Cecil County is on a roll.
The Maryland county to the west of Newark and Middletown chalked up two big economic development wins this month.
This week a groundbreaking ceremony took place for a quarter of a billion-dollar, 700-room Great Wolf Lodge resort on its western edge.
An earlier ceremony near Elkton marked the beginning of construction on a Northrup Grumman center to develop and manufacture hypersonic cruise missile weapons.
Until now, much of the job growth in the county has come from distribution centers – Amazon, grocer Lid upscale retailer Restoration Hardware, and others.
The influx of jobs has been good news for both Cecil County and neighboring New Castle County.
After all, the economies of the two counties have long been intertwined.
New Castle is also seeing growth in distribution jobs, with one Amazon site opening soon and another location in the works. Also a strong possibility is a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Middletown that would provide more job options for residents of both counties.
In the meantime, the unadjusted unemployment rate in Cecil has been hovering around 5%, well below Maryland’s rate of more than 6%. Not that long ago, Cecil County had one of Maryland’s highest jobless rates.
Playing a less visible role is consolidating military research jobs at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Harford County through BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure). A predicted BRAC boom in Cecil never took hold.
Both Cecil County and its neighbor to the east face a similar challenge going forward in attracting higher-paying jobs. Construction has provided a boost on the pay front, although that impact can be temporary.
One bright spot in New Castle is the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus and a growing number of science and technology jobs at the site of the former Chrysler plant. In its heyday, Chrysler was a major employer of Cecil residents.
Also, W.L. Gore maintains a sizable presence in Cecil County, a marked contrast to the downsizing efforts of many of its peers.
What’s next? In the near term, the challenge will be a tight labor market that will put upward pressure on wages and stoke inflation fears.
Cecil, like neighboring New Castle, faces serious challenges stemming from the drug pandemic and related issues.
Still, Cecil County is in a much better place these days.
Enjoy your weekend. This newsletter returns on Monday. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.