Western Maryland counties promoting manufacturing capabilities & outdoor lifestyle

by Kate Shunney

Local, state and regional economic development agencies are forefronting Western Maryland’s natural resources, outdoor adventure opportunities and affordability to manufacturers who might be looking to relocate their operations or start a new venture. The effort is also targeting workers who might want to come live in the region.

Led by Garrett and Allegany counties, the effort is using the tagline of “Make it. In the Mountains.” Agencies said it focuses on the opportunities tied to the growing outdoor industry.

“With more than 150,000 acres of public land and a highly-skilled workforce, the region provides an affordable location for companies seeking an attractive destination with an opportunity for work/life balance,” say economic development officials in their promotional materials.

The Maryland Department of Commerce said the initiative is the result of a joint regional recruitment project – funded by a $75,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission  and led by both county governments and the state.

“We are excited to see the launch of this new initiative, which highlights the benefits of doing business in Western Maryland,” said Maryland Commerce Secretary Kevin Anderson. “The work being done between these two counties will raise awareness of the region’s strengths while driving business investment and tourism spending dollars in the area.”

Economic development officials note that the region is already home to several small manufacturers who make products for outdoor enthusiasts and tourists.

“From WheelzUp Adventures to FireFly Farms, a number of lifestyle and manufacturing companies already call Western Maryland home,” they note.

The marketing website can be found at

In January of 2022, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded Allegany County Government, Garrett County Government, and the Maryland Department of Commerce a $75,000 grant for the organizations’ joint application – “Elevating the Outdoors: A Regional Approach to Growing Western Maryland’s Outdoor Economy.”

The grant funded development of “a regional recruitment and strategic plan to attract outdoor recreation/lifestyle manufacturing to locate, expand, and grow in Western Maryland.”

The project produced a manufacturing analysis, a tourism analysis, and a strategic/recruitment plan.

In 2019, the State of Maryland released its Maryland Outdoor Recreation Economic (MORE) Commission report, which ties into the effort.

“One of the commission’s highlighted recommendations included addressing the need for a recruitment plan to attract outdoor lifestyle manufacturers, such as kayak, boat, bicycle, and ATV companies, to locate and grow in Maryland,” said economic development officials.

The current marketing project is aimed at doing just that.

“This is a very exciting opportunity for our two counties, which have an excellent history of collaboration and working together, to further our marketing to manufacturing companies that fit in the outdoor recreational space,” said Paul C. Edwards, Chairman, Garrett County Commissioners.

“There is no better place in the entire state of Maryland to try to attract companies that rely on quality outdoor assets for their products, as well as have a need for high quality and dedicated employees,” Edwards said.

County officials note that Allegany and Garrett counties are home to over 150,000 acres of public land, 31% of the entire state’s owned acreage.

With over 600 miles of developed trail systems, one National Park, three state forests, and 15 state parks, “Western Maryland has the ability to leverage economic and community development through its growing outdoor economy and access to natural resources” officials say.

“This campaign has empowered Allegany and Garrett counties to utilize their access to natural resources as a powerful marketing tool for economic development,” said Ashli Workman, Director of Tourism for Allegany County and workgroup member. “Allegany and Garrett counties are working together on a regional scale to attract business and workforce development, utilizing one of our common strengths, the outdoors.”

Allegany County Government, Garrett County Government, and the State of Maryland Department of Commerce funded the match for the project.

The workgroup, which consisted of staff from the funding agencies, included: Jeffrey Barclay, Director for Economic and Community Development (Allegany County); Kim Durst, Manager of Business Development (Garrett County); Marci Ross, Senior Assistant Director for Maryland Tourism Development; Andrew Sargent, Senior Business Development Representative Department of Commerce; Siera Wigfield, Senior Planner (Garrett County); and Ashli Workman, Director of Tourism (Allegany County).

Steve Kelly, Director of Community Development (Garrett County), and Sarah Duck, Vice President of Tourism & Marketing at the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce (Garrett County), assisted with the project’s marketing committee. Downstream Strategies and InnerAction Media from Morgantown, W.Va, served as the project consultants.

Copies of the manufacturing analysis, tourism analysis, and strategic/recruitment plan can be found at