Coca-Cola comes to Howard

October 12, 1992

No single development could break the economic gloom that has settled over the state in recent years.

But at least a break in the clouds seems to be promised by reports that Coca-Cola Enterprises plans to build a massive, state-of-the-art manufacturing and bottling plant in Howard County.

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

Howard County leaders, too, are glowing 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 -- and reasons to smile -- 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 constructing 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 Coke operations here and in other states. If Coca-Cola Enterprises had settled in Virginia, which had been a possibility, then Maryland would have lost not only this major acquisition but also the Coke interests already here.

A less tangible, but no less significant benefit of the new plant will be the boost it 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 one of the nation's largest metropolitan regions didn't hurt the county either.

Maybe one big new business can't turn around Maryland's economy, but for a nice pick-me-up, Coke is it.

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