Construction under way on Carroll business park Aim is to lure companies and increase tax base

September 28, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Carroll County started work last week on what officials hope will become a field of economic dreams in Hampstead -- a 16-acre industrial site that will be ready for prospective businesses by spring.

The property, an open field across from North Carroll High School on Hampstead Mexico Road, is phase one of a 400-acre North Carroll Business Park being developed by the county and Carroll County General Hospital.

The park is an important piece of the county's strategy to increase Carroll's commercial and industrial tax base above 12 percent -- the lowest in the Baltimore region.

The 10- to 15-year project is being developed on the theory that "If we build it, they will come," says John T. Lyburn Jr., county economic development director.

It is being modeled after Carroll's Air Business Center in Westminster. The county bought the land for the air center for $2.5 million in 1969 and created a quasi-public industrial development authority in 1980 to market and develop it.

Through this year, the county made a profit of $1.1 million from 16 land sales to 12 companies -- though only about 55 percent of the park has been developed.

The 50 companies in the center employ 950 people, 613 of whom live in Carroll and earn an average annual salary of $25,527. The county and the city of Westminster net $242,430 annually in real estate taxes from businesses at the center and another $312,960 in local income taxes from workers there.

Lyburn expects the North Carroll Business Park to generate similar numbers.

The county Industrial Development Authority is again involved, spending $750,000 to grade the first 16 acres and develop the site with water, sewer and about 300 feet of roads.

Site plans were submitted to the county's development review office Friday. Approval is expected within 60 days.

The county Economic Development Department has put for-sale signs on the property. County business development manager Paige Sunderland will begin "target marketing" the site for $75,000 an acre in about two months. She expects to sell out the first 16 acres within three years.

Sunderland will target companies similar to Ingersoll-Dresser Pump Co. and Taney Corp. in Taneytown -- "clean" manufacturers that will employ about 200 people in a building of 100,000 square feet or more.

Lyburn said the 16-acre first phase of the business park could house 1.8 million square feet of office space using "traditional parking ratios." That translates into 18 companies the size of Ingersoll-Dresser and Taney.

After the first phase is developed, Lyburn expects two other park properties of about equal size and with frontage on Hampstead Mexico Road to follow.

"We're not going to be able [to] market past those three sites until the Hampstead bypass is built," Lyburn said. "The key to the whole site is the bypass."

Although the bypass has been on the State Highway Administration drawing board for about 20 years, Lyburn expects it to be finished in five to 10 years -- a prediction shared by Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin.

Nevin gave his prediction to members of the county Economic DTC Development Commission last week, telling them that the state has authorized $2.5 million for the bypass project in July, and is expected to authorize another $2.5 million next year.

Lyburn believes the county will have little trouble attracting businesses to the park. It has railroad service and is about 10 miles from Westminster and Interstate 795.

Furthermore, Sunderland said, "Its proximity to both Pennsylvania and Baltimore is good" for marketing.

The first 16 acres to be developed are adjacent to Ridge Engineering, and the park is about two miles from Black & Decker Corp. and Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, two of Carroll's largest employers.

"Large users like to be near each other," Lyburn said.

In addition, the county is attracting "more than its share of new business right now" in the Baltimore area, he said.

Pub Date: 9/28/97

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