Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy

For The Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland

Economic Diversification  Leads to Economic Resiliency and Prosperity Moving LESMD forward with innovative thinking, planning and execution
Lower Eastern Shore CEDS identified one of its goals as the creation of “comparative advantages for the region, otherwise impossible for a single county to accomplish on its own.
Gregory Padgham
Executive Director

Vision Statement for the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland

Manifest a commitment to a prosperous, healthy, and fulfilling life for all Lower Shore citizens.
Leverage the cultural and natural resources of the Lower Eastern Shore as the foundation for our identity.
Create an economically vibrant region by utilizing flexible and resilient development strategies.

Goals & Supporting Strategies

Goal 1: Healthy Economy

Grow and develop a healthy and diversified economy by supporting existing and traditional industry sectors, attracting new and emerging industry sectors, promoting the the growth of the entrepreneurial base, and assisting businesses to increase their competitiveness.

The Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland is an attractive region for both businesses and residents. The region must welcome new businesses and provide strong support for the expansion of existing businesses in order to strengthen the health of the local economy. A business‐friendly environment creates a region that attracts and retains talented employees and provides quality jobs for local residents. Support for entrepreneurship continues to grow with organizations such as the Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery Competition and the Rommel Center for Entrepreneurship. 

Healthcare innovation offers one area for entrepreneurial focus in the region. With strong and growing healthcare systems in the region and a growing aging population there are ample opportunities for the growth of healthcare innovation.

Agriculture and agribusiness has long been one of the mainstays of the local economy. New opportunities for diversification of crops should continue to be explored. Thoughtful consideration should be given to land use policies that impact the access to productive farmland while also protecting the region’s substantial and varied environmental assets.

Regional tourism ranges from the large summer resort town of Ocean City to a growing number of sports tourism opportunities, including the Salisbury Marathon and the USSSA East tournaments. Regional events also include a long list of natural, cultural and historical tourism activities.

A growing aerospace/aeronautics industry cluster continues to develop in the region. Assets such as the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Salisbury University, the Salisbury/Wicomico Regional Airport (SBY) and the region's close proximity to Wallops Flight Facility help provide a nexus for industry innovation. 

Supporting Strategies & Action Plans

1Promote and support local and diverse entrepreneurship initiatives in an effort to strengthen the local economy.
  • 1.1Strengthen and expand support networks for entrepreneurs.
  • 1.2Promote learning and collaboration opportunities.
2Assist local private sector entities with navigating regulatory process for business creation and development.
  • 2.1Encourage increased transparency in regulatory processes.
  • 2.2Provide easy access to regulatory information.
3Encourage and support the stability and growth of existing and traditional economic sectors as part of an overall strategy of economic diversification and resiliency.
  • 3.1Identify existing and and traditional economic sectors in the region.
  • 3.2Facilitate greater collaboration between these industries and economic development professionals to raise visibility at the state and federal levels.
4Encourage and support the entry and growth of new and emerging industries as part of an overall strategy of economic diversification and resiliency.
  • 4.1Identify target areas for growth in new industries.
5Support economic clustering as a feeder for innovation, diversification, and job creation.
  • 5.1Coordinate access to incentives, capital, workshops, learning and collaboration opportunities.
6Increase affordable and workforce housing options throughout the region.
  • 6.1Facilitate coordinated planning efforts to encourage housing investments near job markets.
  • 6.2Support and promote efforts to incentivize affordable and workforce housing.

Goal 2: Competitive Workforce

Ensure that workers and job seekers of all ages have awareness of and access to the education and training opportunities needed to succeed in both our existing and emerging industries.

The Lower Eastern Shore boasts a strong education continuum that includes workforce development and training. The region is home to three institutions of higher education including Wor‐Wic Community College, Salisbury University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Three technical high schools combining CTE programs, paid internships, summer career camps and other programs that include middle school students add an additional layer of workforce development to the region. Though a broader spectrum of coordinated and managed internships, apprenticeships, and on‐the‐job training programs have been made available in recent years, affordability and accessibility remain the key to providing opportunities to individuals of all socio‐economic classes.

The Maryland EARN program and the Maryland Department of Labor Apprenticeship programs are examples of such programs that can be further utilized and serve as a model for local workforce programs. To bolster the success of economic and workforce development programs, case management and support services must also be available and accessible. Similarly, employer driven Skill Acquisition/Skill Development programs and activities can be further enhanced with strategic public subsidies and incentives to further develop the local workforce.

Investing in public education remains the best and fastest way to improve the economy of a region. Such investments also yield some of the highest ROIs among public expenditures. To meet the needs of all age cohorts, adequate opportunities for the aging population to remain engaged in the community through educational, workforce, and volunteer opportunities should remain a priority. The presence of a competitive workforce is critical to the region’s ability to attract and sustain existing and emerging sectors of the economy and serves as a key factor in achieving Goal 1: Health Economy.


