New plant expected to add taxes

Officials hope Sweetheart helps economic balance

`It's a win for the state'

Location for center outside Hampstead a plus, planner says

August 13, 1999|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

Although it has attracted Hollywood filmmakers, retirement community developers and world-recognized manufacturers, Carroll County remains a more popular place in which to live than to work.

For years, county government has struggled to correct the imbalance between rapid residential growth and sluggish economic development.

Yesterday's announcement that Sweetheart Cup Co. wants to build a 1-million-square-foot distribution center outside Hampstead tips the scale in the right direction, local officials say.

"It's going to bring a lot of jobs and a big chunk of industrial tax base," said Paul D. Denton, a member of the county Economic Development Commission and president and chief operations officer of Maryland Midland Railway Inc.

"This is not just a win for Carroll County. It's a win for the state."

Sweetheart, one of the nation's leading makers of disposable paper plates and cups, plans to consolidate its Owings Mills distribution facilities in Carroll County, making it a major center for the company's mid-Atlantic market.

The Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled hear the company's site plan request Tuesday.

If approved, Sweetheart plans to break ground next month and occupy the $20 million building by next summer.

Tom Uleau, Sweetheart's president and chief operating officer, said the company chose Carroll County over other sites because of the location and size of the property.

"It will give us enough room to expand," said Uleau. "But there's nothing on the drawing board right now."

The three-story, 40-foot-high center is 1,640 feet by 640 feet and would be on 141 acres on the south side of Houcksville Road, about 200 feet from Route 30, according to development plans submitted to Carroll County Department of Planning.

It would share an entrance and exit onto Route 30 with the Black & Decker Corp. plant.

Uleau said the company would employ more than 50 people, most of whom would be transferred from the Owings Mills warehouse and distribution centers. Some employees would be hired, but the company has not decided how many, Uleau said.

"It's pretty simple," Uleau said. "We are going to consolidate other distribution areas into our Middle Atlantic Center."

That helps Carroll County's bottom line. Business provides slightly less than 12 percent of Carroll's tax base -- the lowest business-to-residential ratio in the region. More than half of the county's labor force works outside the county.

The county's attempts to attract business have been hampered by limited industrial sites and a lack of major highways.

But for Sweetheart, the right elements came together in the Hampstead site, county officials said.

"Its proximity to a large metropolitan area outweighed the transportation challenges," said Steve Horn, director of planning.

John T. Lyburn, Carroll's director of economic development, and the county commissioners could not be reached for comment.

Sun staff writers Brenda J. Buote and Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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