DBED secretary speaks to local business owners
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 13:52

Amazon deal among topics discussed

by Nicole Rodman

    One of the most pressing issues facing both local residents and business owners is the health of the economy in Dundalk.
    To learn more about state efforts to aid local economic growth, the Dundalk Chamber of Commerce invited Dominick Murray, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED), to speak before the group at the Sparrows Point Country Club last Thursday.
    In his remarks, Murray touched on several topics, including the opening of an Amazon.com fulfillment center at the former General Motors (GM) site near Holabird Avenue and Broening Highway.
    Last October, Amazon announced that it would open a one-million-square-foot fulfillment center at the 184-acre site.
    The fulfillment center is expected to bring more than 1,000 jobs to the area.
    As Amazon pointed out, and Murray confirmed last week, each of these jobs is expected to pay at least 30 percent above minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour), or about $9.43 per hour.
    In his remarks last week, Murray outlined the assets and incentives that led Amazon to locate its new fulfillment center in the area.
    As Murray pointed out, the former GM site’s close proximity to railroads, highways and the Port of Baltimore made it an attractive location for a distribution center.
    According to Murray, two-thirds of U.S. consumers can be reached from the Port of Baltimore in an overnight drive. One-third of U.S. consumers can be reached in a 12-hour drive.
    “We have a tremendous geographical asset here,” Murray noted.
    DBED also worked with Amazon, putting together an incentive package worth $23 million.

The incentive package was offered through the department’s MEDAAF (Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund) program.
    Companies may be eligible for funds through MEDAAF if they meet certain criteria.
    In order to receive funds, companies must make a commitment to capital expansion and hiring.
    Murray noted that Amazon says it plans to invest $212 million to open a fulfillment center at the former GM site.
    The incentives offered to Amazon through the MEDAAF program included cash, property tax credits, the Enterprise Zone tax credits and the One Maryland tax credit.
    Amazon plans to open its new fulfillment center by the end of the year.
    In his remarks last week, Murray also spoke briefly about efforts to repurpose the Sparrows Point steel mill site.
    Site owners Hilco Industrial (which owns the above-ground assets) and Environmental Liability Transfer (which owns the land) are in the process of dismantling the mill and performing environmental remediation to the site.
    While Murray admitted that the future of the site “is in private sector hands,” he did note that DBED is working to attract “innovative” new businesses to the location through the MEDAAF program.
    During the question-and-answer session following Murray’s remarks, one Chamber member asked about the impact of stormwater remediation fees on businesses.
    Stormwater remediation fees, known colloquially as the “Rain Tax,”  are part of the highly-controversial Stormwater Management — Watershed Protection and Restoration Program.
    Passed by the Maryland General Assembly in April 2012, the program includes fees charged to both private and commercial property owners.
    Fees are calculated based on the amount of paved surface on a property.
    Fees collected will be used to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
    Murray defended the stormwater management fee, saying, “It’s what needed to be done.”
    He added that one of the features his department touts in its efforts to attract new businesses to Maryland is “the health of our bay.”
    He downplayed concerns that the fees would hurt businesses, saying, “I have not had that many people come to me and say, ‘This is really anti-growth.’”
    For more information on programs offered through the DBED, visit www.choosemaryland.org.