Robotic spies, industrial air tools and photographic equipment are the stuff of which growth is made in Carroll County.

Three companies that manufacture these diverse products were honored Monday by the Carroll Economic Development Commission and the Greater Baltimore Committee for expansions in the past year.

"We're honoring Carroll County's best," said Thomas J. Chmura, GBC deputy director.

The GBC is a private-sector group that works tobring business to the region.

More than 80 percent of the growth and new jobs in the Baltimore region comes from existing companies, Chmura said.

About 75 people attended the awards reception at Martin's Westminster. Four other nominees for the 3rd annual Venture Awardwere recognized.

The winners were:

* F & M Machine Corp., 4312Blackrock Road in Hampstead.

A subsidiary of F & M, Robotic Systems Technology Inc., has a $5 million contract to make 14 robotic spies out of all-terrain vehicles for the Marines and Army to use in battle (Dec. 16, "Local company beats out big guys to make robots," Carroll County Sun).

RST, formed last spring, is setting up operations now and expects to have the first vehicle delivered by Labor Day, said chairman Dana E. Caro.

The subsidiary also has a contract with Martin Marietta Corp. to design a robotic excavator for handling hazardous wastes for the U.S. Department of Energy.

RST has four principals and 14 employees.

F & M, founded in 1976, makes parts for space shuttles, satellites, jet engines and other machines. The company made the trigger mechanism for the launcher of the Patriot missile, Caro said.

* Master Power Inc., 909 E. Baltimore Blvd. in Westminster.

The company, formerly a subsidiary of Black & Decker Corp., makes tools for customers that need "to drill, screw, cut or grind," said Scott Ziegler, director of finance.

In the last two years, the company added 68 new products, nearly doubling its catalog.

MasterPower sells to a network of industrial distributors who sell to end users, he said.

In 1986, Albert G. Wordsworth and Phillip D. Ray purchased the company from Black & Decker, Ziegler said.

Master Power had been operating since 1939; Black & Decker bought it in 1959.

The company employs about 100 people, Ziegler said.

* Omega/Arkay, 1900 Hanover Pike in Hampstead.

The company, which moved to thecounty from Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1988, makes photographic equipment for darkrooms.

Last spring, Omega was $3 million in debt and filed for bankruptcy. In May, a Howard County investment group purchased thecompany and kept it operating.

In November, Omega purchased ArkayCorp. of Milwaukee, Wis., which made sinks, film dryers and other darkroom equipment.

The company continues to grow, chairman Charles Ezrine said, and now has about 80 employees, an increase of about 35 from last year.

Its goal for the next year is to consolidate operations under one roof, he said.

Omega/Arkay currently rents 17,000 square feet of space at the Westminster Air Business Center, he said.

Other nominees for the Venture Award were: Carroll Lutheran Village, Westminster; McShea & Co., Gaithersburg, Montgomery County; Johnson Graphics Inc., Westminster; Hillsdale Farm Greenhouses, Westminster.

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