Letter: Councilman Guthrie's take on workplace grant


I want to address the many comments and concerns our office has received lately about Resolution 15-12, and make sure that you have all the correct information. Your opinions and concerns are important and I want to make sure they are addressed.

Resolution 15-12 authorized Harford County's Economic Development department to release $100,000 of the department's funds over three years under the workplace training grant program. In addition, it endorsed the States loan for $750,000 for construction costs including expansion of its current manufacturing operations and renovations and the leasing and renovations of an additional facility, including, installation of new equipment purchases and upgrades.

First and foremost it is important to understand what the Workforce Technical Training Grant Program is. WFTTG is a competitive investment grant program to assist Harford County employers to become more productive and competitive through the acceleration of technical training to their employees. The county budget allocates money each year for the program, and is restricted by strict criteria on how they can spend it and what they can spend it on. The goal of this program and other programs like it is training a better workforce within Harford County and creating jobs in Harford County. The business must be located in Harford County and the employee must work in Harford County and be paid directly by the Harford County business. All businesses may apply. The applications go to the Review Committee which consists of Economic Development Advisory Board members, representative of Harford County's Corporate Community and representatives from Harford County Government. The Review Committee meets three times a year to review the applications. To be approved the business must complete the Workforce Technical Training Grant Application, have job classifications, and meet the level of training needed. They must have a positive economic impact on the company and on the County. The cost of training cannot exceed $1,000 per person per fiscal year, no outstanding business indebtedness to Harford County Government, and consideration will be given to the number of employees for which training grants are requested compared to the number of employees within the company. This program is open to any business operating in Harford County. During the last three years the WFTTG has served more than 75 Harford County companies, both large and small, and within a broad range of industries. The program has provided training assistance to 1,326 employees.

This program is used as an incentive for business to grow and improve their workforce. The better qualified their employees the more marketable they are. Harford County is investing in its residences. Approximately 70 percent of Smiths employees are Harford County Residents and they continue to make every effort to hire within Harford County. Workforce development is a partnership among government, higher education, K-12 schools and industry seeking to foster a productive, skilled and competitive workforce, including high-tech research and development personnel and employees with science, technology, engineering and mathematical training. This is a win-win situation. Harford County residents will benefit from higher education courses, our higher educational facilities will benefit from the additional enrollment and new classes, and business will be able to employ higher skilled and qualified employee's right here in Harford County. In addition, if Smith's Detection does not hire the 103 new employees and lease the building and remain at the 325 employee level through 2016 then the three year loan that the State provided will need to be paid back in full with 3 percent interest and the Workplace Training Grant will be pulled.

Other States and Counties have other more rigorous and business friendly incentive programs including:

• The Boulder City Council flexible rebate business incentive program, which authorizes the Council to consider approval of rebates of certain taxes and fees to primary employers in the city, provided that the companies meet eligibility requirements and sustainability guidelines.

• The Microloan fund is which supply's general working capital to qualifying small businesses and nonprofit organizations. They grant loans of up to $50,000.

• The Governor's Opportunity Fund (GOF) is a discretionary incentive available to the Governor to secure a business location or expansion project for Virginia. Grants are awarded to localities on a local matching basis with the expectation that the grant will result in a favorable location decision for the Commonwealth.

• The Virginia Investment Partnership (VIP) Grant and the Major Eligible Employer Grant (MEE) are discretionary performance incentives designed to encourage continued capital investment by Virginia companies, resulting in added capacity, modernization, increased productivity, or the creation, development and utilization of advanced technology.

• The Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant (VEDIG) is a discretionary performance incentive, designed to assist and encourage companies to invest and create new employment opportunities by locating significant headquarters, administrative or service sector operations in Virginia.

• The Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP) is a program that offers customized recruiting and training assistance to companies that are creating new jobs or experiencing technological change. The program is designed to reduce the human resource development cost of new and expanding companies.

Virginia offers a variety of tax credits that are available for use against a company's corporate tax liability:

• Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit

• Recycling Equipment Tax Credit

• Day Care Facility Investment Tax Credit

• Worker Retraining Tax Credit

• Virginia Port Tax Credit Programs

• Research and Development Tax Credit

• Green Job Creation Tax Credit

Virginia offers some of the broadest sales and use tax exemptions in the U.S.

Virginia does not tax intangible property, manufacturers' inventory, and manufacturers' furniture, fixtures and corporate aircraft.

Administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation, this program assists localities in providing adequate road access to new and expanding basic employers.

TPOF is a discretionary grant available for transportation-related issues related to unique economic development projects.

The list could go on and on. States must be competitive if they want to keep businesses within their State and or County. Why would a business want to stay in an area that is not assisting in their growth or investing in them? Like many of us we will go where we can be the most successful and productive. It is important that Harford County works hard to retain its largest employers including Rite Aid Mid-Atlantic Dist. Center, Jacobs Technology, Klein's ShopRite of Maryland, SAIC, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sephora, Alcore. Due to Harford County's Economic Development program and many dedicated Harford County government workers, Harford County had the fastest over the year wage growth among Maryland's eight large counties and the third fastest nationwide and Harford County had an increase of 6,410 jobs. With more businesses and more jobs comes additional tax revenue and opportunity for growth.

Some agree with the program and see its value but want to know why Smith's Detection? The Harford County Council did not have any involvement with choosing which company the grant goes to but I feel that Smiths Detection meets the qualifications set out by the board and is and has been a productive member of the Harford County Community. Smith's Detection is one of five operating divisions of Smiths Group, a global technology company. They are the world's leading provider of advanced technologies to identify constantly evolving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats. They are the global leader in the provision of threat detection and screening technologies for the military, transportation, homeland security and resilience applications such as; contraband detection, forensic work, meteorological measuring and video network monitoring. They currently employ 222 people and will be adding a projected 103 new employees. Due in part to this grant and other State incentives they will be expanding their operations from 145,00 square feet to 245,000 square feet. They are investing over $1.5 million in their expansion efforts in Harford County. Smiths did not indicate they would reduce their operations in Edgewood but, were looking at relocating these new units to a new location. Since this is the manufacturing portion of the company, they could locate anywhere in the world. It is and was very important to obtain as much of their work in one place and have them consolidate in the Edgewood location. Smith's did look at numerous sites before making their final decision to invest in Harford County.

Smith's Detection today employs over 23,000 people in more than 50 countries throughout its five divisions - John Crane, Smiths Medical, Smiths Detection, Smiths Interconnect and Flex-Tek. However, Edgewood Maryland is its US Headquarters. They work with local military, first responders, transportation authorities, and customs officials to protect our critical national infrastructure throughout the world.

The WFTTG program has assisted 15 Harford County Companies, and trained 276 Harford County employees. Smith's Detection in partnering with WFTTG will, over the next three years, train an additional 100 employees or more. Bring in 103 new jobs. Pay more in property and income tax as a company. Provide additional capital to the surrounding businesses including restaurants and gas stations. Reduce the unoccupied home rates and increase Harford County's revenue enabling Harford County to invest in other projects like, schools, roads, community centers, and libraries. This vote for me was a vote to invest in Harford County, a vote to invest in Harford County employees and to invest in improving and moving our amazing County forward.

Councilman Dion F. Guthrie

District A, Edgewood Joppa

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