Halethorpe stimulus approved 'Enterprise zone' may create jobs

December 06, 1996|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,SUN STAFF

The state has approved parts of Halethorpe and nearby areas in southwest Baltimore County for "enterprise zone" status, a switch that will give tax breaks to companies that make investments and boost employment in the economically stagnant area.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who has said he wants to control sprawl and steer growth to developed areas, was expected to announce the change today, along with enterprise zone status for downtown Silver Spring.

"The Baltimore County zone is, in fact, a perfect example of where growth should occur," Glendening said.

"The transportation network, the physical infrastrucure are already in place."

Baltimore County's new zone matches one created a year ago on its other panhandle, its southeastern portion.

The new zone includes areas devoted to manufacturing in the Halethorpe-Landsdowne area, said Robert Hannon, director of economic development for the county.

"This is an important incentive to us," Hannon said. "It has some real substance to it, in terms of the benefits."

Once a hub of industry, the Halethorpe-Arbutus area has been hurt by the same kind of factory flight and shrinkage that has afflicted Baltimore and the rest of Maryland.

The most recent strike came in October, when Stroh Brewing Co. said it would close its Halethorpe brewery and wipe out 430 jobs.

Hannon said "discussions are ongoing" to sell the plant to a new owner.

The enterprise zone, he added, "provides another layer of incentives that would not be available had we not established it. For any new purchaser of that facility, obviously the issue of new investment would occur."

Breaks for businesses

New investment is relevant in enterprise zones because that's the kind of cost that can be offset by zone tax breaks.

In Maryland's enterprise zones, higher real estate tax assessments that result from capital investment or other expansion are chopped by 80 percent for five years.

The credit diminishes after that and disappears after 10 years.

Businesses can also get income-tax credits of $500 to $3,000 for each newly hired employee in an enterprise zone.

Baltimore County, which applied in October for zone status for the Halethorpe area, will use the designation as part of a larger revitalization plan for the county's southwest side, Hannon said.

Maryland has 29 enterprise zones, not counting Silver Spring and Halethorpe. Zone status is granted on the basis of an area's unemployment rate, population loss, income levels and other criteria.

Pub Date: 12/06/96

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