Conservation Leader Spotlight: Jake Day
How did your former role as Director of the Center for Towns at ESLC help prepare you for your new role?
My time at ESLC shaped my role at DHCD in numerous ways. It was a great early management experience (project and people) that helped me understand how to run an operation with some independence, while being a part of a much larger vision.
It also taught me so much about Maryland and what my personal beliefs and values were with respect to the trajectory of places, the relationship between development, agriculture, and natural habitat, and uplifting communities to articulate their own future. My experiences at ESLC also helped me learn how to take stock of a situation, listen carefully, devise solutions, and measure progress. That’s invaluable experience transitioning into a new leadership role.
Would you tell us a little about DHCD and what the department does?
DHCD is a multi-faceted agency, but can best be described as two things: the State’s housing policy agency, the State’s place-based economic development agency, and the only housing finance agency in Maryland. Typically, the latter is an independent, private organization, but in Maryland is combined within the State’s housing policy agency. Thus, we are essentially a large bank for affordable housing developers, small businesses, and families. We do about $2 Billion in lending annually, along with several hundred million in grants, technical support, and other work. Part of that ‘other work’ includes approximately $500 Million in broadband funding as we are the State’s broadband deployment agency.
What makes the Eastern Shore unique? What do you love about it?
The Eastern Shore – and more broadly, the Delmarva Peninsula – is the breadbasket of the northeast United States. We are protected from the scale of development pressures of the Philadelphia-Baltimore-Washington-Tidewater megalopolis thanks to the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. Nationally, there’s nothing like it – maybe globally. As more and more development occurs west of the Bay, we will remain a closely-accessible, beautiful rural region that serves as an agricultural, natural, and tourism hub for the Northeast. We also have a remarkable constellation of attractive, healthy small towns that drive a very healthy tourism industry. I have been to every town and village on the Eastern Shore and still I feel I have more to learn about them. As a hunter, a Boy Scout, and a dad, I’ve enjoyed the marshes, forests, and beaches. It’s a remarkably diverse and interesting place, our Eastern Shore, and I feel blessed to have lived most of life in this part of the universe.
What do you think are the biggest challenges the Eastern Shore faces? And what possible solutions do you see?
I think our greatest challenge comes down to breaking free of the morass of rural poverty that many regions that look similar on paper have been unable to achieve. Our region’s health will come from being able to articulate and deliver on a vision that celebrates our rural, natural, agricultural, and place-based strengths. I believe that will require accommodating an increased rate of population growth (or reversing population decline for the mid- and upper-Eastern Shore). That must be done with careful redevelopment, infill, and focused, good growth. I also believe that agricultural technology industries and advanced carbon capture/storage/reduction technology industries will play an important role in creating sustainable and high-paying employment to fuel opportunity.
Photo credit: Patrick Siebert, Governor’s Office