Howard County is a place like no other. A successful blend of urban and rural communities, we have some of the best educated, most diverse, creative, forward-thinking, and community-focused populations in the country, and it shows.
Business owners and families have long seen the benefits the county provides. Thanks to the development underway in Downtown Columbia and Maple Lawn; the rebuilding and revitalization efforts taking place in Ellicott City; and the support growing behind the Innovation District, the county is poised to become a place millennials want to work, start businesses, live, and play in greater numbers.
Howard County is consistently ranked among the most affluent, advanced, and educated communities in the country and there is no mystery as to why. Howard County amenities include one of the top public school systems, community colleges, and library systems in the nation. The county has also been developed with a keen understanding of the importance of preserving green space with our regional parks, 24 community parks, seven golf courses, five lakes, and more than 200 miles of walking, hiking and biking trails.
Howard County at a Glance
- Projected population of 317,233 by 2020
- 95.3% of residents 25 and older are high school graduates
- 60.4% of residents have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher level of education
- Per capita income is $52,091
- Median household income is $120,941
- Median home value is $445,400
Howard County is home to a diverse population of more than 317,000 people, the vast majority of whom are talented, well-educated, and employed. More than 95% of Howard County residents 25 and older are high school graduates and more than 60% have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher level of education. A highly-educated workforce and one of the best-ranked school systems in the nation are significant resources for attracting people and companies to Howard County. Residents and elected officials consistently place a high priority on supporting education from pre-K programs through college.
Education is highly valued in Howard County, and nowhere is that more evident than our award-winning public school system.
The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) opens its doors to more than 55,000 students each year. This includes students from around the world, and we enroll students who represent 58 different languages and 75 countries. HCPSS is made up of 76 schools including elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as education centers.
Howard County Public School System
- Number of Schools: 76
- Total Enrollment: 55,638
- Employees: 4,134 with 71% holding a Master’s Degree or above
- Attendance Rate: 95%
- High School Graduates: 93.2%
- Per Pupil Expenditure: $82.17 per day/$14,790 per year
- Ratio of Computers to Students: 1:2
- Classrooms with Internet Access: 100%
* From HCPSS website
Howard County Library System
The Howard County Library System (HCLS) serves more than 269,000 library cardholders, a figure that represents 90% of the county’s 300,000-plus residents. HCLS is made up of seven branches and a staff of nearly 300 talented educators and support staff who deliver education through a curriculum of self-directed education, research assistance and instruction, and instructive and enlightening experiences for people of all ages. HCLS has been named the best library system in North America from the continent’s 21,000 public and academic library systems (2013 Library of the Year, Gale/Library Journal).
Institutions of Higher Learning
- Howard Community College
- Loyola University Maryland
- Johns Hopkins University
- University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Training Centers
Shopping and Dining
Howard County amenities include myriad shopping and dining options that easily rival Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
The Mall in Columbia offers high-end shopping in an open-air setting with more than 200 specialty shops as well as major department stores. The Mall has gone through major transformations over the past couple of decades and now includes a movie theater, valet parking, and a mix of casual and fine dining restaurants.
Downtown Columbia is already home to several popular restaurants along Lake Kittamaqundi, and that area will soon be home to a live music venue as well.
Each of Columbia’s 10 Village Centers also offers dining and shopping within walking distance of many neighborhoods. Every Village Center includes a supermarket, but many are also home to locally owned businesses you won’t find in any shopping mall.
Howard County is also now home to a Whole Foods, Wegmans, Trader Joe’s and soon, an Aldi.
Shopping options have expanded with the development of Maple Lawn, a planned community in southern Howard County that features a retail district, and the opening of Turf Valley Towne Square in Ellicott City.
Historic Savage Mill, situated in the southeast corner of the county near historic Route 1, is a 19th century textile mill that houses over 60 boutiques, antique shops, and food options and has long been a favorite for shoppers looking for unique items.
Main Street in Old Ellicott City is also home to dozens of locally owned shops including bakeries, a brewery, cafes, bars, fine dining restaurants, art galleries, and much more. Main Street is a very popular destination each year for holiday shopping.
Arts and Culture
Art galleries, theaters, museums and several popular festivals throughout the year create a vibrant arena for all interests in Howard County.
Live theater has several homes in Howard County that have gained regional reputations. Rep Stage at Howard Community College is an award-winning assembly of actors who present a variety of comedies and dramas during their season. Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia offers an intimate setting for professional Broadway musicals performed in the round.
The Howard County Arts Council works year-round to foster the arts in the county. It provides grants to support the arts and operates a multi-purpose art center in Ellicott City where visitors can take a class, view an exhibit, or enjoy a performance.
