Baltimore County officials say Amazon in 'final phase' of negotiations for facility at Tradepoint Atlantic

Amazon is in the final phase of negotiations to build a $225 million distribution center at the site of the old Sparrows Point steel mill that could result in 1,500 new jobs, according to Baltimore County officials.

County officials are touting the deal, though representatives from Amazon and the developer of the Tradepoint Atlantic project at Sparrows Point declined to discuss the project. A spokeswoman for Amazon said the company doesn’t comment on “speculation.”

County officials are nevertheless confident a deal is close.

“We believe Amazon is interested in the site,” said Will Anderson, director of economic and workforce development for Baltimore County.

At a work session Tuesday, he urged members of the County Council to support $2.2 million in state and local financial incentives for the project.

“We are proactively putting pieces in place to attract an Amazon fulfillment center to Tradepoint Atlantic,” County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said in a statement. “With 1,500 new jobs at stake, we want to show Amazon that we mean business.”

Council documents say the state is offering Amazon a $2 million conditional loan that the online retail giant would not have to pay back if it meets certain targets. Details have not yet been made public, but generally such conditional loans are forgiven if the company involved creates or maintains a certain number of jobs.

Officials with the state’s Department of Commerce have declined to discuss the potential loan and Amazon project.

Anderson said Amazon already has 2,000 employees in Maryland. He said he believes the company will be required to maintain a certain number of jobs not only at Sparrows Point, but also statewide. Amazon already has a distribution center on Broening Highway in Southeast Baltimore and is building another center in Cecil County.

“You can’t simply shift those people from one location to another,” Anderson said. “So the state will set up a larger number that has to be retained over a set period of time, on top of the conditions of the new jobs here — in this case, 1,500 jobs.”

Baltimore County also would offer a $200,000 conditional loan, a provision required under terms of the state loan.

A council vote on support for the overall incentive package is scheduled for Monday. County support is required for the state loan to go through.

“This is really a proactive measure by the county to try to help Tradepoint Atlantic land a deal with Amazon,” Anderson said.

The potential Amazon distribution center would span 855,000 square feet and would take 18 months to build at a cost of $225 million, according to information provided to the council.

County Councilman Todd Crandell, a Republican who represents the area, said it’s important for the county to offer incentives to help move the deal along.

Council Chairman Tom Quirk also expressed support for the project.

“With over $225 million investment, if we’re able to capture that it’s just huge for Tradepoint and huge for the county,” the Catonsville Democrat said.

Kamenetz has said an Amazon center would boost employment at the various new operations at Tradepoint Atlantic above the 2,000 jobs that were lost when the Sparrows Point steel mill’s then-owner, RG Steel, went bankrupt in 2012.

“If this economic development effort is successful, by the end of next year there will be more people working at Sparrows Point than when the steel mill closed in 2012,” he said.

Kamenetz, a Democrat, launched his campaign for governor last week.

The proposed distribution center at Tradepoint Atlantic is separate from Amazon’s search for a site to build a second North American headquarters that would employ some 50,000 workers.

State officials have suggested Port Covington in South Baltimore as a possible candidate for that project, and last week Prince George’s County officials pitched sites in that jurisdiction as well. The deadline for cities to submit proposals to Amazon for the secondary headquarters is Oct. 19.

Anderson called landing the second headquarters in Maryland more of a “moonshot,” while the Amazon distribution center in Sparrows Point is “very close” to happening.

Since Tradepoint Atlantic, formerly Sparrows Point Terminal, bought the 3,100-acre steel mill property in 2014, it has attracted a number of tenants toward its goal of building a logistics and light industrial campus. The site is zoned industrial and has its own port plus access to two railroads and the Baltimore Beltway, which has made it attractive so far for companies engaged in shipping and distribution.

The first big-name tenant, FedEx, held a grand opening ceremony for its distribution center last week.

Other tenants include auto importer Pasha Automotive, building materials distributor Atlantic Forest Products, a Harley-Davidson training school and Under Armour, which is building a 1.3 million-square-foot distribution center for online orders that will employ 1,000 people.

Under Armour received a similar $2 million conditional state loan, and the state said it would fund an additional $2 million in property and infrastructure improvements for Under Armour through the Maryland Economic Development Corp.

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