Taneytown hopes train brings industry

Marketing efforts aim to increase tax base

March 24, 2000|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

After missing much of the economic boom of the 1990s, Taneytown is moving full steam ahead to market its rail-accessible industrial sites with a slick brochure that will be printed next week.

The latest marketing effort by the town will be distributed to people who can influence industries and businesses to locate in the city, beginning with professional site locators who scout the country for places where businesses can build.

"The welcome mat is definitely out," said Nancy McCormick, the city's economic development director.

Taneytown needs the growth. The city has traditionally had lower property values and incomes than parts of the county closer to Baltimore and Washington. Residential development has added homes, but town leaders say they want the industrial tax base that will support that housing growth.

Working with McCormick is Paul Denton, president of Maryland Midland Railway, who has an option to buy an industrial site owned by the Bollinger family along state Route 194 and served by his rail lines.

Denton is specifically looking for a Fortune 500 company that would manufacture heavy goods transportable by rail. He has turned down two companies because they would not be rail customers, he said.

Taneytown's efforts might be more focused than most small municipalities', but more cities and towns in the state are actively seeking industrial development, said Jack A. Gullo Jr., president of the Maryland Municipal League and mayor of New Windsor.

"A lot of the smaller cities are using self-service marketing, like the Web," Gullo said. Many of these communities, including Taneytown, list amenities and specific properties on Web sites, hoping to attract interested developers and businesses.

Gullo described 1994 as the year Carroll County towns focused on the fact that industrial development could generate a net increase in tax revenue, while residential development costs towns far more for new services.

Gullo said it is mostly cities larger than Taneytown making noticeable efforts. To do it successfully, he said, a town needs someone dedicated full time to economic development. In Carroll County, only Taneytown has such a person, McCormick, who was hired full time in July after two years of part-time work and a year of doing the job as a volunteer.

"When the calls come in, you have to have someone that's geared to economic development, not someone who will say, `Hold on a minute, I have to deal with this water bill,' " Gullo said.

Taneytown has ready-to-build industrial sites available with all but one amenity: natural gas. The nearest gas lines are seven or eight miles away, and utilities say the demand in Taneytown would not justify extending service to the city, Denton said.

The lack of natural gas has caused prospects to look elsewhere, McCormick said. But it has not stopped industries from thriving there, such as the international headquarters for Evapco Inc., which makes cooling towers, and an Ingersoll-Dresser Pump plant.

McCormick said she's concentrating on what the city's four prime industrially zoned sites have: rail access and public water and sewer. The largest available parcel is the Bollinger-Maryland Midland property with 117 acres.

Other sites include two industrially zoned parcels behind Evapco Inc. and a commercially zoned spot near Taneytown Shopping Center, off state Route 140.

Taneytown economic development committee members and other city leaders will meet to create lists of site locators and types of businesses to target. The city's first choice is a distribution center that will use the railroad in an effort not to add to truck traffic through town. But McCormick will talk with anyone, she said.

A dozen small businesses have opened within the past year. They include a Burger King, flower shop, utility excavation company, prefabricated housing manufacturer, tanning salon, equestrian shop, costume shop, used clothing store and a branch of Union National Bank.

McCormick said Taneytown faces a challenge with few commercial spaces available downtown to develop the kinds of shops that will complement Antrim 1844, a luxury bed and breakfast in a mansion within walking distance of downtown.

Antrim guests often leave town for day trips and recreation. Her goal, she said, is to keep them in Taneytown, strolling and shopping along Main Street.

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