Economic Symposium, a high-level review of the economic state of our country, region, and the Eastern Shore. Our expert group of industry leaders will discuss recent economic transformations and offer analysis on current conditions and strategies. The symposium also features the Economic Resiliency Toolkit, a resource that gives decision makers information to understand long-term economic trends and anticipate challenges.

8am: Doors open

8:30am: Networking

9am: Welcome to Caroline County

9:10am: No Time to Buy, an in-depth analysis of the economy’s shifts during the pandemic, including supplying industry and household level detail with Dr. Anirban Basu

9:55am: Eastern Shore Economic Resiliency Toolkit, Cassandra VanHooser, Susan Banks, and Erin Silva

10:25am: Break

10:45am: Featured Insights on supply chain and broadband with Houston Mason and Mike Malandro

11:15am: Featured Insights on commercial real estate and banking with Meredith Mears and Melissa Quirk

11:45am: Closing remarks with Dr. Derek Simmons

Eastern Shore Economic Resiliency Toolkit  (PDF format)

Eastern Shore Economic Resiliency Toolkit  (Powerpoint format)

No Time to Buy: Dr. Anirban Basu, Sage Policy Group, Inc. 

Debbie Bowden – Moderator

Debbie Bowden is Director of Economic Development for Caroline County. She says that serving at the pleasure of the Caroline County Commission is the role she’s been moving toward for her entire career.

Debbie has a varied professional background – she’s been in the private sector and the public sector, she’s worked for family businesses and large organizations, and she’s been at the front line for customer service and in strategic leadership roles. Right before she came on board with Caroline County, she worked as a regional representative with the Maryland Department of Commerce. Before that, Debbie was the freight and economic policy analyst for Maryland Department of Transportation, where she was recognized nationally for developing strategies and systems for improving freight transportation throughput and safety.

Debbie’s transition to the public sector followed 20 years in the private sector. Her business career began with her first job at a weekly newspaper and continued as she ran the operations of a regulatory consulting firm. She took what she learned from mentors and teachers to start several side hustles – the latest being a residential organizing service.

Debbie’s educational career spanned decades. She received an Associate’s degree in Journalism after graduating high school. Then she joined the “school of experience,” learning from mentors and advisers, taking every professional development course she could, and practicing the time-honored tradition of trying-failing-trying again and succeeding. She returned to an academic path a few years ago and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science.

Debbie is a Delmarva native. She is a staunch advocate for the Eastern Shore as a whole, and Caroline County in particular. She strives to do her part for prosperity and economic viability for the place she calls home.

Dr. Anirban Basu – Keynote Speaker

Anirban Basu is Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland with an office in Orlando, Florida.  The firm provides strategic analytical services to energy suppliers, law firms, medical systems, government agencies, and real estate developers among others.

In 2014, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan appointed him Chair of the Maryland Economic Development Commission (2014-2021).  He serves as Chairman of the Baltimore County Economic Advisory Committee.  He is also the Chief Economist to Associated Builders and Contractors, the Chief Economist of the Maryland Bankers Association, and Chief Economic Advisor to the Construction Financial Management Association.  He serves or has served similar functions for Visit Baltimore, Maryland Realtors, and Marcum, LLP.

He has lectured at Johns Hopkins University, most recently in Global Strategy, and has also taught international economics, urban economics, micro- and macroeconomics at Hopkins. His radio show can be heard weekdays on 88.1FM, WYPR, Baltimore.

In both 2007 and 2016, the Daily Record newspaper selected Mr. Basu as one of Maryland’s 50 most influential people. The Baltimore Business Journal named him one of the region’s 20 most powerful business leaders in 2010.

Dr. Basu has been on many boards over time, including First Mariner Bank, the Baltimore City Public School System, Port Discovery, the Baltimore School for the Arts, and Union Memorial Hospital.  He is currently on the boards of the University of Maryland School of Law, St. Mary’s College, the University of Maryland Medical Center, the University System of Maryland Foundation, the Center for Emerging Media, the Lyric Opera House and the Archdiocese of Baltimore School System.

Dr. Basu earned his B.S. in Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  He earned his Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and his Master’s in Economics from the University of Maryland, College Park.  His Juris Doctor was earned at the University of Maryland School of Law.  His doctoral work was completed at UMBC with a concentration in health economics.

Susan Banks – Dorchester Economic Development

Susan Banks is the Director of Dorchester County Economic Development. She oversees the county’s Economic Development and the Eastern Shore Innovation Center Business Incubator. Prior to this role she served as the Business Development Manager for the Economic Development office where she focused on attraction and retention strategies. She sits on the Board of Directors for The Business Finance Group and is involved with several local organizations.  Susan earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Salisbury University and a master’s degree in Environmental Policy and Management from American Public University.

Cassandra VanHooser – Talbot County Economic Development & Tourism

Cassandra Vanhooser is the director of economic development and tourism for Talbot County, Maryland.

