Economic Moves Great and Small

February 17, 1994

When it comes to attracting businesses to Howard County, recent results have been mixed. The good news is that the county still is among the state's strongest attractions for corporations looking for a strategic location between Baltimore and Washington.

The latest evidence of that is the announcement by directors of a new cable television channel, ECOlogy, that they have chosen Howard as the site for its national headquarters, due to its proximity to Washington environmental agencies. In concept, ECOlogy would carry environmental news and entertainment around the clock.

But before anyone starts tooting their horn about this coup, they should know that ECOlogy is still so green it is being run from the house of its founder and chief executive officer, Eric McLamb. Moreover, the ECOlogy channel has yet to sign a deal with a cable system operator willing to carry its broadcasts. Also, industry insiders have reservations about the ability of a small start-up venture to compete with major broadcasting companies for cable air time. Still, we are encouraged by the fact that the company has begun looking for property in Howard to locate a production facility.

But finding property is often the easiest problem to solve, as evidenced by the slow pace of progress for a highly anticipated $150 million Coca-Cola bottling facility in Dorsey. Months have passed since Coca-Cola officials announced that they would need access to a wastewater treatment system to handle syrup-manufacturing runoff. Initially, the county had hoped Coke would build its own system. Now, the county has offered to reopen a closed wastewater treatment plant for Coke.

The idea is for Coke to pay $2.5 million in start-up costs, while the county chips in another $1 million. Operating expenses would be paid by Coke as part of a negotiated fee. That arrangement seems fair since it puts most of the onus on Coke.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker says he is confident that the Coke plant will be built. We hope he is right.

The nationwide recession left the county with only a handful of economic development victories in recent years. Solidifying the Coke development, with its estimated 750 jobs, would raise the county's currency in real and figurative ways.

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