Coke coup HOWARD COUNTY

October 12, 1992

Have a Coke and a smile, Maryland.

Indeed, the reports that Coca-Cola Enterprises plans to build a state-of-the-art manufacturing and bottling plant in Dorsey has Howard County and state officials grinning like those happy, soda-sipping folks from the soft drink commercials.

"This is really a ray of sunshine, after a long, rainy day" of bad economic news, beams Mark Wasserman, the head of the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development.

Howard County leaders are wearing glad expressions because the $100 million, 650,000-square-foot plant will generate an estimated $4 million a year in local property taxes. And when operations start in two years or so, the company will become the fifth largest private employer in the county.

The details of other economic spin-offs aren't yet available, but government officials sound certain the new plant will produce numerous benefits throughout the region and the state. For example, the facility will create 700 jobs, almost all to be filled by local residents, and will require construction of new rail lines for frequent CSX deliveries of manufacturing materials.

Maryland comes out even more of a winner because the plant will centralize the company's regional operations and necessitate closing smaller operations here and elsewhere. Had Coca-Cola Enterprises settled on Virginia, which had been a possibility, then Maryland would have lost not only this acquisition but also the corporation's interests already here.

A less tangible, but no less significant, benefit will be the boost the new plant gives Maryland's reputation as a place to do business. As Mr. Wasserman says, "Attracting this blue-chip company is quite a feather in the state's cap."

Residents and officials of Howard County can also take pride in having the goods to pull off such a coup. Some of the persuading came in the form of economic concessions by the county government, but ultimately the company wouldn't have come to the county if it didn't boast such a generally high quality of life. The good fortune of sitting in the middle of what will likely be designated the nation's fourth largest metropolitan region didn't hurt the county, either.

Today brings the formal announcement of the deal -- no doubt with Cokes and smiles all around.

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