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The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Development Task Force is partnering with Garrett College to host a welcome reception for all new students who will be attending Garrett College this fall. The Chamber will throw out the welcome mat and introduce the students to Garrett County at the Deep Creek Lake State Park. Through Wisp Resort’s activities center at the park, the students will have access to kayaks, paddleboards and the beach area. Pontoon boat tours of the lake will also be provided. The reception will be held on Friday, September 6 from 11:00 am to 2:00 p.m.

“We are excited to provide this opportunity to new students of Garrett College and new residents of Garrett County,” said Laura Fike, Workforce Development Task Force chair and Chamber board member. “We can showcase some of the fun activities in Garrett County and make these new students, some of whom are away from home for the first time, feel welcome.”

“Each year, more than 200 new students begin their college career at Garrett College,” said Dr. Richard Midcap, Garrett College’s president.  “Many of these students are new not only to the college but to the county, and I appreciate the Chamber’s continuing work to help us make our new students feel welcome.  Expanding the program to include all new students, including those who are from Garrett County, was a decision that will help an even larger number of students get off to a great start this fall.”

The Chamber sees other benefits to making the new students feel welcome. They believe that people are overlooking the fact that these students are prospective future employees and permanent residents.

“If the students grew up here then we want them to know we are glad they stayed and if they are from outside of the county then we want them to know that we’re excited they chose our community,” said Nicole Christian, Chamber president & CEO. “We want all of these young people to love being here in Garrett County and eventually become permanent residents and employees in our community,”.

A second phase of the welcome for the new students will include familiarization tours of the County. The first one is scheduled for September 13 and the students will be touring Swallow Falls and Wisp Resort.

The Workforce Development Task Force has been functioning for the last three years to identify the workforce challenges plaguing our businesses and has adopted a holistic approach to addressing the difficulties of strengthening and expanding our labor pool. They are focusing on four focus areas – Education/Training, Affordable Housing, Transportation and Child Care.

The declining and aging county population is having the greatest impact on the local workforce as it is reducing the number of prospective employees. Unfortunately, this is a growing trend among rural communities and no single panacea has been developed to combat the issue. However, the Chamber is hopeful that implementing initiatives like the Welcome Reception to attract new full-time residents will help address the problem.

Through the Task Force, the Chamber has also implemented the Work Ethic Diploma in partnership with Garrett County Public Schools to emphasize the value of a strong work ethic in our young people. The Work Ethic Diploma Program has 37 business partners. The Chamber of Commerce and Garrett County Public Schools presented Work Ethic Diplomas to 32 Class of 2019 graduates from Northern and Southern High Schools and hopes to see the number increase in 2020. More information can be found on the Chamber’s website at visitdeepcreek.com/pages/WorkEthicDiploma or by contacting Holly Lane,holly@garrettchamber.com or 301.387.6171.

Businesses who are members of the Garrett County Chamber and would like to join the Workforce Development Task Force should also contact Holly Lane.