A good deal

March 01, 2012

It's the kind of thing that gets discussed a lot at the local level, but often isn't pursued with vigor or ends up being done in a half-baked sort of way, so it was kind of surprising when Harford Community College and APG Federal Credit Union announced this week the credit union had purchased the naming rights to a building at the college.

Over the years in Harford County, people on various boards and commissions have suggested selling naming rights and other atypical ways to raise money for public and quasi-public projects. Though generally well-received at board and commission meetings, the proposals generally come to nothing.

For example, a few years back when Harford County Public Schools was in the market for a new administration building, there was a suggestion that a facility be built that would involve leasing sidewalk-level space to private ventures to cover the cost, or part of the cost, of the debt service on a multi-floor building. While there would be issues relating to the efficacy of having a government agency run a property-leasing operation, the proposal warranted a closer look. Even so, it ended up living and dying as nothing more than a suggestion.

Not so with Harford Community College. Clearly, the deal the college administration worked out with the managers of one of the biggest private employers in the area, APG Federal Credit Union, is one that didn't come about overnight. The credit union has committed to give $50,000 a year over a span of 15 years ($750,000 in all) in exchange for having the naming rights to the Susquehanna Center.

The college's main athletics building, the Susquehanna Center, to be known as the APG Federal Credit Union Arena at Harford Community College, will be the largest indoor arena in the region once the major reconstruction project is completed.

In exchange for its expenditure, APGFCU will have its logo posted at key locations in the new facility. It's a reasonable exchange: three quarters of a million dollars contributed to a $27.7 million project in exchange for a little publicity.

Similarly, the college's plan to sell naming rights for seats in the new arena for $100 each is a good idea: the price is right for families and there's the potential for the school to bring in $120,000. While the amount being brought in by the name-selling opportunities isn't massive, it is substantial enough to make a difference.

The college's persistence in this matter, and APGFCU's willingness to participate, both show that there are more ways to secure pretty large sums of money for public projects than government grants and tuition hikes. Looking at funding problems from this perspective is something that should probably be looked at with more intensity in the future and by operations beyond Harford Community College.

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