Southwest Enterprise Zone to expand in Lansdowne

After the success of two sites in the Southwest Enterprise Zone, the Baltimore County Department of Economic Development is looking to add property on Annapolis Road, near the Anne Arundel County border, and on Alco Place, off Lansdowne Road, to the zone.

According to Sara Trenery, a business development representative for Baltimore County, the county is submitting an application to the state of Maryland to expand the existing Southwest Enterprise Zone that would add the industrial parks in Baltimore Highlands and Lansdowne, respectively.

An enterprise zone is an area of the county in which the state of Maryland supplies property and income tax breaks to businesses in order to promote economic growth.

The success stories in the enterprise zone include both Lansdowne Station on Washington Boulevard and the BWTech Research Park on the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, campus. Neither now qualifies for giving tax credits to new businesses in their areas.

To be in the enterprise zone, an area must meet one of four requirements, based on census data. Those include high poverty levels, population loss, a large portion of low-income residents and a significant number of vacant or demolished properties.

The Southwest Enterprise Zone is one of only three in the county. It was created in 1996 and requalified by the state as an enterprise zone in 2003 for a 10-year period.

This year, after the county decided to re-apply and add more areas to the zone, Trenery said county officials scoured the southwest part of the county to make sure every eligible area was included in the zone for the next 10-year period.

"We tried to pick up anything else we could that was in reasonable (distance from the existing zone)," Trenery said.

Trenery hosted a meeting with community members March 27 in the Lansdowne Library to discuss the expansion of the Southwest Enterprise Zone in Lansdowne.

"In these last 10 years, you've seen some amazing things," Trenery told the group.

"Our hope is that we can continue that momentum in expanding the zone," she said.

Trenery said the largely industrial space in the southwest area, which encompasses 1,840 acres from MD 295 to Washington Boulevard to Hammonds Ferry Road and the Baltimore County border at Patapso Avenue, was seen as underutilized before 1996. The tax credits provided by the zone helped bring life to the area, she said.

According to a county fact sheet handed out at the meeting, more than 1,100 new jobs have been created and more than $150 million in private investments have gone into property improvements since that time.

"Most of these buildings were decrepit," Trenery said. "The buildings needed a lot of work."

The tax credits, on both income and property, encourage business owners to make improvements to their property and hire new employees.

"Anybody who wants to make an improvement on their property ... they would be eligible for the real tax credit," Trenery said.

"We're just trying to keep up the momentum of improvement," she said.

First District Councilman Tom Quirk, who attended last week's meeting, said he thinks the enterprise zone's expansion will benefit the community.

"Lansdowne, Baltimore Highlands, Riverview, has had tremendous economic revitalization and success, much of which is due to the enterprise zone," Quirk said. "Great examples include Bakery Express (on Hollins Ferry Road in Halethorpe) and Lansdowne Stationard)," Quirk said.

Halethorpe resident Sandy Cullen said

she is in full support of the new zone, especially since it will not affect any existing businesses or zoning laws in the area.

"I can't see there are any negatives," said Cullen, a former president of the Halethorpe Improvement Association.

At one point in the meeting, Cullen asked Trenery if the southwest had become a shining example of what an enterprise zone should be.

Trenery said she thinks it has.

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