Marada expansion possible


Pending contracts through fiscal 1996 probably will prompt Marada Industries, a Westminster manufacturer of automotive components, to expand within a year, a company official confirmed Friday.

Details are still undetermined, said Marada controller David M. Bailey.

Marada, which employs 227 people, makes parts for General Motors Corp., Chrysler Corp., Volkswagen, Honda and Jeep.

Engineering designs for the contract items, which are still being developed, will determine what equipment will be necessary to fill the orders and, in turn, dictate the size and scope of the expansion, Mr. Bailey said.

"We know that we are going to need additional square footage, and we know that we've outgrown what we have already," he said.

"We are trying to incorporate [design] changes and changes in size right up to the last minute. I can't state an exact square footage."

The Marada 2 plant, on about 80 acres the company owns east of Route 97, was only 50 percent completed earlier this year when the company determined it needed more space, Mr. Bailey said. Production in the 40,000-square-foot light manufacturing plant began in the summer.

Marada's original plant, in the Air Business Center, has 87,000 square feet.

"There are a lot of variables," Mr. Bailey said. "Even at the 11th hour, a job can be pulled. We aren't the only ones making the decisions."

This year, for example, Marada won a parts contract that would have required an expansion, he said. But the automobile company involved decided to make the part itself and rescinded the contract.

Also, Marada's parent company, Magna International in Toronto, may decide not to expand in Westminster or to fill the contracts at another plant, Mr. Bailey said. The company has about 100 divisions in the United States and Canada, he said.

"We have proposals on the table, and the leaders of our team are trying to make it happen," he said. "We know what we recommended to the corporate office, but it's not totally up to us."

Rumors that Marada is planning a 250,000-square-foot expansion are exaggerated, Mr. Bailey said.

"There is no indication that we would need that much space right off the bat," he said. "We would need 40 percent to 50 percent of that at the most. But when you expand, you don't sell yourself short. You don't just put up what you need. "

Mr. Bailey confirmed that the company has been working with Maryland officials and local businessmen on the possibility of bringing a rail spur from tracks that parallel Route 27 at Hahn Road to the industrial property east of Route 97.

However, Marada's support of the proposed spur depends on whether its customers would want to use it, he said.

"We've been looking at rail and trucking both," Mr. Bailey said. "But it's been going back and forth. Companies that have said they wouldn't be interested in it have come back and said they might use it.

"It's still feasible both ways, but if we don't [require it], that doesn't mean it's a bad idea."

Rail service to the industrial property in that area would make it more attractive to business, Mr. Bailey said. However, the company will not back the spur if it does not serve Marada's interests, he said.

He said the rail spur might eventually be used to bring materials from various steel suppliers to the plant. But he said he felt that news media reports pinpointing Bethlehem Steel Corp. as the primary user of the line were inaccurate.

"Bethlehem Steel is only 40 to 50 minutes away by truck," he said. "It's hard to believe that they [rail lines] can do it [bring supplies] cheaper. For such short runs to Baltimore, I can't see them beating truck rates."

Sources said studies for a proposed spur, which would wind through conservation and agricultural property to the industrial park, were conducted in the mid-1980s.

Dianna Rosborough, spokeswoman for the Mass Transit Administration, who said she was unaware of those studies, said, "Technical assistance and advice is being given which cannot be discussed because of its sensitive nature."

A letter from Gov. William Donald Schaefer to Carroll County Commissioner Donald I. Dell, dated Sept. 8, said he had been briefed about the project and the proposed rail spur.

"I understand that a number of meetings with state officials on this issue have already occurred," the governor's letter said. "I can assure you that this opportunity is one of our top economic priorities and I share your keen interest in locating this $20 million manufacturing facility."

Mr. Schaefer's letter also said he had asked Economic and Employment Development Secretary Mark L. Wasserman and Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer to work closely with Carroll County officials on the Marada project.

Page W. Boinest, spokeswoman for the governor, said she could not comment on specifics of the project. She said, however, that the governor has been supporting the Marada expansion and economic development in general in Carroll County.

"He often cites Carroll County as one of the hot spots to watch for economic development," Ms. Boinest said. "He says that it has lots of potential to expand."

County officials and Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown also declined to comment on specifics.

"We are very interested in Marada," Mr. Brown said. "It is one of our biggest employers, and we hope they do well in Westminster."

Mr. Bailey said news media reports that Marada was expected to make a decision by mid-January might be premature.

He said that Marada officials are expected to discuss their five-year business plans with corporate leaders in Toronto in March.

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