Economic development in flight

August 04, 1993

Landing Freewing Aircraft's new production plant at Carroll County Regional Airport is an important accomplishment for the county's economic development effort. The company, which has come up with a revolutionary wing for light aircraft and unmanned drones, should prove to be a significant addition to the industrial center sprouting up around the airport.

Freewing's relocation decision is an example of state and local governments working to foster new enterprises that create jobs. A product of the University of Maryland's high-tech incubator program, Freewing revisited some old ideas about wing design that had been ignored for decades. In place of a rigid wing, Freewing's designers developed a flexible aircraft wing that is hinged to a plane's fuselage. In turbulent air, the wing flexes and provides a smoother ride.

For the past four years, the company has been drawing on the resources of the University of Maryland to hone its technology and develop a business plan. Until now, Freewing made prototypes, but its next step is to begin manufacturing airplanes for sale. The company is selling unmanned drone aircraft that governments use for military reconnaissance missions. It also has plans for a two-seater light plane using the wing design.

State industrial grants and community development block grants will finance Freewing's move from College Park to Carroll County. The company is seeking a $1 million loan from the Maryland Industrial Development Authority to build a 20,000-square-foot plant, and a $140,000 loan from the county's Industrial Development Authority to buy the 3.2-acre site.

Freewing employs about 10 people, but the company predicts that its work force may number four times that number by the end of next year. The company will provide a wide mix of employment opportunities sorely needed in the county.

Our hope is that the Freewing deal is a harbinger, indicating that Carroll County officials are getting more serious about economic development. Indeed, Freewing's executives said they were impressed with the ability of local government officials to work together. They also noted that Carroll's proximity to Washington, where Freewing's government customers are located, and to Baltimore, with its good port, was another plus for Westminster.

For Carroll County, Freewing's happy landing could be the start bTC of a trend.

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