Supporting Strategies & Action Plans

1Facilitate collaboration between educational partners and industry partners to ensure students are acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to be competitive in the workforce.
  • 1.1Leverage the assets and partnerships of the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance (LSWA) to assess current needs and gaps.
2Strengthen and diversify education and workforce development programs throughout the region.
  • 2.1Delegate these tasks to Lower Shore Workforce Alliance and its partners.
3Implement a campaign to grow awareness of the variety of industries and workforce opportunities in the region.
  • 3.1Delegate these tasks to the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance and its partners.
4Develop a clearinghouse to compile and share regional job and workforce development opportunities.
  • 4.1Delegate these tasks to the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance and its partners.

Goal 3: Infrastructure

Ensure the stable and growing infrastructure needed for economic diversification and growth, while adhering to guidelines that coincide with the goals of the region to help protect our environment, quantity of open spaces, and quality of life.

The region’s transportation infrastructure includes a network of roads, rail, water, and air. Efforts to enhance and grow the current infrastructure of the region will make a healthy economy and thriving region possible.

Additions to the transportation network that connect the current activity nodes will further integrate the region and help to manage sprawl. More transit options will allow residents greater access to employment and leisure opportunities while also reducing the environmental impact that results from the transport of a growing population.

The existing railway system is in need of a funding mechanism to help ensure its viability into the future. Because a substantial portion lies directly parallel to the North/South US13 transportation corridor, with its existing broadband, electric power transmission and natural gas pipeline infrastructure, the rail system has great potential for an expanding role in the economic viability of the region. 

Waterway infrastructure includes the Port of Salisbury and the West Ocean City Harbor. The city-owned Port of Salisbury, Maryland’s second largest port by tonnage, has benefited from recent revitalization efforts and plans for continued development are underway. Maintaining proper dredging of the commercial waterways is essential to the long‐term viability of commercial water transport and the related industries. Federal funding for dredging is tied to the amount of tonnage going through the port on an annual basis. In 2021 the City of Salisbury concluded a feasibility study to explore growth opportunities for the port (see ). 

In the case of West Ocean City, the current infrastructure supports a substantial commercial and sport fishing industry. The planned installation and operation of two offshore wind farms will increase the use and importance of the harbor and the channels. As with the Port of Salisbury, consistent dredging is crucial to continued use of the port.  In 2023 dredging commenced using funds from the Maryland Department of Commerce. 

The region should continue to strive to maximize the potential of tier-1 regional infrastructure assets like the Salisbury‐Ocean City‐Wicomico Airport (SBY), home to American Airlines subsidiary Piedmont Airlines. In addition, FedEx continues to operate flights from its facility at SBY. Recent investments in runway extension, municipal water extension, broadband extension, natural gas line extension and business/aviation park development have helped position SBY as an important factor in the future growth and economic resiliency of the region. Further substantial investment in FY23-24 includes the establishment of a FAA Part 147 Certified Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) program at SBY in partnership with the aviation department of HBCU University of Maryland Eastern Shore, as well as the implementation of shovel-ready business park site development as part of an overall strategic plan.  Reliance on a single commercial carrier remains a major concern. 

Broadband internet access is a key component of the region’s ability to create, attract, and retain job‐creating businesses and institutions. Access improves the productivity and competitiveness of local business and provides additional teleworking opportunities for residents. It also provides better access to local government agencies, educational and telehealth resources. The recent creation of the Office of Statewide Broadband within the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development has led to a more streamlined process of funding implementation and improved coordination between local county governments, ISP's and state/federal agencies.  While broadband access in the region has grown significantly over the past decade, challenges still remain with regard to building out last mile infrastructure to reach currently unserved and underserved populations.

Ensuring appropriate soft infrastructure, including healthcare, education, and government facilities, are in place is necessary to fulfill the current needs and support the future growth of the local population and business base. Existing facilities should be continuously monitored in order to plan for growing capacity needs. School facilities should be upgraded, where necessary, to ensure students are provided with the optimum environment for learning in an increasingly digital era.

Renewable energy investments such as solar farms and two offshore wind farms planned to be installed off the coast of Ocean City are movements toward a more diversified energy base for the region. The vast majority of electricity consumed is generated by nuclear, coal and natural gas powered sources outside the region. The region has a major transmission line deficit, with a single major line north to south. Capacity concerns during very cold and very hot days and a general inability of industrial, commercial, and residential users to reduce daily usage are ongoing issues. It is hoped that the expanding natural gas infrastructure will help alleviate some of these concerns. Additional resiliency in the regional transportation and energy infrastructure is an important consideration for the overall health of the local economy. This issue is discussed further in the resiliency section of this document.

In the transportation industry, roughly 22% of residents in Somerset County arrive to work by driving, carpooling, using public transportation, or by walking less than 10 minutes. Only roughly 17% and 16% of Wicomico County and Worcester County residents respectively arrive to work in less than 10 minutes. Yet, in all three counties, only roughly 6% of residents take longer than 60 minutes to get to work. These findings seem to indicate that a majority of Lower Eastern Shore residents work within the state.

Lastly, the human capital of the region is an asset that cannot be overlooked when examining the local infrastructure needs. A trained and trainable workforce is a necessary component of the region’s ability to support and grow its economic base. Efforts to address the human capital component can be found in Goal 2 above.

