Sunny forecast for 4 firms State legislative panel likely to allot funds to aid expansions

March 27, 1996|By Marina Sarris and Mark Guidera | Marina Sarris and Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

A state legislative panel is expected today to approve more than $7 million in "Sunny Day" economic development loans and grants to help four Maryland companies expand.

The largest project that legislators are expected to approve is a $4 million state loan for a $43.8 million biotechnology manufacturing plant in Frederick that MedImmune Inc., of Gaithersburg, wants to build. That project would create 219 jobs by 1999.

The Sunny Day fund is used to provide financial incentives to attract new businesses to Maryland and keep existing companies from leaving. A legislative committee must vote on projects financed from the fund.

The MedImmune deal, which includes $7.8 million in additional state loans and bonds, would rank among the costliest in Sunny Day-financed projects approved by lawmakers in six years.

Many biotechnology experts see the MedImmune project as a test of how serious Maryland is about continuing to help its growing biotech industry move into the critical manufacturing phase, which could generate hundreds of technical jobs in the next decade.

The other Sunny Day projects are:

A $1 million grant to help Tessco Technologies Inc., the nation's leading wholesaler of wireless phone equipment, expand in Hunt Valley and create 123 jobs. That $9.5 million project would be financed by a $1.8 million state loan and substantial private investment.

A $1.08 million loan to help Sweetheart Cup Co. move its headquarters from Chicago to its Owings Mills plant, adding 50 to 60 high-paying jobs.

A $1.25 million grant to help Hunt Valley-based Fila USA, a footwear and clothing company, open a new warehouse and distribution center in the Brandon Woods Industrial Park in Anne Arundel County.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., co-chairman of the Legislative Policy committee, said he believes the four projects will be approved. "I've heard of no problems" with the projects, Mr. Taylor said.

The 28-member committee is composed of legislative leaders from both houses and political parties. Its votes on Sunny Day projects are considered final; the votes don't need full General Assembly approval.

Several other committee members said they, too, expected passage. "It's just a rubber stamp committee," said Republican Del. Robert H. Kittleman, the House Minority Leader.

Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the Baltimore Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said the state is doing more to foster economic development.

"For a state that people want to give the reputation of being anti-business, we're having some very good movement in attracting and retaining some excellent companies," he said.

MedImmune Inc. has been planning for about a year to build a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant so it can produce its second federally approved product, RespiGam, a vaccine for respiratory illness in infants.

Revenues from RespiGam should make MedImmune profitable by 1997, stock analysts predict. Like most biotechnology companies, MedImmune has yet to turn a profit. It lost $22 million in 1995.

Last year, the company came close to deciding to build a plant near Cleveland, but Gov. Parris N. Glendening asked MedImmune to wait until Maryland could offer a counterproposal of incentives.

The new facility will cost $43.8 million. That includes a $4 million loan from the state's Sunny Day fund, a $5 million state-insured taxable bond and a $2.8 million loan from another state program. The deal requires $1.3 million in bonds to be issued by Frederick County and City, a $6.5 million investment from MedImmune and $24.2 million in private financing.

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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