Balto. Co. to gain enterprise zone Economic aid targets Essex, Middle River

January 11, 1996|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

A depressed section of eastern Baltimore County will be designated as an enterprise zone by state officials -- and area manufacturers already plan to create more than 150 jobs in the North Point Boulevard area.

The enterprise zone, covering 2,370 acres, is a centerpiece of the county's plan to revitalize the Essex-Middle River area, which has lost thousands of jobs as industrial companies have slimmed down.

The county has just begun to market the enterprise zone program -- expected to be approved officially by Maryland's Secretary for Business and Economic Development next week -- and a number of companies are eager to participate.

"The timing couldn't have been more perfect," said Ken McAvoy, president of Maryland Metals Processing, which had been offered incentives to move to Virginia and New Jersey.

Mr. McAvoy and his partners had considered moving their company, which prepares aluminum and steel for manufacturers. "I couldn't think of why we would want to be here," he said.

But in the fall, state economic development officials offered to guarantee a $4.6 million loan that allows the company to buy the building it leases and upgrade its equipment. Then came the enterprise zone plan, which rewards companies with tax credits for expanding facilities and hiring workers.

"That pushed us over the edge," Mr. McAvoy said.

He said the plan will help the company double its work force to more than 100 employees and expand the plant within the next two years.

"You've got to be crazy not to participate in it," Mr. McAvoy said. "I'm recommending to other people to come to this area."

That is just the kind of response Baltimore County Economic Development officials were hoping for when they announced the enterprise zone proposal in September. The zone, which will extend from the Beltway at Pulaski Highway south along North Point Boulevard to Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant, is designed to create jobs in an area ravaged by the loss of manufacturing jobs for decades.

Companies participating in the enterprise zone can receive property tax credits of 80 percent of the new investment for five years. They also can receive one-time state income tax credits ranging from $500 to $3,000 for each new worker hired.

The county also is taking advantage of a BGE program offering temporary rate reductions of up to 15 percent to companies that participate in enterprise zone programs and hire at least 10 workers.

The enterprise zone program offers a windfall for Vulcan-Hart Co., a North Point Boulevard plant that makes commercial cooking equipment.

Plant Manager Rick Galicki said the program will make it easier for the company to proceed with plans to build a 60,000-square-foot addition and hire 100 workers this year.

"We had the expansion planned and this is good timing," he said.

Residents initially feared the enterprise zone would only bring polluting industries to the area. But Jan Ramsay, president of the North Point Peninsula Community Coordinating Council, said most neighborhood groups feel more comfortable with the plan, providing the county enforces environmental laws.

"I don't think it could hurt, but it can't be the only piece of the puzzle," she said. "No change is going to work unless the community is looked at as a whole."

For more than a year, a team from the county's Community Conservation Office has been working with residents to find ways to improve the area. And the county is asking the General Assembly for $4 million in state matching grants to improve roads, sewer service and make county offices more accessible to east side residents.

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