Alan Wilson

Alan Wilson, McCormick's chairman, president and CEO, addresses the company's shareholders during its annual meeting. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun / March 26, 2014)

Spice giant McCormick & Co. Inc. is considering moving its corporate headquarters from Sparks in northern Baltimore County to blend administrative offices at a single site elsewhere in Maryland or southern Pennsylvania, the company said Wednesday.

"It's about consolidating the administrative buildings in Hunt Valley," said Jim Lynn, a company spokesman. "We're in the early stages of a long-term, multiyear project ... to develop a more effective workplace. Our primary objectives are to increase employee collaboration, engagement and efficiency in a more open and centralized location."

The spice and flavorings maker will search for sites primarily in parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania where employees live with a goal of having a minimal impact on worker commutes, Lynn said. McCormick has a high concentration of workers in northern Baltimore County and southern Pennsylvania, he said.

A new headquarters could be newly built or renovated or existing space, he said.

"There aren't a lot of concrete answers," said Lynn, when asked to pinpoint possible areas or the potential size of a new facility. "We're at the very early stages of a long-term process."

The company employs about 2,400 people in Maryland. Its administrative offices with about 800 employees are spread among four buildings, including the headquarters at 18 Loveton Circle in Sparks and three buildings on Schilling Circle in nearby Hunt Valley.

The Schilling Circle buildings house the U.S. consumer products division, the U.S. industrial group, an employment center and a wellness center. The company leases two offices and owns the building at 211 Schilling Circle. The buildings, with the company-owned Sparks headquarters, total about 300,000 square feet.

Lynn said the company had been talking with employees about space-related needs and "in the past few weeks took the project externally and began to connect with developers."

A few weeks ago, Alan Wilson, McCormick's chairman, president and CEO, met with Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and the county's head of economic and workforce development "to talk about a range of issues," said Fronda Cohen, a county spokeswoman.

"We feel confident that McCormick is going to stay where its roots are and keep its headquarters here, where it has significant manufacturing operations," Cohen said.

The relocation search does not involve McCormick's other Hunt Valley facilities, which include a spice plant, a distribution center, a spice mill, and a research and development facility.

The company has deep roots in Maryland. Before moving to Baltimore County, McCormick had its factory and headquarters on Light Street along Baltimore harbor from 1920 to 1989.

"Our first hope would be for them to stay where they are, which is better for regional stability," said Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. "If they are looking elsewhere, we have already put out feelers to some economic development partners about how we can reach out to McCormick. Baltimore was the historic headquarters of McCormick. ... We think there are a lot of reasons why downtown Baltimore could be a competitive location."

The state Department of Business and Economic Development, expects to continue its great relationship with McCormick, whose CEO is on Maryland's Economic Development Commission board, said Karen Glenn Hood, the agency's spokeswoman.

"Obviously, McCormick is an iconic Maryland company, and we will certainly do everything we can to keep them here in Maryland," Hood said.

McCormick has not reached out to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development or the governor's action team, which looks at business opportunities for the state, said Steve Kratz, a department spokesman.

"Certainly, we did see that they are potentially looking at new sites," Kratz said. "If they are seriously looking at Pennsylvania, we're certainly open to having those conversations and really would welcome them to Pennsylvania."

Kratz said it is too early to discuss any potential incentive package, which would depend on proposed economic investment and job metrics, as well as location.

Kenetha Hansen, vice president of economic development for the York County Economic Alliance, a private nonprofit that does economic development work for the county, said it is organization policy to neither confirm nor deny any conversations with businesses.

"When a project is public is if and when the company decides it's public," she said. "We're always happy to work with any prospect."