I recently enjoyed an incredible day in Queen Anne’s County where I visited an expanding business in Stevensville, talked with a group of environmentalists, celebrated the culmination of a community project, and rounded out the day drinking a cold beer at a local farm brewery.
This particular visit represented a kind of microcosm of places I see during my travels throughout the state. At TechOps Specialty Vehicles on Kent Island, I saw what can happen when a small business grows by responding to the unique needs of its community. Bill Krampf, director of business development, explained how they customize vehicles to fit the special needs and purposes for police, fire and military command-style vehicles. The business employs design engineers, as well as people with technical and computer skills, who use their talents to solve specialized product challenges.
In the afternoon, I met with a group of local environmentalists gathered together by Jay Falstad, executive director of the Queen Anne’s Conservation Association. We met at the beautiful Chesapeake Heritage and Visitor Center at the Kent Narrows, and they updated me on their most recent accomplishments and concerns about keeping the country’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, and all its tributaries clean. They were most vocal about limiting the amount of plastic used throughout the state, because whether it’s on the Eastern Shore or Western Maryland, it can end up polluting local waterways. Several crucial points were made and I appreciated the update on their great work.
Next up was a project that showcased what can happen when you combine community spirit, sweat equity and a little help with government resources. Two years ago, local leaders held meetings to discuss the difficulties some families in the community were having with the lack of local laundry facilities. Children were coming to school in dirty clothes because their parents couldn’t access laundromats in Millington or Chestertown. Some kids were so embarrassed, they weren’t coming to school at all. While some teachers who noticed reacted kindly and took their students’ clothes home to wash, the community needed a more practical and sustainable solution.
Local leaders started talking about what they could do, including researching and applying for grants and eventually $200,000 in various grants and local donations poured in. In addition, the Sudlersville Volunteer Fire Company offered space in the former Sudlersville Middle School, which it owns. Atlantic Broadband agreed to provide free Wi-Fi at the laundromat for one year so that students could do their homework and get tutoring from teachers while parents do their weekly wash.
The new laundromat opened in June and so far, it has been a tremendous success, becoming an asset for the town and surrounding area. The fire company hopes to find other uses for the school – it’s a great location to expand a business, develop low-cost housing or open a new retail space. This humble facility is all about restoring dignity and that’s why I was proud to recognize project co-chairmen Francis Kinnamon and Bill Faust with a proclamation for their and the entire community’s efforts.
After such a fulfilling day, there was no better way to end it than with a cold, Maryland craft beer at one of the state’s unique farm breweries, Patriotic Acres Farm Brewery, just down the road. The veteran-owned, family-run operation on a 100-acre farm uses its own hops to create mouth-watering brews. Run by Brian and Shawan Truitt, the setting allows visitors to enjoy not only the peaceful countryside, but also the opportunity to meet some of the regulars: Security, its big fluffy dog; Stewart Little, the rooster who will sit on your shoulders; and a pasture of llamas and any number of baby goats ready to be held and petted.
There are so many communities throughout the state just like the ones I visited in Queen Anne’s. People are excited about what they do and they step up to challenges, showing how deeply they care for their communities, making Maryland such a great place to live and work. I look forward to many return visits to places just like Queen Anne’s County!