Supporting Strategies & Action Plans

1Continue to identify and support projects constituting the upgrade and expansion of basic hard infrastructure systems in the region.
  • 1.1Delegate the process to CEDS Committee and Economic Development District (Regional Council) - specific categories of hard infrastructure systems include energy delivery systems (renewable energy and natural gas), broadband, water and wastewater management, ports, airports, railways, roads and bikeways.
2Support and provide technical, marketing and other assistance for specific tier-1 regional assets uniquely positioned, either geographically or by category of activity, to contribute to regional economic diversification.
  • 2.1Delegate the process to CEDS Committee and Economic Development District (Regional Council) - specific tier-1 regional assets include Salisbury-Wicomico Regional Airport (SBY), Crisfield Airport, Port of Salisbury, Ocean City Commercial Harbor, Somerset County Industrial Park, Pocomoke City Industrial Park .

Goal 4: Vibrant Communities

Implement flexible and resilient development practices that ensure the protection of the natural environment while fostering diverse cultural and recreational opportunities to residents and visitors throughout the region.

The Lower Eastern Shore boasts abundant natural beauty, significant historical assets and a vibrant cultural heritage. The unique geography encompasses vast open lands and a network of rivers nestled between the beautiful Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Historic downtown areas and attractions provide a strong connection to the past that built the region.

Balancing the needs for growth to accommodate a strong and healthy economy with the conservation of cultural and natural resources is a key priority for the region. Preserving the coastline and protecting the health of the waterways on which generations have built their living is key to not only ensuring the environmental health and sustainability of the region but also for providing heritage and eco‐tourism opportunities that allow residents and visitors to enjoy these natural assets. Similarly, development growth must be balanced with the need to safeguard productive farmland in support of one of the largest industries in the region.

“Quality‐of‐life” is a phrase often used to describe what residents love about the area although the exact definition is difficult to pinpoint. The close access to metropolitan areas including Baltimore, Washington D.C., Annapolis, New York City, and Richmond without the experience of the day‐to‐day congestion is one of the competitive advantages the region has to offer to both businesses, individuals and families. Access to a large array of music, art, and cultural amenities allows residents to enjoy experiences that speak to their interests.

Initiatives to improve air and water quality and innovate in ways that enhance sustainability while reducing environmental impacts will benefit not only the economy but the natural assets that contribute to the quality‐of‐life and attract future residents and visitors. It is incumbent upon all stakeholders, including major industries, to augment Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts by reducing their impact. By the same token planners must think strategically regarding the impact of sprawl on the region’s waterways.

The region has long been an active retirement destination for individuals over the age of 60 and this population continues to grow. Providing the amenities and infrastructure necessary to allow residents to age in place is an important consideration in providing this segment of the population with continued access to the vibrant communities that brought or kept them here in the first place.

Supporting Strategies & Action Plans

1Support planning efforts that balance the need for planned growth and the conservation of important natural resources and cultural assets in the region.
  • 1.1Collaborate with partners and local jurisdictions to identify priority development areas and priority conservation areas.
2Facilitate coordination of thoughtful and deliberate community planning and development efforts that cultivate a true sense of community.
  • 2.1Facilitate collaboration between all planning partners.
  • 2.2Encourage collaboration between transportation and land use planning.
  • 2.3Provide technical assistance to areas seeking revitalization.
3Serve as a clearinghouse of community and cultural events in the region and encourage collaboration in programs and marketing.
  • 3.1Delegate process to the the CEDS Committee and Economic Development District (Regional Council) - Collaborate with partners throughout the region to gather information on local offerings.
  • 3.2Delegate the process to the CEDS Committee and the Economic Development District (Regional Council) - develop a tool to promote community and cultural events throughout the region.
4Implement a regional branding initiative to provide the Lower Eastern Shore with a clear identify in regional marketing efforts.
  • 4.1Delegate process to the CEDS Committee and the Economic Development District (EDD) - facilitate collaboration among partners throughout the region to develop a regional branding strategy and determine benefits of and uses for regional branding efforts.


Arthur W. Perdue Stadium Minor League Baseball Modifications
$20 Million
Impact Region
Regional - (Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester)

Located immediately adjacent to US50 in Wicomico County, the Arthur W. Perdue Stadium has hosted professional baseball since 1996.  The stadium currently serves as the home field for the Delmarva Shorebirds, the Single A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, and hosts over 100 events each year which attract an annual attendance of more than 225,000 from all over the region. Stadium events infuse an estimated $13.4M into local economic activity yielding more than $600,000 in State tax revenue annually and supporting hundreds of local jobs.  Though many improvements have been made in recent years, the Stadium will require additional renovations in order to meet recently adopted Professional Development League (PDL) standards, as required by Major League Baseball in order to keep the franchise in the region.  Other stadium improvements, including those specifically requested by the Baltimore Orioles, are also needed to make the stadium more modern and viable long-term, and to deliver a first-class product to players, coaches and fans.

  • 2022
    • Engagement with the Maryland Stadium Authority initiated;
  • 2023
    • RFP's for Design and Build Services; Construction to begin.
  • 2024
    •  Estimated time for construction to begin is 2024 and the project should be completed prior to the 2026 baseball season.