The Other Side Of B&d's History Here

November 05, 2009|By Dan Rodricks

Just for the record - and just in case anyone in the audience is starting to get teary-eyed about Black & Decker or ticked off that Maryland's alleged "anti-business climate" will result in the loss of yet another good corporate citizen - I would like to add a few items that were left out of the historic "time line" published in this newspaper on Tuesday. Allow me to fill in a four-year gap in our accounting:

January 2000: Black & Decker reports record sales and net earnings from the previous year - $300.3 million on worldwide sales of $4.52 billion.

July 2000: Despite a good run of profitable quarters, Black & Decker seeks "incentives" from Maryland and Baltimore County taxpayers to expand its headquarters in Towson. Without these incentives, executives say, the company might have to move to another site or even another state.

October 2000: With much fanfare, economic development officials announce a deal to give the company $5.5 million in state loans, grants and tax credits, plus tax exemption in Baltimore County to the tune of $4 million. The company plans to expand its headquarters and add 340 jobs over the next five to seven years. Nolan D. Archibald, chairman and chief executive officer, says: "We are pleased that the state of Maryland and Baltimore County were able to facilitate our continued growth and investment in our hometown."

January 2001: The company puts its expansion plans on hold and doesn't take the gift from taxpayers.

February 2001: The company asks for another tax break, saying a change in the way the state calculates corporate income taxes would provide a wonderful incentive to not only stay in Maryland but to expand operations here. It has the backing of the speaker of the House of Delegates, Cas Taylor, who makes the tax break a personal priority for the 2001 legislative session. A Black & Decker vice president and other manufacturing executives ask the state to base corporate taxes only on the in-state sales and not on other factors such as their property holdings or payroll. If passed, the legislation would be a multimillion-dollar windfall for manufacturers; it doesn't require them to do anything, such as expand operations and create jobs. The Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the comptroller's office and the state Department of Business and Economic Development support the legislation.

April 2001: The General Assembly approves the tax break without a single dissenting vote in the Senate. Gov. Parris Glendening signs it into law. (So much for Maryland's "anti-business climate.")

February 2002: Though reporting $4.3 billion in sales and posting a profit for 2001, Black & Decker reports a fourth quarter loss of $13 million - its first loss in four years. The loss is said to be due to the cost of worldwide "restructuring." That means the cutting of 2,000 worldwide jobs, including 450 at the company's manufacturing plant in Easton. Some of the workers at the Easton plant are making only $7.35 an hour.

November 2002: A week before Thanksgiving, Black & Decker announces it will close the Easton plant, cutting 1,300 jobs and ending manufacturing operations in the state. Most of the jobs will move to Mexico. "It's devastating to our small town here," says Easton Mayor Eugene Butler. "We thought we could have a little more warning than this." David Iannucci, the state's economic development secretary, calls the news "extremely distressing." After all, he was among those who worked out the deal to provide the company with "incentives" to keep its operations here. "We had been told repeatedly by Black & Decker officials that they had no plans to close the facility," Mr. Iannucci tells The Sun. Black & Decker announces that all this "restructuring" will save the company $100 million annually.

April 2003: The Bush administration sends $1.5 million in federal funds (taxpayer money) to help 850 of the displaced workers. The money is supposed to be used for skills training, counseling and job search assistance. (The plant closing in Easton has a costly impact - loss of $624,000 in local taxes, for one thing - and the sudden reality of 1,300 unemployed people, some of whom had worked for B&D since the1970s, unable to pay their mortgages or rent, or to support small businesses.) A B&D spokeswoman tells The Sun that the federal aid "is a substantial benefit to the local work force."

January 2004: Black & Decker reports soaring profits in 2003 - $293 million on sales of $4.48 billion - and the company says it anticipates earnings growth of as much as 11 percent in 2004.

Dan Rodricks' column appears Thursdays and Sundays in print and online, and Tuesdays online-only. He is host of the Midday talk show on WYPR-FM.

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