Cumberland Strategic Economic Development Plan
The City of Cumberland is a regional business and commercial center for Western Maryland and the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia. During the 19th century, Cumberland was a key road, railroad and canal junction and at one time was the second-largest city in Maryland, after the port city of Baltimore. With the restructuring of heavy industry in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states following World War II, the city lost many jobs. As a result, its population has declined by nearly half, from 39,483 in the 1940 census to fewer than 22,000 today.
To the City’s credit, notable increases in employment occurred in the finance/insurance, professional/scientific/technical services, and health care sectors in the last decade. However, significant increases occurred in relatively low-income service sector jobs coupled with a continued decline in manufacturing jobs. Through a Strategic Economic Development Plan (SEDP), the City sought to initiate more comprehensive, proactive economic development efforts, and therefore improve its fiscal, market and economic health.
RKG was hired to evaluate existing market and economic conditions and interview community stakeholders. In addition, in collaboration with the project steering committee, RKG identified opportunity sites that could provide a focus for future economic development efforts within the City. Ultimately, these efforts culminated in a Strategic Economic Development Plan that addressed organizational, market and economic challenges in order to establish a foundation for future, more in-depth development processes.
The plan was adopted by the City, which has implemented a number of the plan's recommendations. Most notably, the Office of Economic Development has established a public-private funded Economic Development Commission.