The Howard County Council has an opportunity to give a big boost to the economy of Maryland in general and to Howard County in particular. It should not be missed.
By granting an exception to Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. to waive or substantially reduce the fee the county charges for access to water, council members will be saving a major project that could create up to 500 jobs and provide millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state and county.
That is the kind of economic irrigation Maryland needs now in the face of fiscal drought. Anything less than serious consideration and approval of a negotiated concession on the part of the Howard County Council would be a disastrous and foolhardy move.
County residents, indeed all Marylanders, have already seen round after round of budget cuts as the economy has floundered. The Coke project alone will not cure the state's anemia, but the high-impact project will go a long way toward producing a healthier outlook.
Coca-Cola is proposing to build a 650,000-square-foot regional headquarters and bottling plant that is to be the prototype for new, regional distribution centers nationwide.
It is nothing short of a coup that Coca-Cola seems to have settled on Howard County as the site for its first effort of this kind.
Not only are the potential rewards great in terms of revenue and jobs, the high profile and prestige it would bring to Howard County could prove a priceless economic development tool in recruiting other major industries to the area.
This is not to say the county council should concede whatever the firm wants.
But as far as the fee for connecting the proposed plant to already constructed water lines, even waiving the $6 million cost would not be too much of a concession.
As county council member C. Vernon Gray aptly pointed out, "The several million dollars in connection charges would be repaid (to) the county many fold."
That is something members of the Howard council need to consider as they take up this matter today. The economic growth of the county will be affected substantially by their decision.