Del. firm looking at site for plant Modular-home maker checks out building in New Windsor

350 jobs would be created

Direct rail access to Baltimore must be gained, company says

April 03, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A Delaware company is eyeing an industrial building in New Windsor for a modular-home plant that would create 350 jobs in Carroll County.

MISTCo, a newly formed corporation based in Greenwood, Del., hopes to build modular homes at an undisclosed site on Route 31. The plant would ship the finished structures, which would include everything from light fixtures to carpeting, to international markets through the port of Baltimore.

Nearly all the homes would be sent overseas, and the company's interest in Carroll County is predicated on railway access to the port. A local rail line passes by the proposed site, but the cars would have to transfer to CSX Railroad lines in Baltimore County.

"An efficient, service-oriented railroad to bring in raw materials as well as transport the finished units to export piers is the most critical and essential of all," said Elwood A. Tazewell, MISTCo president.

In its search for an existing plant, company officials have visited sites in Elkton and North East in Cecil County as well as in North Carolina, Virginia and Delaware, but "we are seriously interested in the New Windsor area," Tazewell said.

Portsmouth, Va., which has a plant on a three-mile rail line to its shipping terminals, is the town's closest competitor, he said.

Maryland Midland Railway, a local operation that runs between Washington and Baltimore counties, could provide the transportation service if it is successful in its efforts to buy or lease from CSX about 25 miles of track between Glyndon and terminals in Baltimore.

"We are very supportive of what MISTCo wants to do," said Paul D. Denton, Maryland Midland president. "It will certainly help our cause to gain access to the Dundalk or Seagirt marine terminals in Baltimore."

Denton said he is working as quickly as he can, "pushing every button," to get the deal on track. He has the support of the Carroll County and Western Maryland legislative delegations and working with the state Department of Transportation.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for jobs creation and economic development," said Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Carroll Republican. "Everybody wants to help get this industry to New Windsor, but we realize they need rail service."

Haines plans to meet with CSX officials soon to see what state officials can do to spur negotiations.

Long-term benefits

"If Maryland Midland can't purchase the track, maybe they can work out a use agreement," Haines said. "There are long-term benefits for the port and immediate benefits for businesses located on the existing line."

The plant, which would operate on three shifts, would ship the homes in blocks on 90-foot flat cars each night. To avoid vandalism or theft, the cars must proceed immediately to the port for shipment overseas.

Unless Maryland Midland owns or leases track now controlled by CSX, the trains would have to wait to be coupled to CSX engines. The transfer could mean delays of up to several days and make the homes vulnerable to pilferage.

"If Maryland Midland can't assure us we have straight access to the port, we may be compelled to make a change in our plans," Tazewell said.

"This deal is a very specific example of how a Maryland corporation can help businesses reach the port," Denton said. "If it all falls into place, it is doable by early summer."

That deadline would match MISTCo's timetable for shipping its first houses by June 1. It has several contracts to provide modular units in Latvia and South Africa.

"We have houses promised around the world," Tazewell said.

MISTCo also may build a few hundred homes locally for its employees. The company's philosophy equates homeownership with a sense of pride and self-esteem.

The county Department of Economic Development has assured Tazewell the labor force he needs is available locally. MISTCo plans to offer laborers profit-sharing and $9.50 an hour, a salary that would qualify employees for a mortgage.

Help with down payment

After six months of employment, the company would offer workers assistance with a down payment. MISTCo also plans to provide its employees with van service to and from work.

"Renting homes and traveling hours to work detracts from the quality of life," Tazewell said.

Surrounded by farmland, New Windsor offers several sites where a community of about 200 homes could be established for the labor force.

"New Windsor is a wide-open area for parklands and a new housing community," Tazewell said. "Of all the places we have seen, New Windsor would allow us to best do what our philosophy dictates."

Ideally, Tazewell would like to settle on the New Windsor property by April 15 but no later than May 15.

"If we can proceed as we plan, we could be employing 200 people by the end of May on a first shift," Tazewell said. "As sales develop, we hope to add a second and third shift."

New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. would welcome the company to Carroll's smallest town, which has a population of about 900. MISTCo would increase the town's industrial and residential property tax base.

"They want to build a community for their workers in and around New Windsor," Gullo said. "People who have a house of their own are likely to stay here."

Pub Date: 4/03/97

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