County's 1st enterprise zone established Officials already eyeing 2nd district in southwest

January 19, 1996|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

With Baltimore County's first business enterprise zone now in place along North Point Boulevard, economic development officials say they are contemplating a second zone to boost industry in the southwestern area.

Economic Development Director Robert L. Hannon said his office is looking at census tracts in the Lansdowne-Arbutus-Catonsville area to see whether they might meet the state requirements for enterprise zones.

Yesterday, state and county officials and several local businessmen held a news conference to announce creation of the county's first enterprise zone, covering 2,370 acres in the southeastern area.

Manufacturers within the zone can receive property tax credits of 80 percent on the value of new investment during the first five years.

They also can receive one-time credits ranging from $500 to $3,000 for each new worker hired.

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

Mr. Hannon said state and local economic development workers will visit each of the 108 companies within the zone to describe program benefits and offer other assistance to their businesses.

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III described the enterprise zone as a key part of his strategy to revive the southeastern area, which has lost 20,000 manufacturing jobs in the past 20 years.

"I see this as a catalyst for economic growth in the southeastern area of the county," he said.

Already, several businesses have said they plan to participate in the program to help defray the costs of expansion.

While describing the North Point Boulevard area as one in "greatest need," Mr. Hannon said the enterprise zone program could be useful in other areas of the county as well.

The state allows a jurisdiction to apply for one enterprise zone each year. To be eligible, areas must have high unemployment and poverty rates, a low median income and a significant population loss between 1980 and 1990.

Sharon Klots, researcher and policy developer in the county's Office of Economic Development, said she has only begun to gather data on which census tracts might qualify on the southwest side.

Ten Maryland counties and Baltimore City have enterprise zones, and several have more than one.

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