County's Fast-track Program Paves Way For Frito-lay

Mid-1992 Plant Opening Slated, Company Says

May 26, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Harford's reputation for rolling out the red carpet to help select businesses begin operations here was a key factor in Frito-Lay Inc.'s decision to build a new plant in Aberdeen, company and county officials say.

"We are looking to be operational by mid-1992 -- that's in10 or 12 months," said Stacy Wehr, a spokeswoman for Plano, Texas-based Frito-Lay.

"So we were looking for a site that had a number of elements in place, but which could give us quick accessibility to building plan approvals and inspections. Harford's fast-track program will allow us to do that."

The Harford production plant, to be located in the Hickory Ridge Industrial Park off of U.S. 40, will be the first Frito-Lay plant in Maryland and is expected to employ about 300. The company,which makes Fritos, Doritos and Lay's potato chips, will manufacture"a variety of snack products," Wehr said.

Frito-Lay will buy the land for its plant for an undisclosed price from Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., said Susan Collins, a county government spokeswoman. She said Frito-Lay's plant will be the first building in the industrial park.

Frito-Lay, a subsidiary of New York-based Pepsico Inc., contacted county officials through personnel at the state Department of Economic and Employment Development 60 days ago, said James M. Fielder Jr., the county's recently appointed economic development director.

He said Frito-Lay was attracted by Harford's so-called fast-track program, which speeds building and other permits, a quality labor force and available water and sewer service that will be improved through federal community development block grants obtained through DEED.

"Fast-track is what's setting us apart. We're starting to gain national recognition for the project," said Fielder. "We're selling quality of delivery of service and quality of life without financial incentives. Because of the fast-track program, a corporation can save months on a project, and that in fact saves them money."

Despite the factthat the fast-track program has attracted companies like Frito-Lay, Merry Go Round Inc., Clorox Co., and General Electric Co. to the county, it remains a fairly well-kept secret how it works.

Only about one in 10 companies that inquire about the program receive permissionfor it from the county executive, said Steve Kimlicko, director of inspections, licenses and permits who also oversees the fast-track permitprogram.

"Harford County is the only county in Maryland that does this fast-track program," said Kimlicko. "They still have not comeup with our competitive edge, and I'm not going to give all our secrets away."

Kimlicko was willing to generally describe the program,aimed at cutting through government red tape for approved companies that want to build new plants or relocate company headquarters and bring new jobs to the county.

"For one thing, we guarantee a 10-day building permit turnaround," said Kimlicko. "Under normal circumstances it could be two months before a building permit is issued. We alsogive companies other options, such as a chance to begin grading on asite before the permit has actually been issued so they can save time."

Kimlicko also helps the company obtain electrical and plumbingpermits and speeds up the inspection process.

If a problem arisesthat involves a department other than Kimlicko's division, he has the authority to intervene.

"I track it all to make sure all the I'sare dotted and the T's are crossed," he said. "We'll do whatever is necessary to make this work quickly without any compromise on quality."

When Frito-Lay indicated they wanted to open a plant within 10 months, Kimlicko said he and other county administrators met to plan a timetable so that all the necessary paperwork can be completed within the time-frame.

James A. Martin, Clorox's plant engineering manager, said another benefit of Harford's fast-track program is that itcan save a company consultants' fees.

"On any large project the permitting process is pretty involved and disjointed, and it's different for each locality," said Martin.

"In the past, I've had to hirea consultant to walk us through the permitting procedures. The fast-track program in Harford County provides us with a person who knows the ropes, knows the procedures and who champions our project. A delayin getting a permit can mess up the whole project."

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