News two years ago that toolmaker Stanley Works was merging with Towson-based Black & Decker in a $4.5 billion deal sent ripples of uncertainty across the state.
The loss of a Fortune 500 company could not be good for the area, economic development officials feared. Many worried that the merger would result in major job losses and, in a worst-case scenario, the closure of Black & Decker's Towson campus, ending a century of power tool production and a storied history in the area.
Much of that fear was alleviated Tuesday when Stanley Black & Decker announced that it is investing $12 million in the 33-acre site and is committed to making the campus a major part of the business.
"We were somewhat apprehensive about what would happen, but this investment shows the commitment that Stanley Black & Decker has to Towson," Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said in an interview Tuesday.
While some corporate jobs were eliminated or moved to Connecticut — Stanley's home base — nearly 1,100 people still work at the Towson offices, about the same number as before the merger. Company executives said Tuesday that they have 50 open positions at the facility and that future job growth is likely.
Executives at the power tool company said they decided to keep the Towson campus because it has a well-established group of engineers who are developing new products.
"We have the level of capability, talent and expertise here that gives us a competitive advantage," said Jeffery D. Ansell, Stanley Black & Decker senior vice president and group executive.
The Towson campus serves as headquarters of Stanley's Construction and Do It Yourself division and is where many of the company's new products will be developed. That division represents about half of the company's $10 billion in revenue, Ansell said during a news conference to announce the investment.
The investment, which will occur over the next five years, will be used to modernize the facility. Enhancements will include measures to reduce energy consumption and embrace green technologies.
The oldest building at the campus dates to 1917, the year Duncan Black and Alonzo Decker obtained the world's first patent for a portable power tool.
To help with the improvements, state officials have offered a $1 million loan through the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund. Baltimore County has offered to provide a loan of up to $100,000 to upgrade the property and has also offered recruitment help.
The campus, on Joppa Road in the Towson Commercial Revitalization District, also would be eligible for a county property tax credit on the increased assessment once the property is improved.
"When the merger first happened, nobody knew what was going to happen," said Christian Johansson, Maryland's secretary of business and economic development. "Now we are going to prepare for job growth."
1910: Duncan Black and Alonzo Decker quit their jobs and form their own company with $1,200 in capital. They initially make a bottle-capping machine and a candy-dipping device. They soon begin work on a power drill from a plant on South Calvert Street in today's Inner Harbor.
1917: The firm patents a drill design, called the world's first portable power drill with a pistol grip. It is related to a portable air compressor they also patented. Also, Black & Decker's first plant opens in Towson.
1919: Sales at the young company surpass $1 million annually.
1941: The company makes shells and tools for World War II.
1961: Black & Decker introduces the DustBuster cordless vacuum.
1968: Black & Decker develops a no-torque, cordless power drill used on the Apollo 16 and 17 missions to the moon. The drill is used to drill the moon's surface in the early 1970s.
2009: The company sees earnings decline in part because of the downturn in housing construction but says the demand for its products has started to stabilize.
2010: Stanley Works and Black & Decker announce they are merging in a $4.5 billion deal