Head across the border Consolidating operations Howard's loss of sportswear firm may be Anne Arundel's gain.

November 27, 1995

SHOULD HEAD SPORTSWEAR Inc., a fixture in Howard County for 30 years, depart for Anne Arundel County, it would prove that, occasionally, one jurisdiction's loss in this market is another's gain.

Anne Arundel has traditionally been a strong competitor with neighboring Howard, particularly with Baltimore-Washington International Airport in its midst. Head's efforts to consolidate its national operations are consistent with general business trends, and its focus on Anne Arundel seems natural since it already operates a warehouse in the county.

But while the relocation of Head's headquarters -- and about 40 jobs -- out of Columbia would be a blow for Howard, it should not cause panic. The state, and region, would retain Head. And even though Howard's overall financial situation remains tenuous, its record on job growth is fairly impressive.

The low point came during the peak of the recession in 1991

when Howard suffered a net loss of 400 jobs. Since then, the numbers have climbed. There was a net gain of 2,000 jobs in 1992, 4,200 jobs in 1993 and 4,260 jobs in 1994. In the first quarter of this year, Howard had a net gain of 6,000 jobs compared to the same period last year. Overall in 1995, county officials still expect to lure more jobs than they lose.

Head's thoughts of relocating to Anne Arundel aren't surprising for another reason. Businesses seldom operate out of loyalty when choosing a home. Howard has attracted many a business that once operated next door in Montgomery County, for reasons ranging from Howard's central, and less costly, location in the corridor to a perceived anti-growth climate in Montgomery. But the reasons Head may leave Howard do not appear to be based on the political climate but rather on the economics of the sportswear industry. A move to Anne Arundel offers not only consolidation but better access to the airport for distribution.

Downsizing is widespread in businesses. Howard is not immune to its impact. But even as the losses are racked up, Howard more than holds its own when it comes to job growth. Any financial problems Howard suffers this year will be based on overall growth in revenues. While even greater job growth would help ease that situation, the record so far indicates that solid strides continue to be made.

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