Directors of the Bainbridge Development Corp. will meet tomorrow to remove a technical hitch to allow a Columbus, Ohio-based company to move ahead with plans for a 550-acre applied technology center, which could employ 3,000 workers, at the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Port Deposit.
The BDC, as the group is commonly called, is a quasi-public agency created by the General Assembly in 1999 to oversee the development of the 1,200- acre Navy boot camp, which closed in 1976.
The hitch stems from the BDC having given its approval of a concept plan for the development of Bainbridge. The plan was proposed by a development team that includes Clark Turner, president of Bel Air-based Clark Turner Cos.; John Paterakis, a commercial developer in Baltimore; and Richard M. Alter, president of Manekin LLC in Columbia. The team has exclusive negotiating rights with the BDC for the development of Bainbridge.
The BDC board needs to agree on a change in the concept plan to accommodate the proposal on Berkshire Laboratories Inc. before negotiations can move forward, said W. Paul Gilbert, director of the Cecil County Economic Development Office, and a member of the BDC board.
After first being viewed with skepticism by government officials and Port Deposit-area residents, Berkshire's proposal seems to be gaining favor. "The momentum is very definitely moving forward," said Phyllis Kilby, vice president of the Cecil County Board of Commissioners.
In a presentation to the BDC, the Port Deposit Town Council and residents, Mark G. Mortenson, a consultant and patent attorney for Berkshire, said the company's chief asset is its technology.
He said it could eliminate industrial pollutants and make machinery last longer. "This would enable the U.S. companies to compete with $3-per- hour labor in Malaysia."
The company said its technology also could be used to eliminate unwanted side effects of medicines and to make plants grow faster.
Upon first hearing about Berkshire, Kilby said: "It sounds too good to be true." On Friday, she said she has become more of a believer, but she cautioned the BDC to proceed with prudence in its negotiations with the company.
"This could be a once-in-a-lifetime deal," said Gilbert. "We can't not do this. There is so much to gain and so little to lose."
One outsider familiar with Berkshire's technology, Rustum Roy, professor emeritus at Pennsylvania State University, said the company has the potential to make the United States a world leader in a variety of technologies ranging from plant growth to semiconductors.
Turner told a meeting of the Port Deposit Town Council last week that that the Berkshire proposal "could be the biggest thing to hit Port Deposit, the county and the state in a long time. It could be huge," he said.
He said it could bring the kind of high-paying jobs that the county wants in the region, while reducing the number of houses planned for Bainbridge. Residents living near the Bainbridge site have protested bitterly in recent months about a plan to build 2,000 houses on the site.
Turner said the development team of which he is a part is taking the biggest risk in trying to lure Berkshire to Bainbridge. "We are putting our money where our mouth is," he said of its plans to construct a headquarters to lease to Berkshire.
The Port Deposit Town Council is slated to vote Tuesday on whether to endorse the Berkshire proposal.