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McCormick & Co. will keep headquarters in Baltimore County

Studios Architecture has designed a six-story building for McCormick that will sit on a 20-acre site at 99 Shawan Road in Hunt Valley.
Studios Architecture has designed a six-story building for McCormick that will sit on a 20-acre site at 99 Shawan Road in Hunt Valley. (Courtesy of McCormick & Co.)

McCormick & Co. Inc. has decided to remain in Baltimore County, moving only about two miles, after spending 15 months studying 60 possible sites in three states for a new global headquarters.

The spice and flavorings maker announced its intention Tuesday to relocate its current corporate offices from Sparks to Hunt Valley, where it wants to transform an old telephone company building into a state-of-the art corporate campus.

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The state and county would kick in nearly $4 million of incentives to help retain McCormick.

Once the site at the southwest corner of Shawan and York roads is redeveloped by Westfield, Conn.-based Greenfield Partners LLC, McCormick would bring in more than 900 employees there who are now scattered across several buildings.

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"The preferred site best met our criteria for size, location and ability to create an open, inspirational work environment," said Alan Wilson, McCormick chairman and CEO, in a statement. "This building will truly reflect the McCormick of the future."

But the plans hinge on finalizing agreements with the developer, said Lori Robinson, a McCormick spokeswoman. The company hopes to negotiate the project cost and finalize the deal by September and start construction next April, she said.

Greenfield has already acquired the site and McCormick is reviewing options, including either buying or leasing it, she said. The project, to be completed by mid-2018, would house corporate functions, a health and wellness center, and McCormick's U.S. consumer and industrial divisions.

"We're feeling very good about this location right now," Robinson said.

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Verizon occupies the 339,000-square-foot building on 20 acres at 99 Shawan Road. The developer would gut the interior and re-face the exterior, creating six newly renovated floors, open work spaces, a new cafeteria, training areas and a technology bar in the style of an Apple store, Robinson said. Plans call for expanded parking, walking trails and a pedestrian overpass to the nearby Hunt Valley Towne Centre.

She said the company considered 60 sites in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Shawan Road site, once the home of C&P Telephone Co. in one of Hunt Valley's earliest office buildings, became the front-runner because it's close to the company's Technical Innovation Center and two manufacturing plants in Hunt Valley and offers convenient commute for the company's many workers, Robinson said.

If the current plans fall through, one of the alternate sites would be selected, she said.

Robinson declined to identify other sites, but confirmed the company considered at least two others in Baltimore County: the proposed Towson Row development on York Road in Towson and Metro Centre in Owings Mills.

In December, officials at Corporate Office Properties Trust, which had pitched the company to build the headquarters on waterfront land in Canton, said they were ruled out.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said he met repeatedly with Wilson to negotiate to keep the headquarters in the county.

Founded in Baltimore in 1889, McCormick has had its headquarters in northern Baltimore County for more than four decades.

"We are just delighted McCormick is staying here," said Kamenetz, who at one point even sketched out traffic and pedestrian improvements the county could offer.

The company's decision keeps 2,100 McCormick employees in the county between the headquarters and other facilities. It has not yet decided whether it will sell its current building at 18 Loveton Circle in Sparks.

Baltimore County is offering $1.8 million in traffic and pedestrian improvements and landscaping around the York and Shawan intersection and a $200,000 loan it would forgive if the company maintains its current employee level. The Baltimore County Council would be notified but is not required to approve the loan. The roadwork will be included in part of the overall county Department of Public Works budget. The county's incentives will match state incentives, Kamenetz said.

The state has offered to contribute $2 million in conditional loans for infrastructure improvements, under terms that are being negotiated.

Keeping McCormick was a top priority for Gov. Larry Hogan from the start, said R. Michael Gill, Maryland's secretary of business and economic development.

"It was his No. 1 priority on the business front to make sure that we did everything we could to make sure that McCormick stayed part of Maryland forever," Gill said.

Gill has been friends with Wilson since they met when their sons overlapped in high school about 15 years ago. That friendship didn't secure McCormick's retention, but it helped during the negotiations, Gill said.

"All it really meant was that it would keep the discussions at a good level, at a high level, at a positive level, but it didn't guarantee anything," he said.

Gill said he never got the sense that the state was competing neck-and-neck with another state.

Early on Wilson said he wanted a new headquarters that would cause minimal disruption for the company's employees, many of whom live in northern Baltimore County and southern Pennsylvania.

"I think that we were favored, but you never took it for granted," Gill said. "You've got to be responsive."

Wilson had been scheduled to make a formal announcement Tuesday at the Sparks headquarters, along with Hogan and Kamenetz, but the company canceled the event late Monday as civil unrest gripped parts of Baltimore.

"It's a good story on a day when we're wondering how did this happen in Baltimore City," Gill said.

More than a year ago McCormick said it wanted to bring several scattered administrative offices together at a single site and would consider relocating elsewhere in Maryland or out of state, setting off a scramble in the state and county government.

The company's employees play a large role in Baltimore County, where many live and spend, said Keith Scott, CEO and president of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce.

"To have them leave, would have been a major hole and a gap," he said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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