Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. has signed a letter of intent to buy 120 acres in Howard County where it would build a $100 million regional headquarters and bottling plant, people with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed yesterday.
The proposed 650,000-square-foot building would be the largest manufacturing plant in the county, though not the largest employer. The plant, which is designed to serve the East Coast, is expected to have 300 to 500 employees and would consolidate a number of smaller bottling plants in the mid-Atlantic region.
Coca-Cola Enterprises and the property owner have "reached a meeting of the minds" and signed a letter of intent that calls for the company to buy the 120-acre Parkway Corporate Center, east of U.S. 1 near the Anne Arundel County line, for $16.8 million, sources said. They said an independent appraisal came "within pennies" of that price.
Commercial buyers often use letters of intent to nail down a price before signing a sales contract. One person familiar with the deal said Coca-Cola Enterprises is expected to sign a sales contract "momentarily" with the Svatos Co., which owns the property. Others said the bottling plant could be open by fall 1994.
The agreement carries conditions that must be met before a contract is signed, and there is no guarantee that a deal will be made. The company had considered another Howard County site, but that fell through.
Joseph G. Svatos, president of the Svatos Co., would not comment.
Laura Brightwell, a spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co., which owns 49 percent of Coca-Cola Enterprises, said that "it would be premature to comment until there is a purchase contract."
Coca-Cola Enterprises is responsible for distributing a majority of Coke products in the country.
County officials said of the deal, which initially was reported in yesterday's Daily Record, that they were aware it was being considered, but they would not confirm that a letter of intent had been signed.
"If it's true, it's tremendous," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker.
Mr. Ecker said he met with brokers for two properties last week about Coca-Cola Enterprises' coming to the county. One of the brokers was involved with the potential sale of the Parkway Center, he said.
Mr. Ecker also said he would ask the County Council to pass legislation closing Park Circle Drive at its intersection with Corporate Center Drive if Coca-Cola Enterprises bought the property. He said the company had requested that.
Chamber of Commerce President Earl Armiger said having a Coca-Cola plant in the county would add "millions of dollars to the tax base at a time when we sorely need it."
Mr. Ecker said he did not know how much revenue the plant would bring to the county but that he had "heard a figure" of $4 million annually for the state and the county.
County Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, would not confirm the existence of a land-purchase agreement but expressed enthusiasm for such a deal.