Influx of bucks a boon to state

Federal Spending

Outlook 2004 : Turning Points

January 11, 2004|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

The new U.S. Food and Drug Administration complex in eastern Montgomery County will be as large as a dozen Wal-Mart supercenters combined when it is finished in 2010.

Its impact, county leaders hope, will be much larger.

The 2.4-million-square-foot project has only just started - the first of about 14 buildings opened in November - but local officials are already planning a science and technology business park next door to capitalize on the valuable neighbor.

That's just one sign that Uncle Sam's influence in Maryland in 2004 will be stronger than normal for a state well used to deliveries from the federal gravy train, particularly as it benefits from infusions of money to fight the war on terrorism.

"Maryland's high-tech future is only going to get better, and ... the federal government is at the center of this," said Richard Clinch, director of economic research for the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute. "Proximity pays off."

The federal government pumped more than $52 billion into the Maryland economy for the fiscal year that ended in fall 2002, the most recent data available. Even accounting for inflation, that's a 20 percent improvement compared with a decade earlier. Many jurisdictions in the Baltimore-Washington corridor have felt a spike recently as homeland security dollars pour in.

Per person, the federal government spends more in Maryland than in all but three states, about $9,600. Federal procurement and payroll here are about three times the national norm, said Matt Kane, senior policy analyst with the Northeast-Midwest Institute.

The nonprofit research organization focuses on economic vitality and other issues in the Northeast-Midwest region's 18 states: None does as well at the federal trough as Maryland.

Kane wasn't surprised to hear that the FDA picked the state when it decided to consolidate offices and labs spread over 18 locations, especially as most of those locations were in Montgomery County already.

"Maryland wins again," Kane said.

The 130-acre campus in White Oak will house 7,700 employees - a population bigger than the town of Mount Airy. All but the FDA's food safety and nutrition workers, who report to much smaller offices and labs in Prince George's County, will work there. FDA officials expect that the Montgomery project, off New Hampshire Avenue near U.S. 29, will cost more than $1 billion.

Meanwhile, Montgomery County is plugging away on plans for an East County Center for Science and Technology. The 115-acre business park will incubate new businesses and offer space to established companies that want more proximity to the agency that tests and approves the products they produce. The center is being designed and could open in several years.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan thinks the FDA will do for the U.S. 29-Interstate 95 area what the National Institutes of Health did to cultivate biotech business along the I-270 corridor in the 1990s.

"We've looked at taking the biotech out of the 270 corridor, expanding it out," he said. "FDA's going to be a huge help to us."

Baltimore is hoping to better tap into the federal potential with two technology parks, one anchored by the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the other by Johns Hopkins University and hospital. UMB broke ground Thursday on its west-side biotech park and expects to finish its first building by the end of this year. That's about when site development could begin on the East Baltimore Life Sciences and Technology Park, north of the Hopkins medical campus.

Both institutions are already major recipients of federal research money. Officials say that having lab space nearby will put them in a better position to lure established companies to the area and accommodate campus research spinoffs.

Said Jack Shannon, president and chief executive officer of East Baltimore Development Inc., the nonprofit overseeing development of the park next to Hopkins: "There's a tremendous set of assets here that, if properly linked and leveraged and marketed, will be the basis of economic growth for the city, the region and the state for many years to come."

TIMELINE

1791

Maryland cedes land for the national capital, ensuring a front-row seat at the federal spending table.

1985

Montgomery County opens a life sciences park in Rockville, capitalizing on spinoff businesses from the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health and fueling a biotech economy in the Interstate 270 corridor.

2004

To better take advantage of federal dollars and influence, officials plan a business park next to the new Food and Drug Administration complex in eastern Montgomery County and begin developing biotech parks beside Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

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