Tradepoint Atlantic, the company redeveloping the old Sparrows Point steel mill in eastern Baltimore County, is laying the groundwork for seeking tens of millions of dollars in public support for needed infrastructure on the site.
The developer commissioned an economic analysis released Thursday evening that suggests creating a public-private partnership to spend more than $100 million on infrastructure improvements to boost the company's redevelopment of Sparrows Point.
A partnership between the developer and state and local governments could fund some of the more than $200 million needed in new roads, bridges, utilities, stormwater management systems and rail and port-related projects that are needed, according to the report presented Thursday by Sage Policy Group.
Tradepoint Atlantic CEO Michael Moore said he expects to make a decision whether to seek such a partnership within the next three months. He said the company is "at the front end" of its decision-making process.
A public-private partnership likely would take the form of a tax-increment financing agreement in which Baltimore County would issue bonds to pay for infrastructure projects up front. Under such a scenario, the bonds would be repaid by increased property taxes down the line.
While the deals — referred to as TIFs — are common in Baltimore City to spur development, they are rarely used in Baltimore County. The county government is not "philosophically opposed" to TIFs, said Don Mohler, a spokesman for County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat.
"We are always willing to review the details of a proposal if one comes forward," Mohler said.
County Councilman Todd Crandell, who represents Sparrows Point, said he's had "cursory conversations" with Tradepoint Atlantic officials about infrastructure financing. The Dundalk Republican said it's too early to say what size or scope of a deal would be appropriate.
"Government needs to help create the environment for success," said Crandell, though he cautioned that the county needs to make decisions that are fiscally prudent.
Tradepoint Atlantic bought the shuttered steel mill in east Baltimore County with plans to redevelop it into an industrial campus with port, rail, logistics and light manufacturing uses. The company is a joint venture of local firm Redwood Capital Investments and the Chicago-based liquidation and redevelopment firm Hilco.
If the government pitches in on infrastructure, Tradepoint could realize its potential "more quickly and more broadly," Sage wrote in its report.
"Should the public sector choose not to engage in a public-private partnership, development at Tradepoint Atlantic will be delayed and predicted economic and fiscal impacts will be jeopardized," according to the report.
Sage Chairman and CEO Anirban Basu said public-private financing for infrastructure could help lure a manufacturing company to Tradepoint. Otherwise, Basu thinks the industrial tenants would be distribution and logistics tenants, which have lower-paying jobs than manufacturers.
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"This could be the building of something very special," Basu told more than 200 people who attended an open house at Sparrows Point Thursday night.
The report also found that once fully built out, Tradepoint Atlantic will support 17,000 jobs statewide with an overall economic impact of nearly $3 billion. State and local governments will take in about $124 million each year in property, income, corporate and sales taxes.
Tradepoint Atlantic also intends to build a commercial center with a hotel, grocery store and other shops to serve workers as well as local residents.
Tenants at Tradepoint Atlantic include Under Armour, which is building a 1,000-employee distribution center for online orders; FedEx, which is building a distribution hub; Pasha Automotive, which imports vehicles; Harley-Davidson, which moved a training school to Sparrows Point; and Atlantic Forest Products, which is moving its headquarters there from South Baltimore.
Sage broke down the needed spending on the site's infrastructure to about $30 million on road and bridges, $35 million on utilities, $100 million on berths and dredging and nearly $19 million on rail improvements over the next five to 10 years.