Area economic group marks its 30th year

Posted: December 8, 2012

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Thirty years ago, a handful of community leaders saw a common interest in industrial development.

Three decades later, that vision — realized with the Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission — has facilitated more than $1 billion in local capital investment and more than 8,000 new jobs for the community.

The EDC works to attract businesses — typically industrial — to the area, helps ones that are already here to expand and operates a workforce-development program.

Before the creation of the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the EDC oversaw tourism initiatives for the area.

Former and current EDC employees and board members, local government officials and business leaders celebrated the 30-year milestone Friday afternoon at the Winchester Country Club.

“The EDC has been a great fit for the city and county,” said Richard Dick, the first chairman of the EDC board.

June Wilmot, EDC executive director from 1991 to 2001, said the goal of the group has always been to bring revenue to the city and county and to ensure employment for their citizens.

She thinks the organization has accomplished those goals.

The EDC helped to bring the Internet to the area in 1992, and worked to bring in major employers such as American Woodmark, Trex Co. and the Navy Federal Credit Union.

It has also helped local businesses to expand, including Rubbermaid Commercial Products, HP Hood and O’Sullivan Films.

Jim Golladay, a member of the 15-seat EDC board, believes two of the group’s most important accomplishments go beyond the number of new jobs and investment.

Information gathered by the EDC Call Team, which routinely visits local businesses to gather data and identify industry growth trends, is invaluable, he said.

And the organization’s career- awareness program exposes area students and teachers to local industrial opportunities, which helps to provide a workforce for companies.

The students like it, too, Golladay said. “The way you keep a teenager happy is to feed them. The other way is to take them out and show them a [manufacturing] plant.”

Speakers weren’t content to rest on previous accomplishments. They also looked to goals the EDC can reach in the future.

Doug Rinker, a former EDC board chairman, thinks of the group as a seed organization that lays the groundwork for later rewards.

“We have to plant before we can harvest. Continue to plant the seeds,” he urged those in attendance.

The EDC, with a staff of five, is funded by the city and county governments.

— Contact Conor Gallagher at cgallagher@winchesterstar.com