It is an argument often heard that Maryland has an unfriendly business climate. It is doubtful that opinion is shared by the owners of the Greene Turtle, a sports bar in Towson undergoing expansion that has been selected to receive a $240,000 state loan.
The loan might have gone largely unnoticed had not politicians started raising questions over whether this is the best use of public money.
Two members of the three-member state Board of Public Works, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, have asked why a sports bar in the middle of a booming college town cannot finance its own expansion. The third member of the board is Gov. Martin O'Malley, whose administration proposed the loan.
Also raising questions are 42nd District legislators, Del. Bill Frank, a Republican, and Sen. Jim Brochin, a Democrat.
No one is saying that the Greene Turtle expansion is an unwelcome project. State community development officials argue that the expanded eatery will help keep Towson a vibrant commercial hub, and this likely is true. With big development projects in the pipeline, Towson's York Road center — where Greene Turtle is located — must change and adapt.
"Our center must hold for all of this to work," said Andrea Van Arsdale, Baltimore County planning director.
Meanwhile, the state's $240,000 loan is just part of a $893,000 total financing package that also includes an additional $265,000 Baltimore County loan. The rest of the borrowed money is privately funded.
The sweet part of the county loan, which ironically is not being questioned, is that it could be forgiven if the restaurant meets goals of timely construction and number of employees.
We think the reason for the skepticism is that the public needs to have a better understanding of how these loans are granted and how a business qualifies for them. If that was clear, the questions over the Greene Turtle loan might never have begun.
The loan program has a noble goal, but let's find out more about how it works. Keep the questions coming.