Air Business Center passes with flying colors, study says County, Westminster reap tax benefits

firms employ 950

March 27, 1997|By Donna R. Engle and Mary Gail Hare | Donna R. Engle and Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

An article in yesterday's Carroll edition of The Sun should have said Russell Hughes was appointed to the County Commissioners after property for the Air Business Center was purchased.

The Sun regrets the error.

Nearly 30 years ago, the County Commissioners were accused of wasting tax dollars to create an industrial and business park north of Westminster -- an economic development project that, critics charged, wouldn't fly.

But a study released yesterday shows the Air Business Center's economic impact on the county has been substantial. The county, for instance, earned a $1.1 million profit on its purchase and development of the park, which adjoins Carroll County Airport on Route 97.


"It was a good point to evaluate what was happening," said Kevin Grabill, the county's deputy director of economic development. "You've got some reasonable-sized development up there, and nobody had measured the impact."

The study was conducted over 18 months by Grabill and county Economic Development Commission members Louna Primm and Stanley H. "Jack" Tevis III.

Tevis, who financed the study, is the owner of Modern Comfort Systems Inc., located in the Air Business Center. Primm is a senior vice president and lending officer for Carroll County Bank & Trust Co.

Tevis, who is developing a site for a gas station and convenience store on the opposite side of Route 97, said the study shows the jTC county created its own economic break.

"If we had not been pro-active, would those businesses still be there?" he said. "It takes a long time, and we are still only halfway there, but the numbers are good. This doesn't happen overnight."

Among the other economic benefits noted:

The county will receive $242,400 in property taxes and $312,900 in piggyback income taxes this fiscal year from enterprises located in the Air Business Center.

Westminster, which annexed the park in phases in 1985 and 1989, will receive $76,790 in property taxes this fiscal year.

Businesses and industries in the center employ 950 people with an annual payroll of $26 million. Workers earn an average salary of $27,393 a year.

The center is past the halfway mark in development. Fifteen and one-half parcels, or 48.5 acres, have been developed; 14.5 parcels, or 36.6 acres, remain undeveloped.

Tax revenues for the county and Westminster will increase significantly when the park is fully developed, according to the study.

Russell Hughes, a county commissioner when the property was bought in 1969, recalled yesterday that the commissioners received some public heat when they made the purchase.

The county paid $506,000 for the 98-acre tract -- $5,116 an acre.

It developed part of the property, but sold all but one lot to a private developer in 1988. The remaining county-owned lot was sold in August 1996 and is being developed as a veterinary hospital.

The undeveloped section of the Air Business Center is owned by the International Union of Operating Engineers.

The remaining lots are listed at $90,000 an acre. Lots in the West Branch, an industrial park on the opposite side of Route 97, are selling for $70,000 to $75,000 an acre.

Grabill said the tax revenues, employment and payroll figures noted in the study are actual numbers, not estimates that might be overly optimistic.

The income "is a long-term income stream. It's not one year. This is going to go on and on for as long as there are buildings there," he said.

John T. "Jack" Lyburn, the county's economic development director, said the study shows the county must provide infrastructure to develop the planned North Carroll Industrial Park on Route 482 in Hampstead.

The county not only bought the lots to create the Westminster industrial park in 1969. but later spent money to build roads and provide storm-water management and other infrastructure.

Hampstead Mayor Christopher Nevin said county development of the North Carroll park will serve as a catalyst to attract businesses to the town.

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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