Cleveland sweetens offer to MedImmune At stake are 100-job manufacturing plant, maybe company HQ

Possible gift of 15 acres

Frederick County, city, state incentives worth $13 million

Biotechnology

March 29, 1996|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

A top economic development official in Cleveland said yesterday that city has launched an 11th-hour attempt to improve its $31 million package of loans and other incentives to get MedImmune Inc., a Gaithersburg-based biotechnology company, to select Ohio over Maryland for a new manufacturing plant that eventually would employ more than 100.

"MedImmune is like a bride walking to the altar. It's just a matter of her getting to the position where she can say yes to either us or Maryland," said Charles Webb, president of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, which has worked on the Ohio offer for a year.

"Right now it looks like Maryland is closer to that yes. But we're going to do everything we can to get it to say yes to us."

One element of the deal Ohio officials might revisit to sweeten the deal for MedImmune involves a 15-acre site in a new technology park that MedImmune likes. The land is owned by the city of Cleveland.

"We might give it to them," said Mr. Webb.

Under Maryland's package, MedImmune would have to buy a 15-acre site in Frederick for $1.5 million.

A consortium made up of Fluor Daniel Inc., the nation's largest commercial construction firm, and General Electric Capital Corp., an investment and credit arm of GE, would build and own the new plant. MedImmune would lease it back.

Mr. Webb said he spoke with MedImmune executives Wednesday to see if there were any elements of the Ohio offer that might be improved to land the company. He declined to disclose details that were discussed.

Meanwhile, some Maryland officials said yesterday they were under the impression that MedImmune's board of directors had tentatively approved the Maryland offer. That could not be confirmed yesterday.

"It was our understanding the board said proceed but with caution. It seems like the deal is happening," said James Singleton, acting director for the Frederick County Economic Development Commission.

However, as of late yesterday, MedImmune's board had not signed a letter of intent to accept Frederick's portion of the incentive package, Mr. Singleton acknowledged.

Frederick County and city have authorized backing $1.3 million in bonds for the MedImmune project to be built on the 15-acre site in a high-technology park near Interstate 70.

At stake for Maryland in the company's decision is more than the jobs and tax revenues the new plant would create.

James D. Fielder Jr., deputy secretary for the state Department of Business and Economic Development, told state legislators in a March 5 letter that should MedImmune accept Ohio's offer, the company could be expected to move its headquarters, where 135 are employed, from Gaithersburg to Cleveland.

That would be a significant blow to the state's efforts to foster biotechnology as a source of new, well-paying jobs in the future and to diversify the state's economy as the federal government and defense industry shrink.

Also at stake are what stock analysts consider a highly promising biotechnology company and the prestige of seeing manufactured here the first federally approved biotechnology drugs developed so far in Maryland. The company has won federal approvals to market two drugs, and it has a rich pipeline of products in development.

Dr. Wayne Hockmeyer and David Mott, MedImmune's chief executive and chief operating officer, respectively, were said to be out of town yesterday and unavailable for comment.

On Wednesday, the General Assembly's Legislative Policy Committee authorized a $4 million state loan and other incentives worth $7.8 million.

Legislators said they expected that would put a lock on the new plant for Maryland.

Mr. Fielder did not respond to a reporter's phone call yesterday.

DBED Secretary James T. Brady was said to be in Western Maryland and unavailable.

Pub Date: 3/29/96

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