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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Michael Day faces similar challenges south of Berlin

(Dec. 10, 2015) While Michael Day gets a good deal of credit for the resurgence of Berlin – along with Mayor Gee Williams, County Tourism Director Lisa Challenger and a handful of others – he now faces a similar challenge as Snow Hill’s economic development director.
This is not, as is obvious, Day’s first time around the block. Along with serving three years on the Salisbury City Council, Day worked for four years as part-time economic development director in Pocomoke and Berlin, and another four-plus years as Berlin’s full-time economic director.
As he describes it, the job is as much about personality as it is experience.
“For this type of job, you’ve got to be able to talk to the low end, the medium and the high end. You’ve got to be able to get along with the elected officials, the big people in this community and the little people in each community,” Day said. “You’ve got to be able to communicate and win them over.”
That often includes juggling the wants and needs of 50 merchants, 50 residents, a half dozen councilmembers and various department heads and town managers. And the job, according to Day, is often full of naysayers – even when things are going well.
“Put 100 people in front of somebody’s store for an event and they’re complaining that their parking place is taken,” he said. “It’s jaw dropping to me what some people can come up with as a complaint when we’re doing our best and bringing people to shop in their stores, but it happens.
“People think that Berlin is all pie-in-the-sky and everything is going well, but it’s not like that,” he said. “The same issues and the same problems go on in both communities. You have to bridge that gap and make them all happy at the end.”
In Berlin, Day used the picturesque downtown and full slate of events as a calling card to increase tourism. Similarly, in Snow Hill he said said he’s working to build outdoor events that take full advantage of that town’s location on the Pocomoke River.
The town will soon launch a new website promoting water activities such as canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboard.
“We’ve got probably the largest stand-up paddleboard race on the East Coast coming in June and it could be one of the biggest in the country,” he said. “We’re thinking this could be huge, not only for Snow Hill, but Worcester County and maybe the state if this turns out to be as big as we’re hoping it is in two or three years.”
Along with an expanded events roster, Snow Hill could soon boast another major tourist attraction – an excursion train.
Later this month, Day will join Ivy Wells, his successor in Berlin, as well as new Worcester County Economic Development Director Mary Mears and Berlin Town Administrator Laura Allen during a three-day junket in North Carolina, touring the facilities of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.
The company could play a pivotal role in a similar operation that runs from Berlin to Snow Hill.
“It’s more positive and there’s more forward motion than I thought there was going to be at this time,” Day said. “Strasburg [Rail Road] bowed out of it [and] I thought, well what do we do? But there were two or three other operators that showed keen interest.”
The county twice funded excursion train feasibility studies, most recently splitting the $20,000 cost of a phase-two study with Berlin, Snow Hill and the Maryland Delaware Railroad. Included in that study was the consensus that a train starting in Berlin and heading toward Snow Hill would be the quickest path to success.
“That’s where I hope it goes, and we have a much better setup [in Snow Hill] to get it started right away,” Day said. “I know we’re both lobbying, but hopefully the operator will see that it could be kind of a unique setup with two different towns doing it.
He added, “My feeling is, I don’t care where it goes as long as it comes to Worcester County, although if it went to Snow Hill it would greatly improve what’s going on down there.”
Day said it’s been an enormous help to have Challenger and Mears near his office in Snow Hill, and he raved about the job Mears has done since taking over the lead role in the county in October.
“I’d say she’s doing very, very well,” he said. “I know it’s a struggle because she sort of got thrown into it after being deputy, but I think she’s doing great. She’s keeping everything moving forward.
“For me in Snow Hill it’s fantastic, because I’m in her office or Lisa Challenger’s office almost every other day,” he added. “I’m constantly in contact with her and Lisa, and I think it’s a great relationship.”
State officials are also taking an increased interest in Snow Hill. The Maryland Small Business Development Center Network has expanded services in the town and is working with the Small Business Development Center run by Salisbury University to help boost small business operations there.
SBDC counselor Tim Sherman works out of Snow Hill’s town hall on the first and third Wednesday of each month, helping with business and marketing plans and providing start-up assistance, all at no charge.
To reach Tim Sherman, call 410-548-4505, or contact Day at 443-735-0957 or