Baltimore County Now
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 .
by Tim Murphy
Baltimore County Department of Economic Development
From the World Trade Center at the Inner Harbor, visitors can take in a long view of the natural waterways and man-made infrastructure leading into Baltimore. From this perch, the Maryland Economic Development Association (MEDA) recently gathered economic development professionals to look at how a major expansion of the Panama Canal can lead to economic expansion here at home.
In just two years, the Panama Canal will open new shipping lanes capable of handling vessels with three times the current cargo loads. These so-called “super ships” will make it cost-effective to carry goods from the Pacific Rim, through the Canal, and directly to customers along the East Coast.
A new Towson University RESI report, commissioned by the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore (EAGB), studied the local impact. The Port of Baltimore is one of only two Eastern seaports currently capable of handling these vessels. According to the RESI study, “the growth and investment in the supply chain will be exponential, impacting everything from shipping and rail line construction to warehousing and terminal development.”
Baltimore County Department of Economic Development’s Strategic Operations Plan, released earlier this year, intentionally aligns with these high employment clusters, including manufacturing, port-related industries, logistics, and distribution centers. Economic Development is also focusing on nine business investment areas, including Sparrows Point. A Sparrows Point Partnership advisory group is providing guidance to the County on the specific types of businesses and new jobs that will benefit from an expanded Panama Canal and Port.
Attendees at the MEDA conference agreed that “opportunity knocks,” but to take full advantage, it will take a coordinated, focused and planned effort. Baltimore County is already ahead of the game.