She grew up on a dairy farm and holds a degree in agriculture from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Cassandra spent more than 14 years as a travel and features writer at Southern Living magazine, where she first covered Georgia and then Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. She has crisscrossed the region’s highways and byways, writing about everything from the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial to the South’s best fried chicken.

In addition to writing about food and travel, Cassandra also served for many years as the magazine’s football editor. She has written two books published by Time Inc./Oxmoor House Books on tailgating in the Southeastern Conference.

Cassandra moved to Talbot County in 2013 and today is Talbot County’s chief storyteller and business advocate.

Erin Silva – The Eastern Shore Economic Resiliency Toolkit

Erin received a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography from Salisbury University in 2005 and a Master of Science degree in GIS Management from Salisbury University in 2012. Erin earned her GISP Certification in 2015/re-certified in 2019.

As a project manager at the ESRGC, Erin is responsible for managing web development and data visualization projects.

Micheal E. Malandro Featured Insight: Broadband

Mike Malandro is the President and CEO of Choptank Electric Cooperative, based in Denton, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.   As a certified engineer, Mike is an expert in infrastructure development.  Choptank is the second electric cooperative where Mike has successfully launched a broadband deployment effort.  For his foresight and leadership on this important issue, Mike as been named one of Maryland’s Most Admired CEO’s by The Daily Record.

Malandro is also active as a director on several boards including:  National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC), Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC), Virginia Maryland Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives (VMDAEC), Virginia Gateway Region EDO, and Girls Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  He is a Professional Engineer and holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from West Virginia University and has also completed NRECA’s Robert I. Kabat Management program. A Veteran of the U.S. Army and West Virginia National Guard, Malandro previously lead Prince George Electric Cooperative in Waverly, Virginia as President and CEO.

Houston Mason – Featured Insight: Supply Chain

Professor Houston Mason a Supply Chain Management (SCM) leader with 3 decades of experience encompassing transportation, logistics, distribution, warehousing, logistics technology and consulting across numerous industries.

He is currently Director, Logistics with Canam Steel Corporation, where he has corporate-wide responsibility for contract and fleet transportation, carrier management strategy, final-mile logistics, transportation cost management and regulatory logistics compliance. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University in the Master’s of Supply Chain Management Program. He has worked in supply chain leadership roles in multiple industries including consumer packaged goods (CPG), food and beverage, and automotive. Additionally, he has SCM consulting experience with multiple firms. He has directed many logistics systems projects as well as organizational design initiatives.

Professor Mason is a career-long active member of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and currently serves on the Baltimore Roundtable Board as a Past-President / Advisor. He has also served as a member of the Industry Advisory Council for Maryland New Directions as well as the United States Department of Commerce Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness.

He holds an MBA from Xavier University, as well as a BSBA in Logistics and Transportation from The University of Tennessee. He resides in Forest Hill, MD, with his wife and their four children.

Meredith Mears – Featured Insight: Commercial Real Estate

Meredith Mears is widely known as a commercial real estate advisor and economic development consultant specializing in industrial, medical and retail properties, as well as land development. For over 20 years, Mears has worked with a client base that includes local and statewide governments, commercial property owners and investors, and privately operating companies across the globe.

Solidifying her position as a heavily experienced, trusted and reputable resource, Mears remains very active in her community. She has served in a multitude of community leadership roles such as Regent for the University System of Maryland, Board Member of Leadership Maryland, Board Member of the Maryland Economic Development Association and Board Member of Maryland Capital Enterprises, among others. In 2020, she was named a Top 100 Woman in the state of Maryland by The Daily Record for her vast contributions in business, community and mentoring.

Mears is a graduate of Salisbury University and lives in Salisbury, Maryland with her family.

Melissa Quirk – Featured Insight: Banking

Ms. Quirk has served as a director since 2020. Ms. Quirk is President/CEO of Provident State Bank, Inc. and PSB Holding Corp.

Ms. Quirk has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of PSB Holding Corp. since September 2018 and as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Bank since December 2015. Prior to that, she was the Chief Information Officer of Cardinal Bank, headquartered in Northern Virginia, for two years. Prior to her time with Cardinal Bank, Ms. Quirk served as Executive Vice President of The Columbia Bank, headquartered in Ellicott City, Maryland, for 20 years. Ms. Quirk is a motivated executive with a proven record of leading financial institutions through growth and expansion cycles while maintaining a sound institution. Her passion is to develop and lead top performing teams to reach their full potential. She is a lifelong banker that loves what she does each day to help people achieve their financial goals

Dr. Derek Simmons – Symposium Conclusion

Dr. Derek L. Simmons was appointed superintendent of Caroline County Public Schools in May of 2022. He began his career with the Caroline family in 2001 as a social studies teacher and subsequently served as an administrator, supervisor, and director before an appointment to interim superintendent in 2021.

Dr. Simmons earned his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Salisbury University, and his doctorate in Educational Leadership from Wilmington University. He is a graduate of both Shore Leadership and Leadership Maryland and has had extensive involvement in a variety of community organizations.

Dr. Simmons is also the proud husband of a Caroline County teacher and father of two daughters who attend Caroline County Public Schools.

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