Hunt Valley bonanza MBNA relocation: Credit-card company's regional headquarters will employ 3,000.

February 26, 1997

HUNT VALLEY, as a business/light industry complex and a shopping center, could be transformed by the announcement that MBNA, the giant credit card company, will locate a large regional headquarters at the site of the present PHH building. On contiguous land, three adjoining structures of comparable size are envisioned. This is the biggest economic bonanza for the Baltimore region in decades.

The numbers are dazzling: 3,000 new jobs within two years; perhaps double that number if MBNA continues on its extraordinary growth path; a $150 million annual payroll; multiplier or spinoff employment for another 3,000 persons earning $115 million, according to county estimates. Overall, counting everything, a $719 million boost from a clean, non-polluting, financial services corporation that has vowed it will not ask for tax breaks or zoning concessions.

When combined with the extension of the light rail line to Hunt Valley later this year and a multi-million dollar refurbishing of the long-troubled Hunt Valley Mall, the commercial/industrial sector north of Cockeysville could take off. Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger said MBNA's return to the area where it started as part of Maryland National Bank "shows the strength of this jurisdiction as a location for first-class corporate facilities."

Mr. Ruppersberger, whose friendship with MBNA chairman Charles M. Cawley was instrumental in the choice of Maryland as one of the Delaware-based company's regional headquarters, has recused himself from any role in permits for the project. The Baltimore County Ethics Commission has accepted his assurance that MBNA's relocation here "is not expected to result in any increased business" for his debt collection agency, Rupp and Associates. Former state Sen. Frank Kelly, another Cawley intimate, acted as a key liaison between Baltimore County and MBNA.

Any jobs loss from PHH's pending merger with New Jersey-based HFS Inc. will be more than offset by MBNA's plan to become the county's second-largest employer after Bethlehem Steel Corp.

The serendipity of MBNA's relocation, the light rail extension and the revitalization of Hunt Valley Mall are developments the state should celebrate. It somewhat offsets Maryland's loss of the credit card company in 1982 as a result of ill-advised state-imposed limits on interest charges that rightly should be left to market forces.

Pub Date: 2/26/97

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