Frederick Strong

Common Purpose, Uncommon Spirit

Article by Rhonda Stephens and Jennifer Gerlock

Photography by Images captured by KO-OP Media

Originally published in Frederick Lifestyle

Strength. It's been rooted in Frederick County for centuries. From our farm fields nestled in the shadows of the Blue Ridge to the busy streets of our downtowns, we have used our strength to build industries, grow businesses and make our home a great place to live, thrive and raise a family.
Yes, the journey hasn't always been easy. We have endured a great many challenges over the years, and the current covid pandemic is certainly testing many corners of our lives.
But we are tough, resilient and focused. More importantly, we are united and inspired in our mission—now, more than ever—to make our community stronger. After all, it's what we have always done.
We are Frederick Strong.
"When I think of Frederick, I think of this town's resilience," says Richard Griffin, Director of Economic Development for the City of Frederick. Frederick has had many setbacks in its day. "From its very beginning with the canning and milling industries closing, followed by the loss of all the businesses in downtown, now following covid, we're digging out again. But I have to say, Frederick is well-positioned to emerge, once again, as one of the leaders in the area," says Griffin. "From the economic development level, our goal is to help build a playing field that businesses can be successful investing in and creating jobs that will build a tax base for the community. Our strategy in doing that is to try to position Frederick as one of the best places for companies to want to invest and grow as we come out of covid. I see this Frederick Strong campaign as a unifying opportunity for all the different groups to help business leaders to minimize risk and realize that the opportunity to invest in Frederick for the future is still great. I am using Frederick Strong as a tool in the toolbox to position Frederick in the minds of business leaders as a place they can continue to be successful," says Griffin. 
Jennifer Gerlock, VP of the Chamber of Commerce, is spearheading this initiative with full support from the team. Chamber President, Rick Weldon, says," At the heart of our county, we are hopeful, energetic, industrious, compassionate and creative. We view our challenges as opportunities, and never has that been more true than it is right now."
Weldon believes firmly in the Frederick Strong campaign and loves that the visuals and posters, created by Sue Hough of Octavo Designs, perfectly reflect the intended message. He says, "A clenched fist is a symbol of strength and determination. We'll need every ounce of strength and every bit of determination as we begin the hard work of reopening our economy in the wake of the pandemic. We'll be battling fear, uncertainty, and loss, so our collective strength is essential.
A heart represents love, sensitivity, and compassion; maybe three of the most essential human values we're going to need in the days ahead. Love for our fellow man, sensitivity for both the human and financial toll, and compassion towards those who still harbor fear over a return to something approaching normal. The combination of these two powerful symbols, the heart and the fist, demonstrate how strength, determination, love, compassion, and understanding will be essential to our economic and community recovery."
Weldon says, "Frederick, together we've faced all manner of adversity and challenges to our quality of life. When asked, we've always done the hard work together, setting aside our competing interests for the greater good."

"We are supporting the Frederick Strong campaign as a rallying cry," says John Fieseler, Executive Director of Visit Frederick. "The community understands the impact covid is having on small businesses. It's impacted the employees who depend on tourism support. Our job at tourism is to focus on bringing people in from outside the county to spend money here to benefit the community. We need people to come and stay in hotels. That our bread and butter. We also need the destination to be strong, so we need these restaurants and shops to survive. We will do everything we can with our partners to do that," says Fieseler.
Affirmed throughout the conversation with the county leadership, was the spirit of collaboration within the downtown and county economic partnerships. "One of the things that we hear consistently across the state is that Frederick has a uniquely collaborative spirit that a lot of places simply don't have. The individuals involved, I can honestly say, are my longtime colleagues, my friends, and people that I trust, and we believe very strongly in this no wrong door approach. No matter which organization you enter into first, you're going to get support from us all. And that collaborative spirit I think, makes us unique and this campaign unique. Because it's not just one group; its all of us together saying we can pull out of this and be successful," says Griffin.
The Executive Director of The Downtown Partnership, Kara Norman, agrees with Griffin, "The Chamber of Commerce, Office of Economic Development, Visit Frederick, Department of Economic Development and the Downtown Partnership have been working on projects together for years. We are great at working together, taking advantage of our respective assets to our respective audiences, and it's a good group. This is how we work together and get things done in Frederick."
The campaign resonates with Norman. She says, "What we at Downtown Partnership are focusing on is getting people to shop locally. Shop online, eat at a downtown restaurant, take an online class, be an encourager. We are strong when we show gratitude and one way to do that is to give notes of support to these local businesses. Saying to a business,  I love this about your place, I miss seeing my favorite server, you have my favorite burger, those notes of encouragement propel us forward and imbue energy and optimism."
Even more than a slogan, Frederick Strong is a rallying cry, a cry that unites and energizes our communities. The challenges we are facing are daily being overcome, and Frederick city and county are re-emerging as the vibrant hub of engaged citizenry and commerce that we have always been. Frederick Strong is cheering on businesses as they reopen their doors and once again, thrive. Frederick Strong signals hope and gives inspiration as we reach out to support our neighbors, both the family next door and the shop down the street. So, people of Frederick, carry on, Frederick Strong!

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