La Plata, MD's Economy

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Southern Maryland Oil in Charles County, MD.
Martin Cherry

At its first-ever Economic Engines Awards Luncheon in September 2012, the Charles County Chamber of Commerce recognized the 10 largest employers in the region.

"We wanted to show that in this economy, there are some large organizations that are really keeping our county going by keeping people employed," says Darlene Breck of the Southern Maryland Business Center, who served on the luncheon committee. "Every one of those employees turns around and puts their money right back into our community, paying their mortgages, buying groceries and signing their kids up to play on local sports teams."

Looking at the Numbers

The top three employers in the county – the Charles County government, the Board of Education and the Sheriff's Office are all public entities and employ a collective 5,033 people. The other top employers include Naval Support Facility Indian Head (3,358), College of Southern Maryland (1,100), Civista Medical Center (805), Walmart/Sam's Club (674), Safeway (500), Facchina Group of Companies (480), Target (400), SMECO (379) and Southern Maryland Oil (377).

The numbers were surprising to some committee members, because it's easy to overlook the economic impact that accompanies the necessary services provided by some of these employers.

"You don't think of your local hospital as employing so many people, but they do," Breck says. "Not only are they our only hospital, but they also provide a lot of jobs. It's just interesting how some of these organizations are doing great things for the community, keeping us healthy, keeping us safe, educating our children, but they're also providing jobs."

For instance, the county's largest employer, Charles County Public Schools, employs 3,430 people as well as several thousand more part-time or temporary workers, says James Richmond, superintendent of schools.

"Most of those employees are Charles County residents who live, work, shop and contribute greatly to our economy," he says. "It is important as an employer that we contribute to the community because they give so much to us. The citizens of this county fund a large portion of the school system through taxes, which enables us to be a world-class school system and to provide the necessary resources and support to the classroom."

Doing Business in Charles County

For the top employers, Charles County offers much in return including qualified, motivated employees and a close proximity to Washington, D.C. Some of the county's largest employers have been here for generations.

"As a family-owned and -operated company that has been in business for over 86 years, SMO is deeply rooted in Southern Maryland," says John Combs, president of Southern Maryland Oil. "Charles County has been a great place to do business, and it's exciting to see how it continues to grow and change. The community here sticks together and has a lot of heart."

Those long-term commitments to the Charles County community continue to bear fruit. For instance, SMECO, one of the county's largest employers, currently has two major projects under construction in Charles County, a new engineering and operations facility in Hughesville and a 5.5 megawatt solar farm.

"These projects make us very proud and have provided solid construction jobs during rough economic times," says Thomas Dennison, SMECO's government and public affairs manager. "SMECO has been providing power here in Southern Maryland for 75 years. We take pride in our efforts to support the community, and we certainly appreciate being recognized as an economic engine."

Recruiting Workers

Top employers say that recruiting talented workers to Charles County is not a difficult task because the community has so much to offer. 

"The support, opportunities and positive teaching environment in Charles County Public Schools is a draw for new teachers," Richmond says. "Combined with the positive qualities of Charles County, including its close proximity to major cities, affordable quality of life, diverse population, military bases and easy access to technology, we are attracting a higher quality of applicants each year."

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Wed, 02/28/2018 - 21:22