Worcester Economic Summit Brings Good News for the County

The Worcester Economic Summit brought news of booming business in Ocean City, and a potentially brighter future for the county as a whole.

Hosted at the Ocean City Performing Arts Center on the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 14, local politicians, business leaders and economists gathered to evaluate the economy of the county as a whole, as well as its crown tourist jewel, Ocean City.

Andy Malis of the Baltimore-based MGH Advertising Agency spoke of the success of marketing campaigns to spread the word of Ocean City, such as traffic on the Ocean City website, ococean.com.

“In 2009, there were 870,000 visitors for the year,” Malis said. “That’s triple for this past year. That’s incredible growth in interest in Ocean City.”

Along with number of visitors to the site, engaged time also tripled in the same time frame. For social media properties started at the same time, the number of followers hovers at just below 900,000.

Along with social media campaigns and the website, Malis attributed a greater interest in Ocean City to billboards, TV spots in major markets and a well-placed sign just behind home plate at Oriole Park.

Stacked up against competing Mid-Atlantic resort towns, such as Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach and Atlantic City, Ocean City’s hotel prices, which averaged at $185, and occupancy rates during the summer months stood near the top.

“Occupancy rates are usually ranked in the top one or two,” Malis said. “And revenue per available room is always number one, consistently, summer after summer.”

Malis said this is not only an indicator of a healthy Ocean City, but one that is consistently in growing demand as a vacation destination, even when the price is relatively high compared to other resort towns, such as Atlantic City.

“What this shows that people are willing to pay the price and choose to come here for their vacation,” Malis said.

Mayor Rick Meehan, took pride in the trajectory of Ocean City, and the bright economic future of the resort town.

“I’m happy to serve what may be the best resort town anywhere, and definitely is for this area of the country,” Meehan said.

Giving broader scope to the county’s economy, economist Anirban Basu of Baltimore-based Sage Policy Group gave a powerful mix of comedy and economics, beginning at the global level and magnifying down to Worcester County.

In specific, while Maryland itself sat in a modest position dead center at number 25 for economic growth among the states, Basu noted that growing interest in new industry bodes well for the county. Specifically in Berlin, Electronic Transaction Services’ new locale spells a promising future for the tech industry, as well as the approval for OC Botanicals to operate medical marijuana manufacturing in Worcester County; both will bring both new jobs and economic benefits.

“You’re gonna have the beach, and marijuana, it’s going to be a real nice, mellow place,” Basu joked.

Basu said that the economic forecast under the new president shows promise, although it’s difficult to predict the long-term trajectory. Basu estimated that 2017 and 2018 would see a rise in economic activity which would inevitably taper off around 2020.

“Under the Bush administration, we saw a similar thing, where there were a couple years early on where the economy was doing good,” Basu said. “But that hit a decline.”

Ultimately Basu said Worcester County, as a whole, while having expected seasonal shifts in economic activity and employment, is doing well, and shows even more economic promise if it adheres to its newer opportunities.

“When we look at these young, tech-savvy people, when they’re stuck in traffic on I-495 or the Baltimore Beltway, they wouldn’t want anything more to be at the beach,” Basu said. “The important thing is letting them know you want them.”