Howard County considers aid package for Ellicott City plastics manufacturer Loan would become grant if job provisions met

January 16, 1996|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Council tonight will consider a $700,000 aid package for C. R. Daniels, a longtime Ellicott City manufacturer of canvas and plastic products that plans to hire 70 new workers over the next two years as part of the deal.

"We've got to do this," said Council Chairman Darrel E. Drown. "If we don't do this, they take a walk."

The aid package is a loan that could become an outright grant -- if the company hires enough workers.

It would work this way: The state will provide 90 percent of the money to C. R. Daniels, with Howard providing the rest. C. R. lTC Daniels does not have to make payments for two years.

If the company hires the 70 new workers, the loan will be forgiven, said Richard Story, executive director of the county's Economic Development Authority.

Council consideration of the aid package follows the release last week of a report by the authority's Incentives Task Force. That report called for more frequent use of economic incentives to compete with offers from other Maryland counties and other states.

Such measures appear to have the support of the council -- even Mr. Drown, perhaps the chief critic of these deals in the past.

"From a philosophical standpoint, we really shouldn't be doing it," Mr. Drown said. "Our tax dollars shouldn't be subsidizing businesses but if we don't, someone else will."

C. R. Daniels has been considered moving to Carroll County or another state as part of its expansion plans, Mr. Story said.

Mr. Drown said it was his understanding that Carroll County was offering land it owned at a reduced price, while North Carolina was willing to donate land to the company.

Gary Abel, C. R. Daniels president and chief executive officer, declined to discuss those possible moves yesterday.

But he did note that the Howard aid -- negotiated by the company with the state -- affected his decision to add 20,000 square feet to Daniels' Ellicott City plant, across the street from the post office.

"It certainly was a factor in our decision to expand here," Mr. Abel said.

Daniels makes a variety of products, including large canvas bins with wheels for industries and for the U.S. Postal Service. The company also has made laundry bags for the Army and recently manufactured more than 8,200 body bags for the Defense Department.

C. R. Daniels has about 200 employees and annual sales of about $20 million, according to Mr. Abel and Dun's Market Identifiers, a listing of U.S. corporations.

Mr. Story and Mr. Drown praised the expansion because the manufacturing base in Howard County has continued to erode.

From 1993 to 1994, Howard County job growth grew at 4.9 percent, the third highest among counties in the state. But much of Howard's recent job growth has been in the retail sector, typically low-paying positions that do not lead to substantial income tax gains for the county.

Mr. Abel said Daniels' expansion in Ellicott City does not not preclude future expansion in other areas, including nearby Carroll County.

A copy of the task report is available through the Howard County Economic Development Authority at 313-6500.

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