Maryland 3.0 Asks Five Questions to Talbot Chamber CEO Al Silverstein


How has the recession affected Talbot businesses and do you have stats on how many have closed their doors?

Unfortunately a small number of businesses have had to close their doors due to the economy.  However the chamber has seen an increasing number of new businesses starts, which outweighs the number of business closures.

Talbot County economy is very dependent on real estate, tourism, construction, medical  services and government.  The sale of real estate in Talbot County is driven by discretionary purchases of secondary homes and due to the economy and new government regulations that segment of the market has been negatively impacted.  On the positive side Talbot County real estate sales in 2012 were up 30% over 2011 and 2013 sales were up nominally over 2012.

Since the beginning of the recession the construction market has seen a severe downturn.  We have seen an implementation of new building codes, state regulations and increasing anti-growth sentiment from local governments.  The net result of all of these factors is the loss of businesses, which in turn leads to less opportunities hiring in the construction trades.

Tourism Industry revenues took a dip in 2009, yet have seen steady growth the past four years.  A growing segment of Talbot County tourism is from it becoming a wedding destination.

What do you envision for this year and beyond?  Are there new businesses just opening or getting ready to open in Talbot Co.? What do you see as a critical requirement to strengthen the local economy (such as public transportation, lower taxes and other business incentives)?

I envision that 2014 will see modest business growth in Talbot County.  We will continue to see some segments of our economy do better than others based upon consumer confidence.   We continue to get inquiries from individuals interested in starting or relocating a business to Talbot County and anticipate that we will also experience some business closures.

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 1.34.03 PMTalbot County’s property and income tax rates have been among the lowest in the State of Maryland.  The Talbot Chamber is pleased to see that the Town of Easton is giving serious consideration to lowering the impact fees.

Talbot County is a very desirable location to live, work and play.  We have a thriving arts and entertainment community that features award-winning restaurants, museums and a host of special events.  We are home to the Waterfowl Festival, Academy Art Museum, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Plein Air, Tuckahoe Steam & Gas Show.  One unique attraction in our county is the Oxford- Bellevue Ferry.

The chamber’s Government & Regulatory Committee has been working with the Talbot County Office of Economic Development and the newly formed Easton Economic Development Corporation (located at the chamber office) to…. formulate strategies with local government agencies to redesign and fine tune the development process.

Public transportation in rural areas is a critical component to get people to work, get medical services and meet shopping needs. The Talbot Chamber has been a very supportive partner in the creation of the MUST Bus System.  Unfortunately funding for rural transportation continues to shrink and costs of operations continue to rise.

You have worked with historic preservation groups in the area; do you see the historic aspects of Talbot County as beneficial to the business community and the local economy in general?

Talbot County’s rich history attracts many tourist to our community.  Our waterman’s heritage, Frederick Douglas ties to our county, and the many historically designated buildings are very appealing to history buffs.

What has the Chamber been doing to help local businesses…. any new approaches or techniques? Is the multimedia center, the internet or any other high tech marketing strategy being utilized?

We have a new Chamber website, free counseling by SCORE members, weekly e-newsletters promoting networking events, seminars and free Lunch & Learns with special emphasis on how to use social media as a marketing tool.  The Chamber has partnered with other Talbot County organizations to lobby for modification or opposition to proposed legislation that is onerous to business, both on a local, state and national level. The Chamber has an active Member-to-Member Discount program; we offer our members three conference rooms to use for meeting clients, staff or Board of Director meetings or to facilitate strategic planning meetings.

A large part of my efforts on behalf of our membership is to be an advocate for the Free Enterprise System.  This Legislative session is my fourteenth year as a member of the Maryland State Chamber Legislative Committee, reviewing and taking positions on approximately 200 bills that will affect (state and local) businesses each session.

What business person in the nation (or world) do you most admire, and What is your most recently read favorite book?

I’m a strong advocate of the Free Enterprise system.  I have been an admirer of Warren Buffet since I had the opportunity to hear him in person when I worked in Nebraska.

My latest book is Johnny Carson (bio) by Henry Bushkin.

Alan Silverstein has served 31 years as a Chamber of Commerce executive, and has served as president and CEO of the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce since 2001.




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