Maryland is expected to dole out 'Sunny Day' $16 million to firms Use of taxpayers' money undisclosed by state

Commerce

June 09, 1998|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

State officials are expected to approve more than $16 million in low-interest loans to businesses today from the so-called Sunny Day fund, but not much light is being shed on the process.

The Department of Business and Economic Development has requested that the Legislature approve loans ranging from $3 million to $250,000 for 10 companies that operate in the state. The loans are attractive to businesses because they come with below-market rates and can be deferred or even forgiven altogether if a company complies with agreed-upon development goals.

The Legislative Policy Committee, which has final say on the loans, yesterday released the names of companies and recommended loan figures. But in a switch from past practice, officials refused to discuss even in general terms how the companies would use the taxpayers' money.

Linda West, spokeswoman for the economic development department, said she could not discuss specifics of the loan requests until they were presented to the policy committee for a final vote. James Fielder, acting secretary of the department, did not return calls.

Bonna Walker, a spokeswoman for US Foodservice Inc., said state officials instructed the company not to discuss the fund request. The Columbia-based company expects sales for the fiscal year ending June 30 to be about $5.3 billion, up from $1.7 billion last year. It has requested $250,000 from the state.

Digene Corp., which makes disease-detecting tests, said it plans to use $1 million to consolidate its Silver Spring and Beltsville operation into one location in Gaithersburg -- a move it says will help create 135 jobs over the next three to five years.

AlliedSignal Technical Services Corp. spokesman Joe Militano would not discuss specifics of the company's $1 million request, but said the technology and management service provider has a goal of adding 400 jobs to its 900 positions in Howard County.

A $1.5 million request from Bell Atlantic Mobile Inc. would go toward its new headquarters in Howard County.

Pub Date: 6/09/98

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