PPR Strategies


Celebrating PRIDE with Jay Meashey

For PRIDE Month, we’re celebrating our friends in the LGBTQIA+ community and sharing their stories. Today, we’re sharing highlights from a Zoom chat Sandy recently had with Jay Meashey (known as “Meash”), Economic Development Director of the City of Taneytown. 

Sandy: When we talk about Pride Month and economic development, what does that mean to you?

Meash: I think that PRIDE Month is the most wonderful time of the year, right up there with Christmas. Being a gay man is only one component of my life, but it’s a really important component. Setting aside time to celebrate that feels almost like a second birthday period. 

I’m a white man, but I think that my lived experience lets me see a little bit better into the involuntary or accidental ways that economic development can exclude people. Of course, being aware of something is the first step to fixing it, improving and overcoming it. So I hope that my personal and lived experience as a gay man has helped me to be a better, fairer, more thorough and inclusive economic developer.

Sandy: I agree with everything that you just said, and that’s beautiful. As an economic developer, what do you look for in a place? What are some of the important features of a place you’d consider living or working? 

Meash: Honestly, I look at if there’s a good brunch scene on Sundays! A good brunch scene is a sign of thriving commerce. It’s a sign that there are people who are engaged, who are spending, and who aren’t leaving their community every weekend. And if it’s a brunch that has entertainment, whether that’s a jazz band or a drag show, that’s a sign of culture to me. 

I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which is only a little bit larger than Taneytown. When I was growing up in my small town, nothing was open on Sundays. Even the 24-hour gas stations were not open for 24 hours on Sundays. 

It sounds funny, but as economic developers, there are a lot of leading indicators that you use. People laugh at me when I say that I use McDonald’s as an indicator. But going to the drive-through at McDonald’s here in my town can tell me whether or not people are having trouble hiring, based on how long the wait is, or whether they’re operating both windows or not. If nobody is in line at McDonald’s at 8:00 AM, that can tell me that people are drawing back on their spending.

In the same way that I use McDonald’s as a micro indicator for my town, brunch can be a real micro indicator for an area. 

Sandy: What’s it like being in a small town, in a rural county, in Maryland, as a gay man doing economic development, supporting all. How has that experience been for you?

Meash:  Every business and every situation is unique, the way that every person is. There are some businesses and business operators, who, I don’t wanna say I’ve bonded with because I’m a gay man, but certainly, we’re more open with one another about our lives.

On the other hand, there are certainly some business owners who – and this could just be me projecting – but I think that our relationship might be frosty because we are different. And I certainly don’t give them any different or less level of service. But there are people with whom it might feel very transactional.

My predecessor was a 70-year-old woman, so it could just be that they’re more used to and more comfortable dealing with somebody who is more demographically like them. And it could be that any man in his early forties doing this job would also get the same reception or have the same depth of relationship as I do. So I can’t say, but it varies widely. 

I will say that we are really fortunate here in Taneytown to have 6, what I call, major employers that range from having 80 to 90 employees all the way to 650. Those companies are all uniformly very professional and very welcoming. But they are strictly business relationships in the way that you’d expect them to be. And so even though we are in a rural county, with lots of farmland, and no gay bars, the businesses really do perform at a high business level. 

Sandy: Getting back to the celebration of PRIDE month, I’m curious – when you walk into a room, what’s the first thing that you would want people to know about you?

Meash:  To know that I used to have more hair, that it was not always like this. <laughs>. No, when I walk into a room, I hope that I give off an aura of, there’s a guy who knows how to have a good time. Because economic development, business attraction and retention and expansion and workforce development are all very serious. They affect people’s lives. But that doesn’t mean that they have to be boring. Or even if it’s high stakes, that doesn’t mean that they have to be serious. You can have fun. 

Sandy: That’s awesome. So, I texted you out of the blue and said, “Hey, will you sit down and talk with me about PRIDE and economic development.” When I sent that text, I’m just curious if there’s anything you wanted the opportunity to say?

Meash:  Living in Frederick, there are two ways to talk about being deaf. There’s deaf with a small “d” which refers to hearing loss. And then there’s Deaf with a capital “D” – and that’s a way of life in a community. I said to somebody the other day, I’m Gay with a capital “G.” I lean into the culture, to the community. It informs a lot of what I do. So, I’m happy to talk about anything. I take the opportunity to share whenever somebody is interested or curious or wants to learn more. 


We’d love to hear how your community is celebrating PRIDE Month. Send us a message to share!

Reimagining Places With You,
Sandy and the PPR Strategies Team

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