Baltimore County seems on the verge of making a very shortsighted zoning decision. Politicians apparently have decided that manufacturing is not going to revive itself in the county so we might as well just put in more retail stores that compete with existing ones. If the Baltimore County Council rezones the 53-acre Solo Cup site from manufacturing to retail, the county will permanently lose a site with unique features along with the opportunity to build its tax base and bring in good jobs.
The current economy should not panic us into making a shortsighted decision. We have recovered from bigger catastrophes, and we will recover from this one. There are already signs that better times are ahead for manufacturing. The Brookings Institute web has recently published articles on the future of clean manufacturing plants in the U.S. that cite evidence of revival and predict further growth, including in computing, pharmaceuticals and transportation equipment.
On manufacturing, the Brookings Institute notes, "the surprising strength of this once-battered sector holds promise for strengthening the U.S. economy overall." It goes on to say that "a team of scholars at the Brookings Institution has looked at the past five quarters of economic data to explore how growth in manufacturing is helping to support the nation's fragile economic recovery – with a particular emphasis on key metropolitan areas in a 21st century dominated by high-tech industries."
Also from the Brookings site is an article originally published in the Los Angeles Times on May 9, 2012: "Local governments and institutions also have a role to play in charging American manufacturing and creating a more prosperous economy." The article cites the need for proximity to colleges, innovative and skilled workers, a safe and stable location with industrial zoning, and investment in infrastructure to improve freight transport.
The Solo Cup site already provides the key essentials mentioned for manufacturing, including a spur to a railroad line on its property. It has major universities nearby. It has access to bus lines and subway for transporting workers. It is near served by three major interstate highways and the port for moving goods. Most importantly, it is a "safe, stable place to do business," close to excellent schools and housing.
Has our county government given up on trying to secure manufacturing? As the economy improves, there may be innovative companies with clean manufacturing that will want such a prime spot. If we lose this site to retail, the chance will be gone forever to market its great potential for real economic growth.
Nancy Cox, Owings Mills