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Ford arrival could boost county image and tax base Credit office opens tomorrow at Three Ponds Business Park


In a Sunday article about Ford Motor Credit Co., Todd Brace was misidentified as employment training center director for Howard Community College.

Brace is director of the county's employment training center and has helped Ford in its hiring. The community college will provide training to some Ford employees this fall.

The Howard County Sun regrets the errors.

Ford Motor Credit Co. opens its new regional office in Columbia this week, with county officials pointing to the Fortune 500 company's presence as a boon to the area's prestige and its tax base.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker said Ford Credit's arrival increases the county's visibility and should encourage other large corporations to establish offices in Howard.

Ecker added that with the 250 employees expected to work at the Ford branch, the county's tax coffers should also benefit.

"Business and industry has always subsidized the cost of services that the average taxpayer receives," Ecker said. "Even 250 employees makes a difference."

Ford officials denied early press reports that the new office in Columbia would eventually employ up to 1,000.

The credit office, which opens tomorrow at Columbia Gateway's Three Ponds Business Park, is a pilot program for Ford. The company is consolidating its customer service departments from seven Baltimore- and Washington-area branch offices at the Columbia location.

The other branches will continue to focus on working with Ford dealers. But by combining customer service, Ford officials hope to focus on handling an increased number of customer accounts more effectively, said Jessica Hatchigan, a company spokeswoman.

Hatchigan said the company chose Columbia because of its central location and an abundance of child-care facilities.

Most of the employees expected to work at the new facility are relocating from area branch offices. But officials at Howard Community College have been assisting Ford in making a small number of hires.

Tod Brace, who heads the college's employment-training center, said his office has been screening applicants for Ford because the Columbia office has no personnel department yet.

The college's willingness to temporarily screen employees for Ford is seen as a factor in the company's decision to move here.

The 50,000-square-foot building Ford is leasing in Columbia is owned by South Charles Realty Co., an affiliate of Maryland National Bank, which took back the property from Rouse & Associates this year.

Ford Credit, based in Dearborn, Mich., and founded in 1959, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford Motor Co. and provides vehicle financing for about 4.5 million customers. It serves about 8,500 dealers nationwide.

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