T. Rowe Price Group Inc. said yesterday that it will add 1,400 jobs at its Baltimore County campus in the next two years, and county leaders called the planned expansion one of the most significant by a private employer in the region in years.
The Baltimore-based investment firm plans to spend $185 million to construct two large office buildings and two parking garages on its sprawling Owings Mills campus - a project that would enable the company to become the county's largest private employer.
It would also signify the region's emergence as a player in the financial services industry, a local economist said.
"This is precisely the type of job that the Baltimore metropolitan area and Maryland wants to add - high-paying jobs in rapidly growing industries," said Anirban Basu, chief executive of Baltimore-based Sage Policy Group Inc.
He said T. Rowe Price's plans, along with Legg Mason Inc.'s plans for a new headquarters in Baltimore, demonstrate the importance of the industry in the regional and state economy. "For this state and this region to fulfill its economic potential, it must be an important player in the world of financial services," Basu said.
Baltimore County officials said they could not recall an expansion by a private employer in the county or state that added so many jobs.
At a news conference on the Owings Mills campus, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said T. Rowe Price's growth represents a shift in the type of worker increasingly in demand in the region.
"This expansion dramatically reflects Baltimore County's transformation from a traditional, manufacturing base into a service- and technology-based economy," Smith said.
Company officials said the expansion is needed to meet the demands of their rapidly growing business. The assets that the company manages on behalf of clients nearly doubled over the past three years, to $380 billion.
The additional 1,400 jobs will increase the company's worldwide work force by more than 25 percent.
T. Rowe Price Chairman Brian C. Rogers noted that yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of "Black Monday," the day the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 20 percent.
"There is uncertainty in life and business and the markets," Rogers said. "We make the investment decisions with a long-term horizon."
The company's headquarters will remain on East Pratt Street in Baltimore, where it has signed a new lease that runs through 2017. The company has begun renovating that site.
The expansion would bring to 4,000 the number of workers at the Owings Mills park, which employs slightly more than half of the company's work force worldwide.
Edward C. Bernard, the company's vice chairman, said the most attractive quality about the area is its educated work force.
"The employee pool is quite good," he said.
The 1,400 additional jobs will be new positions, rather than jobs transferred from other company locations.
Company executives said the additional jobs will be filled by college-educated workers with responsibilities focusing on retail mutual fund services, retirement plan services, marketing, information technology and transaction processing.
David S. Iannucci, the county's economic development director, said the county will benefit from the project through increased property taxes. He added that the project could prove the county has a deep pool of skilled workers, and that the economy will benefit from the income those workers will spend.
To accommodate the new workers, T. Rowe Price will spend $185 million on the construction of two new buildings and parking garages on 38 acres in the southern part of the campus.
The buildings will add about 400,000 square feet of office space and will be environmentally friendly, company officials said; the buildings will be designed to achieve a silver rating by the U.S. Green Building Council. A new parking garage next to each building will add more than 1,300 spaces.
Company officials said they would likely take advantage of tax credits offered to owners of environmentally friendly buildings and county grants for worker training. Smith said any public spending on the project would be minimal.
The construction plans were approved by county government late last month, and the company is awaiting permits. Construction is planned to begin this fall and is expected to be completed in the second half of 2009.
T. Rowe Price has operated in Owings Mills since 1990 but did not move to its campus off Painters Mill Road until the middle of the decade.
Smith pointed out that T. Rowe Price's expansion comes nearly three decades after the county designated Owings Mills, once largely farmland, as a hub for business growth. More than 8,400 employees in the financial services and insurance industries work in the area, he said.
"This further strengthens Owings Mills as a center for business," said Smith, a second-term Democrat.
Andrew Richards, an analyst at Morningstar Inc., the Chicago financial services firm, said the project costs would represent a relatively small percentage of the company's overall expenses.
"This type of expansion probably is more important to the local economy and the jobs of the Baltimore area than it is to T. Rowe Price's prospects," Richards said.