County considers aiding company Plastics manufacturer would hire 70 workers, receive $700,000

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

The Howard County Council will consider tonight a $700,000 aid package for C. R. Daniels, a longtime Ellicott City manufacturer of canvas and plastic products that plans to hire 70 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 would provide 90 percent of the money to C. R. Daniels, with Howard providing the rest. C. R. Daniels would not have to make payments for two years.

If the company hired the 70 workers, the loan would 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 called for more frequent use of economic incentives to help Howard 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 such 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 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 potential aid -- negotiated by the company with the state -- had 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 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 company provides jobs the county needs. "In Maryland and Howard County," Mr. Story said, "the manufacturing base continues to erode."

From 1993 to 1994, Howard County jobs grew 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 preclude expansion in other areas, including nearby Carroll County. And other areas are likely to try to lure such companies as C. R. Daniels with incentives.

Such were the worries of Incentives Task Force, a 12-member body that recently recommended Howard offer a variety of lures for more industrial and white collar jobs: property tax credits, matching grants, lending guarantees, delays in property tax collection, reduced government fees, reduced permit acquisition times, employee training help and technical assistance from county government.

Some of these programs would require changes in state and county laws. But taken as a whole, the package is "modest" compared with incentives already offered by Baltimore City and Western Maryland counties, as well as other states, Mr. Story said.

In a news release last week, task force Chairman Michael T. Galeone, executive vice president of Columbia Bank, said incentives would be available to Howard businesses and outside companies that might want to move to Howard. He did not return calls yesterday.

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

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