Baltimore County Now
Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore County Executive
It’s hard to find a longtime Baltimore County resident who doesn’t know someone who worked at Sparrows Point -- a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a co-worker. Over more than 125 years, tens of thousands of men and women worked at the Sparrows Point steel mill, and at many other businesses connected to steelmaking.
The Point provided good paying jobs that supported families for generations.
Working here was more than a job. Whether you were in the hot mill, the tin mill or the cold mill; whether you worked in the office or drove a truck, working at the Point meant knowing that your hard work was making a difference.
Baltimore County steel helped keep America strong -- it was vital to the effort during two World Wars. Baltimore County steel stands in our nation’s infrastructure, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
Part of my job as Baltimore County Executive is to step back and look at the big picture, to see how we can make the most of what makes our County great. At Sparrows Point, I see everything we need to bring back jobs for this generation -- and for generations to come.
The basis for our optimism is simple. Sparrows Point has a unique combination of assets that just can’t be found anywhere else along the East Coast: more than five square miles of industrially zoned land, deepwater access, and infrastructure and transportation, including rail service right to the front door.
Most exciting are the opportunities for expansion of the Port and port-related uses. We have every reason to believe that the Port could easily bring 10,000 new, family-supporting jobs back to the Point. Advanced manufacturing, distribution and logistics, and clean energy could add even more jobs.
There’s one more vital asset: we have people who work hard and work smart. These are workers who know what it means to put in a good day’s work for a good day’s pay.
Let’s face it: being a steelworker wasn’t the easiest job. The work was always hard and often dangerous. It took a combination of brains and brawn. But talk to any steelworker from any generation, and you’ll learn there’s something about working here that created a special bond that will last for generations, through good times and bad.
Shortly after the mighty L-furnace was built, steelworkers welded the “Star of Bethlehem” to its tower and lit it as a symbol of strength, pride and hope. I am pleased that the new owners of the property, Sparrows Point Terminal, are preserving the Star to help all of us, and future generations, stay connected to these values.
Let’s join with former steelworkers and their families as we look toward a bright future for the men and women of steel. We can all learn from their legacy.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz
For almost 125 years, Sparrows Point was synonymous with steel; steel that built battleships and the Golden Gate Bridge. That proud tradition ended in 2012, when RG Steel closed the Sparrows Point steel mill.
We never viewed the Sparrows Point peninsula as the resting place of a declining smokestack industry, but as 5.3 square miles of land with a combination of assets rarely found in one place in the Northeast United States. We have every reason to believe the unique assets on the peninsula, led by explosive growth at the Port of Baltimore, will bring more than 10,000 new jobs to Eastern Baltimore County. Here’s why.
The Sparrows Point peninsula has 3,300 acres of industrially zoned land, over 6 miles of deepwater frontage, two commercial railroads, direct access to the Beltway and I-95, and a highly capable, motivated workforce. This combination is precisely what’s needed for industrial and maritime uses.
In February 2012, I established the Sparrows Point Partnership, a business advisory group chaired by Dan Gundersen, Executive Director of the Baltimore County Department of Economic Development, to study opportunities for business attraction and job growth on the peninsula. The Partnership identified four major market opportunities: port and maritime uses, clean energy, advanced manufacturing and assembly, and distribution, logistics and freight.
Port and Maritime
The expanded Panama Canal opens new global shipping opportunities, making a new marine terminal at Coke Point a real possibility for the peninsula. The Coke Point area can accommodate a dredge containment site that will allow maintenance, and therefore extended vitality, of existing port operations. Once the dredge containment site is filled out in about 10 years, a new marine terminal can be built on the site, creating an estimated 9,000 new family supporting jobs. Another 1,000 jobs could be created within three years on the east side of Coke Point near the turn-around basin, with a former iron ore pier immediately available for bulk commodities, including loading and unloading of automobiles.
Sparrows Point’s central location and available industrial land could accommodate clean, renewable energy facilities for solar, wind, biomass, landfill gas, and small hydroelectric power generation. Maryland’s newly authorized offshore wind operations will require vast assembly and equipment staging areas compatible with the peninsula.
Sparrows Point holds market opportunities in advanced manufacturing and value added assembly for a range of products including high speed, heavy and light rail transportation, rail cars and ships, and marine vehicles. Additional opportunities relate to key export sectors such as electrical equipment, advanced fabrication of metal products, and specialized machinery.
With direct rail, port and interstate access, Sparrows Point holds potential for distribution and logistics parks that add value to the supply chain. New concepts such as “freight villages,” for example, offer warehousing space for various term leases, along with equipment and services supporting logistics and distribution activities.
Environmental condition of the property
Despite environmental contamination from more than 100 years of steelmaking, the Partnership concluded that environmental constraints should not deter industrial redevelopment for the vast majority of Sparrows Point. Remediation and redevelopment of about 80% of the site – approximately 2,400 acres -- should be feasible in the not-too-distant future. Five areas with the most serious contamination, totaling about 600 acres primarily at Coke Point, would require extensive, challenging remediation, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.
For generations, Sparrows Point and the industrial neighborhoods of East Baltimore County have represented the promise of good paying jobs and the potential for greater economic prosperity. We now have a broad vision for how we can return that promise back to reality.
In the coming weeks, we will present this vision to the community for feedback.
With the Port in the lead, we have every reason to be optimistic that the new Sparrows Point will bring at least 10,000 new jobs and millions of dollars in new investment. And that benefits everyone in Baltimore County.
The full Sparrows Point Partnership report is available on line at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/business .