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State approves tax credit zones

The state has approved bigger tax breaks for industrial properties in Southeast Baltimore, including the site of a new Amazon warehouse. Designed to spur job creation, the benefits took effect Tuesday.

The new "focus areas" provide property owners with a 10-year, 80 percent property tax credit on value added by physical improvements. They also boost the credits granted for wages paid to new employees and offer breaks for investments in "personal property," such as machinery.

The benefits apply to about 2.4 square miles around Holabird Avenue and about 7.4 square miles in Orangeville, excluding the residential area. That's a smaller zone than the nearly 15-square-mile area the city requested in its April application, cutting out much of the Haven Avenue corridor, as well as the former Pulaski incinerator site.

The properties also lie within the city's nearly 14,000-acre Enterprise Zone, which offers similar, but more limited benefits.

Karen Glenn Hood, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, said the state shrank the area, which had followed industrial zoning boundaries, because it wanted to balance fiscal concerns with efforts to promote job growth. The state reimburses local jurisdictions for half of the property tax rebate.

Baltimore Development Corp. President Brenda McKenzie said the city can apply to add the eliminated areas if a project comes forward. In addition to the Amazon warehouse, the approved areas include the Sun Products plant and the Mars distribution center — both of which said they were closing earlier this year — as well as a site proposed for a new U.S. Postal Service facility.

"For a diverse economy, a diverse job base, industrial jobs are critical," McKenzie said. "It's important to have the incentives in place because that way the folks that are interested in investing, they know what's available and it helps them put the deal together faster and consequently we get the jobs realized faster."

The state also expanded Harford County's Edgewood-Joppa enterprise zone, which was set to expire this year, adding 26 acres. The now 3,959-acre swath along the U.S. 40 corridor includes several business parks, as well as the Kohl's e-commerce center.

nsherman@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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