Eight Harford County businesses, which are in or near the state-designated Greater Aberdeen/Havre de Grace Enterprise Zone, are seeking county approval for real property tax credits in exchange for capital investment and creating new jobs.
The applications affect nine properties, including three that are outside the enterprise zone boundary. The County Council must adopt one resolution per property to give the applicants the tax credits. The credits would be applied over 10 years starting July 1, 2017.
Those resolutions were the subject of a public hearing before the Harford County Council Tuesday evening. Karen Holt, the county's economic development director, noted applicants must create at least two new jobs and invest at least $75,000 if they have 10 employees or fewer, or create at least five new jobs and invest at least $125,000 if they have 11 or more employees to qualify for the Aberdeen/Havre de Grace zone credits.
The enterprise zone's boundaries include the cities of Aberdeen and Havre de Grace and surrounding areas.
Holt described each business' proposed investment and job creation, which accounts for a combined $148.3 million in capital investment, plus at least 850 full-time jobs and 64 part-time jobs.
The applicants include major employers such as Frito Lay Inc, which is adding two manufacturing lines and warehouse space to its Aberdeen plant, e-commerce firm XPO Logistics, which is investing in a warehouse off of Chelsea Road in Perryman, MRP Industrial, which is building the EastGate distribution center in Perryman, D. Wheatley Enterprises, a plastics engineering and manufacturing firm that is investing in a facility off of Brass Mill Road in Belcamp, and Bel Air Auto Auction operator BSC America, which is building a new facility for auctions and vehicle service in Riverside.
The Wheatley Enterprises and Auto Auction properties are outside of the boundaries.
Harford County is applying to the Maryland Department of Commerce to expand the boundaries. Holt said county officials expect to hear from the state by mid-December. The county wants to add 696 acres to the zone, including Fieldside Commons in Aberdeen and the Riverside Business Park, of Belcamp, according to Resolution 23-16, which the council adopted Sept. 20.
XPO Logistics is a global firm that announced its expansion to Harford County in October.
"This is their first time in Harford County, but they do have a presence elsewhere in the state and the country," Holt told council members.
Council President Richard Slutzky noted the firm is "a major international operation that's one of the largest on the East Coast."
"This is a real opportunity for Harford County," he said.
Smaller businesses in the Aberdeen/Havre de Grace area are applying for the tax credit, too. They include Harford Property Services, which is investing in new office space on North Union Avenue and Warren Street in Havre de Grace, and restaurants Coakley's Pub and Backfin Blues: Creole de Graw, both of Havre de Grace.
The Backfin restaurant is in the former Chiapparelli's building on North Union Avenue.
The existing zone encompasses 8,900 acres, according to Holt's presentation. It was created in 1996, recertified in 2006 and again this year, meaning it will be certified through June of 2026.
The county also has an Edgewood/Joppa Enterprise Zone that covers 3,946 acres and is certified through 2024, according to Holt.
Businesses get an 80 percent credit on real property taxes for the first five years, and it then decreases by 10 percent each year for the next five years, according to Holt. The state will reimburse the county for 50 percent of the credit, she said.
Bel Air resident John Mallamo was the only person who spoke during the public hearing. He is concerned that the county cannot afford the tax credits for businesses, as his review of county tax, revenue and employment data shows the majority of property tax revenue coming from residential property owners, especially those who make more than the county's median income of about $80,000.
Mallamo said "each [new] job that pays less than the required revenue is a tax burden." He encouraged council members to "conduct an analysis to figure out how many new jobs Harford County can, in fact, afford."
"I'd ask that you infuse a balance so that you don't jeopardize the economic picture of Harford County and you don't jeopardize the tax base," he said.