The Original LESMD Region
From Watkins Point in the south (named for a member of Capt. John Smith’s party) to the Delaware line in the north and bounded by the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic, Somerset County originally encompassed the entire area now comprising the three counties of the Lower Eastern Shore. Officially established in 1666 by proclamation of Lord Baltimore, the county quickly prospered. Later subdivisions of the county in 1742 (Worcester County) and 1867 (Wicomico County) created the three-county map we see today.
The growth of the commercial seafood industry in the 19th Century led to the development of Crisfield as a major East Coast seafood distribution point. In 1866 a branch of the Delaware Railroad was extended to this “Seafood Capital of the World” – at one time the second largest city in Maryland after Baltimore. Despite centuries of change Somerset County still exemplifies the regional identity of LESMD.
Approximately 420 businesses employ 3,740 workers; notable employers include Northrop Grumman-Peraton (with its connection to Wallops Island Flight Facility – NASA), Sysco Eastern Maryland (food distribution), Handy International (seafood), Mountaire Farms (agri-business), Sherwin-Williams, Eastern Correctional Institute and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (part of the University of Maryland system). Somerset County features two industrial parks, located in Crisfield and the county seat of Princess Anne. In addition, a small but developing cluster of businesses oriented toward mechanical assembly and electronics & component manufacturing is beginning to take shape.
The University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s 1,100-acre campus is located in Princess Anne on the US13 transportation corridor. As part of the University System of Maryland and a public historically black land-grant university, UMES offers bachelor’s degrees in 38 areas, a post-baccalaureate certificate in Special Education, 14 master’s degrees, and 8 doctoral degrees in physical and biological sciences, social, and behavioral sciences, engineering, education, mathematics, information technology, humanities, and visual and performing arts.
In 2019 Somerset County Public Schools opened its new technical high school, J.M. Tawes Technology & Career Center. Replacing the previous building, the project totaled $42 million and was primarily funded by the State of Maryland with a $7 million contribution from Somerset County. Located in Westover, MD the school houses 14 academic departments and is focused on building a well educated workforce for the region.
Economic Development Projects
Infrastructure projects include the Maryland portion of the Del-Mar Energy Pathway Project. Phase I extends an existing transmission main pipeline from Salisbury south into Somerset County along the US13 transportation corridor through Princess Anne to the junction of MD413.
Other projects include Somerset Crossing – a sixty-five acre mixed use commercial development in Princess Anne. The project will include hotel/lodging, professional office space, retail and highway pad sites. Royal Farms is currently planned as anchor tenant. Specific plans include medical/office space 42,000 sq. ft., proposed hotel 42,000 sq. ft., retail up to 80,000 sq. ft., flex pad sites 1-4 acres, future development.