Black Eye for Carroll

June 27, 1994

Unless there is some change between now and Thursday, Freewing Aerial Robotics Corp. will be doing business in a Maryland county other than Carroll County. The county's Industrial Development Authority's "take it or leave it" offer for a manufacturing site leaves the fledging aeronautics company with only one option: They're leaving.

By telling the company that it must take a two-acre parcel at the price the land owner demands, county officials are telegraphing the message that they have no interest in helping to find an appropriate site for Freewing, a promising young company that wanted to open its production plant at Westminster's Airport Business Park.

Freewing has explained to county officials on previous occasions the company can't buy the land offered by Steve Hull because the price he is demanding conflicts with the restrictions of a state loan. Under the loan terms, Freewing cannot pay more than the appraised value for the land.

Once the county and Freewing determined that the original site at the Carroll County Airport extended into the Federal Aviation Administration's obstruction-free zone, a scramble ensued to find an alternative site.

Instead of exploring a wide range of possibilities, the county narrowed the selection to one parcel next to Mr. Hull's Quality Glass and Aluminum Co. The site doesn't have access to the airport runway and hasn't been hooked up to water and sewer lines. To deliver an ultimatum to Freewing that it must pay more than the assessed value for a parcel that doesn't meet its needs is nothing short of incredible.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Freewing executives are bad-mouthing the county. When the president of Carroll County's most attractive new business prospect says his company was treated "with dishonesty, disrespect and bad faith," county officials should worry. A lot of business is done on the basis of reputation. Right now, Carroll has one that will repel business development.

It may be too much to hope that the relations between Freewing and the county haven't deteriorated beyond repair. If they have and Freewing decides to locate its manufacturing plant elsewhere -- Hagerstown is one place being eyed -- then Carroll County will not only lose a promising business, but its economic development representatives will have to work three times as hard to convince future potential job creators that the county welcomes them.

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