Montgomery plans 2 biotech business parks

One is slated for campus of Montgomery College

Calverton to get 2nd one

State to provide support

Maryland denies slighting proposed Baltimore sites

August 23, 2002|By Julie Bell | Julie Bell,SUN STAFF

Montgomery County and the state announced plans yesterday to create two business parks for science and technology companies, bringing the number of government-backed bioscience parks being considered in Maryland to at least five - including two in Baltimore.

Montgomery County is home to more than 200 of the state's roughly 300 biotechnology companies. The proposals come just as Baltimore begins planning parks to attract the same kinds of businesses.

Montgomery County Economic Development Director David W. Edgerley acknowledged yesterday that the new parks, modeled after the successful - and now full - Shady Grove Life Sciences Center in Rockville, could compete for tenants with Baltimore.

David S. Iannucci, secretary of the state's Department of Business and Economic Development, said Maryland has a responsibility to ensure Montgomery County's continued success in biotechnology.

"In no way should anyone see this as a region-against-region issue," Iannucci said. "No one complains in California about Berkeley and Stanford in the same area. ... No one should complain about Hopkins' [biotech development efforts] in Maryland and a strong Montgomery County technology park."

The state said yesterday that it has pledged $2 million to help create a 40-acre "science and technology center" on Montgomery College's Germantown campus.

Montgomery County simultaneously is planning a 115-acre park in Calverton.

In addition, Frederick County is evaluating the feasibility of a similar park for biotech and high-tech businesses near MedImmune Inc.'s manufacturing plant there.

Generally, such parks are located near research institutions where scientists are making discoveries that could lead to biotech products.

The state earlier committed $105,000 to evaluate the feasibility of a biotech park on 3 acres of vacant land west of the University of Maryland, Baltimore. The city also plans to develop an 80-acre biotech park north of the Johns Hopkins University medical campus in East Baltimore.

"I don't see it as competing," Laurie B. Schwartz, Baltimore's deputy mayor for economic and community development, said about the plans in Montgomery County. "It really strengthens the state's image as a leader in biotechnology."

Biotech businesses that locate in the east-side park are likely to do so because of some relationship to research at Hopkins, she said. Likewise, she said, businesses will be attracted to the west-side park if they have some relationship to research at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Montgomery County's 315-acre Shady Grove Life Sciences Center, which took 20 years to fill, boasts tenants from drug developer Human Genome Sciences Inc. to the Institute for Genomic Research, a DNA sequencer. The area has gained a national reputation as a center of genetic research.

The county hired Hammer Siler George Associates, a Silver Spring consulting firm, to evaluate at least 20 sites for potential development as Shady Grove filled up.

"We're pretty confident we're going to continue to grow," said Edgerley, the county's economic development director. "If you don't plant the seeds, they won't grow here or in Baltimore."

The state would acquire a stake in the Germantown site in exchange for its $2 million pledge to help acquire 20 acres, though details have yet to be worked out.

Montgomery County has pledged $4 million in cash to help acquire the 20 acres.

Hercules Pinkney, vice president and provost of Montgomery College's Germantown campus, said officials have a gentleman's agreement to purchase the undeveloped land but have yet to complete the deal.

The other site, nestled in a parcel south of Cherry Hill Road and Highway 29, belongs to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. The commission intends to transfer ownership of the land to the county in exchange for a share of future proceeds from land leases, sales or other income generated by the site, the county said in a release.

The partnership has not been finalized, but Edgerley said it is far enough along that the county has put out requests for commercial development firms to develop the site.

More than 60 developers have responded.

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