Howard County is also the proud home of the world-renowned concert venue, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Merriweather has completed the bulk of a multi-year renovation that will allow the venue to attract the biggest entertainers in the county. Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods also has something new to offer with the Chrysalis amphitheater.
Parks and Recreation
Howard County’s Department of Recreation and Parks is another excellent resource for camps, programs, classes and outdoor activities. It maintains a long list of facilities and recreation areas. Among them is Centennial Park, a 325 acre complex of softball and soccer fields, tennis courts, picnic pavilions, and a lake. Cedar Lane Park is recognized as one of the finest tournament sports complexes in the state.
Rockburn Branch Park’s 415 acres include nature trails, picnic areas, and an opportunity to learn about the Native Americans who camped on this land years ago. In 2016, the South Branch Park in Sykesville opened a 10,500-square-foot skate park – the third skate park in the Howard County Recreation & Parks’ system.
The Robinson Nature Center, an education center on 18 acres of land adjacent to the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, offers exhibits, a digital planetarium, hands-on activities for children, a nature trail, and classroom space, all in an environmentally friendly facility.
Health and Wellness
Howard County residents are almost spoiled when it comes to the high-quality healthcare options in our area.
Howard County General Hospital
A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Howard County General Hospital provides health services to more than 220,000 people per year.
Residents also have access to a wide range of services from healthcare providers including private practices, such as Clarii Health, Guardian Primary Care Services, Howard County Direct Primary Care, and One-World Healthcare, providing both online and onsite care and evaluation. There are also numerous urgent and after-hours care clinics available, including Ouch Urgent Care, Patient First, Righttime Medical Care, and Kinder Mender Walk-In Pediatric Center.
In addition to a variety of private health clubs, Columbia residents also have five Columbia Association facilities to choose from, including Haven on the Lake, a “Mind Body Wellness Retreat.” Members can take classes, while enjoying the county’s outdoor pools, private training, and popular tennis courts.
In addition to countless other Howard County amenities, the county is home to a varied and dedicated group of nonprofit organizations including, but not limited to, The Arc of Howard County, the Association of Community Services, the Community Action Council, the Horizon Foundation, HopeWorks Howard County, Kiwanis Club of Ellicott City and the Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center.
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman recently prioritized the creation of the nonprofit Howard County Community Resources Campus, which can serve as a “one-stop shop” for residents in need of services.
Howard County has once again earned a AAA credit rating, the highest possible score, from all three bond ratings agencies including Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investor Services and Standard & Poor’s.
There are no incorporated cities or towns in Howard County, so the county government provides all local government services. Howard County’s Government consists of two branches, Executive and Legislative. The Executive branch is made up of the County Executive and various departments that are responsible for proposing and administering the operating and capital budgets. The Legislative branch consists of the five-member County Council and the County Auditor.
Current Elected Officials
- Howard County Executive – Allan Kittleman (R)
- County Council
- District 1 – Jon Weinstein (D)
- District 2 – Calvin Ball (D)
- District 3 – Jennifer Terrrasa (D)
- District 4 – Mary Kay Sigaty (D)
- District 5 – Greg Fox (R)
Howard County also has dozens of boards and commissions that help to foster citizen involvement in government. The county’s boards and commissions cover everything from the environment, fire and rescue, and consumer protection.
How to Help with Relief Efforts after the 2018 Ellicott City Flood
As the Chamber works with our members and community partners to do what we can to aid the relief efforts for the people and businesses of Historic Ellicott City, we want to make sure we are providing information about how everyone can help.
The Ellicott City Partnership is accepting donations to support relief and recovery efforts. The ECP is working to asses the situation and begin to get assistance where it is most needed.
The Community Foundation of Howard County has established the HoCo Relief Fund to help address needs in the aftermath of the May 27, 2018 Flash Flood. The Relief Fund is currently providing assistance to community members impacted by the flood.
The United Way of Central Maryland has reestablished its fund to provide humanitarian relief to help those impacted by the flash flood in Historic Ellicott City.
If you are looking for volunteer opportunities, the Howard County Government is asking people to sign up at www.howardcountymd.gov/disasterrecoveryvolunteer.
The Howard County Food Bank has also been collecting non-perishable food items and cleaning supplies. You can find more information about the items they are looking for a https://www.cac-hc.org/programs-services/food-assistance/.
Lastly, the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation is encouraging people whose real property has been damaged by the flooding to contact them as they may qualify to have their property assessments reduced. You can find more information at SDAT’s website here.