Despite a nearly stalled real estate market, the county economic development office was busier than usual the last two months of the year.
"We're seeing a pickup in activity because there's a perception that because the market is slowing down there are deals to be made on land and buildings," said William E. Jenne, business and industrialrepresentative for the Department of Economic and Community Development.
"It's a more aggressive marketplace, and now is an excellent timefor a business to buy land or buildings. It's definitely a buyer's market."
In the last two months, the county talked with 16 companies interested in locating or expanding in Carroll. In September and October, half that many contacted the county, he said.
As of late last month, 81 companies had contacted the county for help during 1990 in locating and expanding here, compared with 109 in 1989, Jenne said. In November and December 1989, 10 companies contacted the county for assistance, he said.
Of the 16 companies that contacted the county in the last two months, five are already in the county and interested in expanding, he said.
The 16 companies include manufacturers,service industries, retailers, office facilities, a greenhouse, a pharmaceutical company and a high-technology company, Jenne said, adding he could not reveal names or other specifics about the companies. He said he often works with a real estate agent and doesn't know the name of a company himself.
"We're starting to see more interest from office facilities and technology-based companies," he said.
Joseph M. Cronyn, senior associate at Legg Mason Realty Group Inc. in Baltimore, said a plus for Carroll is the industrial park being built inEldersburg by Merritt, a Baltimore-based real estate developer.
"Merritt is one of the largest, most sophisticated, well-heeled industrial development companies in the Baltimore area," he said. "They're probably a good bellwether for what will be happening (in the county)."
Merritt is building the Eldersburg Business Center on 75 acres near routes 26 and 32. The company has plans to construct seven buildings totaling almost 700,000 square feet.
In October, Londontown Corp. announced that it had agreed to lease 151,200 square feet of warehouse space in one of Merritt's buildings.
Merritt is the first major Baltimore-area industrial developer to enter the Carroll market,Cronyn said.
Industrial development has been slow to boom in the county because of the road system, he said. The area doesn't have theeasy access Baltimore County's Hunt Valley and White Marsh have, he said.
Jenne said some developers and landowners have been willing to lower prices in order to entice buyers.
"The perception that we're in a recession is causing land prices to go down and developers to be more flexible in their asking prices," he said.
Cronyn said alandowner who can wait probably would hold on to his land until the market improves instead of lowering his price.
Michael L. Mason, acommercial real estate agent in Westminster, said the county's commercial market never really dropped off. People who buy land and buildings as investments have continued to buy this year in the Westminsterarea, he said.
Joseph P. Comma, a commercial real estate agent inEldersburg, said he hasn't had any inquiries in the last several months from businesses interested in locating in the Central Maryland Service and Distribution Center industrial park he owns on Enterprise Road in South Carroll.
"People are always looking, but that doesn't mean they're doing anything," he said.
Comma said the county is hit by hard times first because it's still on the edge of a development boom area.