Baltimore County News
By Stan Jacobs, Department of Economic and Workforce Development
Building, expanding and equipping a manufacturing plant can easily cost millions of dollars. Baltimore County is helping manufacturers invest in their facilities by reducing the cost of borrowing.
How tax exempt bonds fuel manufacturing growth
Enter Industrial Revenue Bonds. Since 2001, Baltimore County has issued $25.7 million in tax exempt Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) to help manufacturers finance the costs of acquiring and expanding facilities, including land, buildings and new equipment. It’s important to note that IRBs carry no financial obligation or risk to the County.
Two Halethorpe firms used tax-exempt bonds to finance the expansion of their facilities: Saver Automotive designs and manufactures windshield wiper blades and Goodwrappers makes stretch wrap packaging for consumer and industrial applications. Strategic Factory, a print marketing company, used an IRB to finance construction and equipment for a new 40,000 square-foot facility in Owings Mills. Zentech, an electronics manufacturing company, used bond funds to buy specialized equipment to make circuit boards for medical, communications and military use.
In 2017, Ruxton Chocolates will move to Baltimore County and begin producing Mary Sue candies in a new plant at Baltimore Crossroads near White Marsh. An $8 million IRB will help finance the chocolate factory.
These companies are investing and putting roots in Baltimore County, adding jobs and generating economic activity.
How IRBs work
A bank buys an industrial revenue bond. Bank loans that use funds from the IRB are partially exempt from federal and state income taxes. This tax savings is passed from the bank to the borrower through a lower interest rate. The bank and the company determine the interest rate and terms. IRBs also can mature for a longer period than conventional loans, sometimes up to 30 years.
The bottom line: a manufacturer pays less interest and can have more time to pay back the loan. This frees up the company’s capital to invest in even more expansion and job creation.
A lot of good things are made in Baltimore County. Tax exempt bonds can provide manufacturers the financing they need to ramp up production even further.
Manufacturing, of Course!
Manufacturing, for many, harkens to World War II, when Baltimore Bombers were built at Glenn L. Martin and steel churned from Sparrows Point.
The legacy smokestack industries as we knew them are gone, but Baltimore County manufacturing has kept what is vital to compete in the 21st century: innovation, precision, and a skilled workforce with generations of success in making things.
County Has Largest Number of Manufacturers in Maryland
National Manufacturing Month is more than another name for October. It’s a time to celebrate the 14,000 manufacturing jobs in Baltimore County. With 839 companies, Baltimore County has the largest number of manufacturers in Maryland, according to the Maryland Workforce Exchange.
Whether it’s aerospace defense, bio tech, industrial, pharmaceutical, information technology, apparel, food, or life sciences, a variety of manufacturers call Baltimore County home. Thousands work at McCormick, Stanley Black and Decker and BD Diagnostic Systems, each with Baltimore manufacturing legacies going back more than a hundred years.
No more 19th century manufacturing and R&D here! For example, McCormick’s Technical Innovation Center is equipped with idea lounges, whiteboards and test kitchens - think “Google” for food. The GM plant in White Marsh with its all-white interior, looking as crisp as an Apple store, manufactures hybrid transmissions and motors for electric cars.
Advanced, precision manufacturing can be found on all sides of the county. Middle River is home to Lockheed Martin and Middle River Aircraft systems, which produce advanced global security and aerospace technology. Textron Systems develops unmanned systems in Cockeysville, while Zentech in Windsor Mill is making circuit boards for defense, aerospace, medical, and communications.
On the “delicious” side… there are headquarters and manufacturing for nutrition and weight loss company Medifast, Michele’s Granola, and Tessamae’s All Natural food products.
So, why do 839 companies make things here? Baltimore County is in the center of the mid-Atlantic market, with a robust freight system, connected highways, a world-class port, and available industrial and flex sites. As these companies grow and implement even more advanced technologies, they find a skilled workforce trained to innovate.
The Education Connection
bwtech@UMBC and the Towson Incubator are cultivation hubs for innovative thinkers. Baltimore County’s Fab Lab, one of the only 3-D fabrication labs open to the public in the Mid-Atlantic, is putting inventors and students at the helm of laser cutters, 3-D printers and prototyping. Recently, the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) announced a course for Design Fabrications and Advanced Manufacturing – a two year associates degree to give students essential skills in the new world of advanced manufacturing.
The new Sollers Point Technical High School, located in Dundalk, is a great example of what’s possible. The high school feels like a college campus outfitted with professional grade mechanical shops where students learn advanced circuitry and hydraulics.
Designing Workforce Training Around Employers’ Needs
Baltimore County Job Centers are providing training designed around employers’ talent needs. The Department of Economic and Workforce Development is working with CCBC and other vendors to offer state-of-the-art training – usually vetted by businesses themselves – in high demand occupations like project management, health services, information technology, diesel service mechanics, commercial construction and real estate. A specialized manufacturing program is being considered for the upcoming year.
More than Just Conveyor Belts
Manufacturing is not a one-direction conveyor belt anymore. So when you’re sitting back after a hard day at work, enjoying a Baltimore County-made beverage from DuClaw or Heavy Seas, think about how manufacturing has changed. And celebrate advanced manufacturing’s multi-directional network of ideas.
Baltimore County Economic and Workforce Development
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.
Revised September 26, 2016