Overview & History
There is a rich and diverse history associated with Dorchester County. Native Americans called this area home long before explorers or traders from England and Spain explored these shores. Settlers from England began to claim lands in the mid 1600’s under land grants from Lord Baltimore and by 1669 Dorchester County was recognized as a County. The County was named for the Earl of Dorset, a family friend of the Calverts (the family name of Lord Baltimore). Dorchester County is called "The Heart of the Eastern Shore" because its mid-shore location and its geographic configuration is heart-shaped. Throughout history, renowned individuals have called Dorchester County home: Patty Cannon, a ruthless slave trader; Harriet Tubman, the "Moses of her people" who helped over 300 slaves find freedom through the Underground Railroad during the Civil War; and Annie Oakley, famed sharpshooter.
With a goal of preserving the County’s rural atmosphere and uniqueness, opportunities abound to bring new, clean industries to the County to broaden and support the needs of the local workforce. In an effort to attract new business, it is important to note that as the "heart of Chesapeake Country", Dorchester County is easily accessible by way of U.S. Route 50 from Baltimore and Washington D.C. The County is further accessible by way of U.S. Route 13 from the New England states, New York, Philadelphia, and areas to the south. Served by the Maryland and Delaware Railroad, the area is ideal for the location of businesses serving multiple locations. The area is also served by the Dorchester County Airport and the Salisbury-Wicomico County Airport, a USAir site. Bordered by the Chesapeake Bay and the Choptank River, Dorchester County enjoys waterways which are navigable by barge and heavily used by sailing and yachting enthusiasts. Living here, it is sometimes easy to take the location for granted. Dorchester County enjoys some of the country’s finest seafood, most challenging wildfowl hunting opportunities, and breath-taking natural areas. Blackwater Wildlife Refuge offers excellent opportunities to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. The Dorchester County Department of Tourism can provide visitors with up-to-date information regarding the events and points of interest that make Dorchester County a prime destination for travelers to the Eastern Shore.
A tax exemption is in place for manufacturing and warehousing inventory. Enterprise Zone incentives are available. A five year phase-out of the personal property taxes on manufacturing equipment is underway. These incentives are significant to businesses looking to locate within the County and the County is examining other incentive programs to further promote the economic development of Dorchester County.
Other key factors play into successful economic development. Training and educating potential workers is a major concern. This process starts in the local County school system with both academic and technological training. Alternative education opportunities are available at several private schools located in the County. Training may continue at Chesapeake College, a community college located in Wye Mills with a satellite campus in Cambridge, or at one of the many colleges and universities located within community distance including Salisbury State University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Wilmington College and others. Specialized training can be obtained at such facilities as the Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies located only four miles west of Cambridge on the Choptank River. The Dorchester County Career and Technical Education Center, located in Cambridge, offers courses in auto mechanics, body and fender repair, carpentry, electronics, horticulture, medical services, food services, HVAC service and repair, diesel and marine mechanics, welding and masonry.
Dorchester County has a school system of which it may be proud - the challenge is to make sure that the young people completing their education have a place to work and an ability to enjoy a superior quality of life.
Transportation systems are in place which provide workforce accessibility to most regions of the County. With its abundance of forests and waterways, recreational opportunities abound and help to provide an attractive lifestyle to individuals currently living in the County or considering relocating to the County
The County seeks to continue to assist existing companies such as Bloch & Guggenheimer (pickle processor), Cambridge, Inl. (conveyor belt producer), Dorchester General Hospital (health care provider ), L’Air Liquide (a division of Liquid Air Corp. and a producer of specialty gases), and Visual Concepts Plus (fabricator of display furnishings). Assistance to existing companies ranges from tax abatements to communication and coordination efforts on the part of the County’s Economic Development Office with various State and Federal grant programs designed to accommodate existing businesses.
Agriculture is a key industry in Dorchester County; again, it is an industry so much a part of the character of the County that care needs to be taken not to miss the opportunities to consider industries which can serve and compliment that very key component of the Dorchester County lifestyle and community.
Marketing efforts are focused on industrial sites located throughout the County. Sites ranging from one acre to 150 acres remain available.
The Town of Hurlock, located in the northern part of the County and at the center of the Delmarva Peninsula, has acreage available in its industrial park. Both the Chesapeake Industrial Park in Cambridge and the Hurlock Industrial Park have been designated as Enterprise Zones by the State of Maryland, providing other beneficial tax incentives to both employers and employees.