Can Freewing Fly Again?

July 29, 1994

Freewing Aerial Robotics Inc. and Carroll County economic development officials resemble a squabbling married couple.

They obviously have a deep need for each other, but they have erected a variety of artificial impediments that has soured their relationship, hindered frank communication and prevented them from getting on with business. Before this particular couple decides to make an irrevocable split, it should try some marriage counseling.

Despite the harsh words exchanged between Freewing, owner and developer of a revolutionary airplane wing design, and Carroll's economic development community, there remains the possibility of a deal. Freewing's owners want to build a plant. Carroll County needs every manufacturing job it can get. There is ample room and reason to make a mutually satisfactory arrangement.

Is there the will?

When negotiations fell apart in late June and the Industrial Development Authority issued its ultimatum to Freewing, the two parties were closer to striking a deal than they realized. Both sides had agreed to a lease. They had not been able to agree

on which piece of property to lease at the Air Business Center.

Considering the number of vacant parcels that would meet Freewing's requirements, the lack of demand for these parcels and the desire of the county to develop these industrial sites, selecting the location for the Freewing plant should have been easy. Nothing has changed in a month. Getting Freewing a site should still be as easy.

Rather than allow issues such as appraisals and access to become insurmountable obstacles, both parties need to bury the hatchet, sit down and work out their differences.

A disinterested mediator -- a state development official or a professional negotiator -- could do wonders by keeping the discussion focused on issues. The finger-pointing and blame-placing, much of which has been irresponsible and done to divert attention from the real obstacles, shouldn't poison a good business prospect.

Carroll's elected officials owe the taxpayers one more try. The payoff from this reconciliation could continue for years and would be well worth the effort.

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