A state economic development group is hoping to buy a long-vacant warehouse in South Baltimore to house two manufacturers and preserve hundreds of jobs in danger of being moved out of Maryland.
The Maryland Economic Development Corp., a public nonprofit corporation known as Medco, is "holding discussions" about a potential $5 million purchase of the former Montgomery Ward & Co. warehouse at 2000 Washington Blvd., state officials said yesterday.
Two businesses expected to rent space at the old Ward's site are MEDO Manufacturing Corp., a maker of air fresheners, and PTP Industries Inc., a packaging maker. Together the two companies, which have plants in Baltimore, would relocate about 600 employees to the 636,000-square-foot warehouse, said Rita Chappelle, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Economic and Employment Development.
She said the proposal calls for the state to guarantee about half of the bonds that would be sold to fund the purchase of the 24-acre property. She said the city's economic development agency, the Baltimore Development Corp., is considering backing an additional $1 million of the bonds.
The proposal awaits a decision today by the Maryland Industrial Development Financing Authority board, which backs bonds for the state, she said.
"One of our goals is to keep businesses here," she said. "We are trying to enable Medco to do that."
William Hartley, president of PTP Industries, declined to comment yesterday. MEDO officials could not be reached for comment.
But others familiar with the manufacturing sector in Maryland said they were glad for any action the state might take to keep industrial jobs and businesses here.
"The state has had a tremendous loss of manufacturing jobs," said William Tate, owner of Tate Andale Inc. a Lansdowne-based valve maker.
Mr. Tate, a former head of the Maryland Manufacturing Association, said he blames Maryland's high taxes and regulatory costs for the sector's troubles.
The Medco proposal helps out two comparatively small companies, but doesn't solve the larger economic problems facing all local manufacturers, he said.
"It is a good thing for the state to try and save jobs, but it is a bad thing if they are subsidizing the jobs in some way," he said.
"The state has done a good job of recognizing the problem," of a souring industrial economy. "But they have a long way to go," Mr. Tate said.