"There's other distressed areas," he said. "In Western Maryland, there's a lot of poverty."

Hough represents parts of Washington and Frederick counties. Frederick County has no enterprise zones, but his town of Brunswick could use the help, he said. "Almost the whole Main Street's vacant, so it is seriously economically depressed."

Beyond that, he said, his constituents are frustrated with the level of state aid going to Baltimore. And in this case they are being forced to foot part of the bill for the city's decision to subsidize high-priced waterfront development.

"For every dollar that citizens in Frederick County send to Annapolis, we get roughly a little over 40 cents back," he said. "And they know that Baltimore City is surviving off of subsidies from the rest of the state."

Critics say those subsidies are not evenly spread and have made little difference in parts of the city, including the Jonestown neighborhood, home to many poor families, a few blocks north of Harbor East.

"The big surge in employment that we were promised has never materialized," said the Rev. Richard Lawrence, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church and founder of the Jonestown Planning Council. "Harbor East was not intended to do anything for the working-class population in Baltimore."

Thirty years ago, Schaefer had a very focused view of the enterprise zone. The goal was to target "places in need of investment where it was halting, if it existed at all," former aide Mark Wasserman recalled.

Schaefer embraced the enterprise zone concept in part because of the election of Republican Ronald Reagan as president in 1980, signaling a sharp decline in Washington's decades-long support for urban renewal, Wasserman said. Schaefer saw local property tax breaks as a way to help make up for a drop-off in federal grants and other assistance.

Bernard L. Berkowitz, who in the 1980s led a predecessor organization to the BDC, said Schaefer thought incentives could make a difference in industrial or commercial areas that were "in or adjacent to low-income communities to spur growth in those communities, help bring jobs and so forth."

Park Circle, a derelict former amusement park, fit the bill. By the early '80s, the area sat fallow in a community with an acute job shortage. And the incentives worked, Berkowitz said, if "not to the extent we would have liked." At least one building is now vacant, but the sausage plant remains open — once Parks Sausage, it's now Dietz & Watson — as do an office park and other businesses.

But Berkowitz doesn't fault city officials for expanding the zone, given the drying up of federal aid and the economy's shift away from industry to business services, whose firms want to be downtown and on the waterfront.

"It's not what we had in mind in terms of enterprise zone development, but the economy is very different than it was 30 years ago," he said.

Mark Vulcan, who oversees the program for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, said Baltimore officials "absolutely" have used the enterprise zone well.

"But for it, Harbor East might not have occurred and we'd be looking at vacant land over there, possibly," he said. "The jobs are there, the capital investment is there. I think it worked."

Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell, a Baltimore Democrat with a background in community development, disagreed. She said the outsized flow of benefits to waterfront areas is "absolutely not" what should be happening. She's not arguing for those areas to be off-limits for incentives, just that worse-off communities should receive more than they have been getting.

"Really, looking back in retrospect, how good were those programs for the people they were meant to serve?" she asked.

Because of incorrect information provided by the Baltimore City Finance Department, an article published in the Aug. 25 editions of The Baltimore Sun exaggerated the size of this year's enterprise zone tax credit for One Charles Center.





How the tax break works

Businesses get a 10-year property tax credit for new construction or renovations. The credit is based on new taxes generated as a result of the investment.

The city forgives 80 percent of the taxes for five years, then the credit diminishes over the next five years. The discount in the 10th year is 30 percent.

The state of Maryland reimburses local governments for half the taxes forgone.