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What the Time-Warner deal means


Time-Warner Inc.'s plan to build a huge distribution center for its movie and TV-related merchandise is in the right place and, as far as Baltimore County Executive Roger Hayden's re-election bid is concerned, at the right time.

This project -- the largest private commercial development in the region since the construction of Towson Commons in Baltimore County and Commerce Place in Baltimore in 1989 -- is right for many reasons.

Sited just east of Interstate 95 at White Marsh, it may be the stimulus to bring new development to the eastside of Baltimore County. Coupled with the massive Honeygo residential plan that was approved this month, it could be a seed for the rebirth of the county's eastern corridor, once the seat of Baltimore County's industrial base, population growth and political power.

The $16 million project is slated to bring 400 jobs initially; at least as important, it gives county economic development officials another internationally known corporate name on which to recruit further business. (The Saks Fifth Avenue department store chain is also talking about building a distribution facility in White Marsh.)

This project isn't just a plum for Baltimore County, though. It's important for the region. As we've said before, for this area to prosper, the core can't be allowed to wither. That means Baltimore City has to be made strong. And it means Baltimore County can't lose every prospect to Harford, Howard or another county, as it has of late. The continued vibrancy of Greater Baltimore is a balancing act: Each jurisdiction must play to its strength.

In Baltimore County's case, that means selling its labor force, and its rail, port and highway access. Baltimore County also promised Time-Warner it could fast-track a building permit in 30 days, compared to the year-long adventure the county permit process used to necessitate. The county also offered to set up a foreign trade zone for Time-Warner, since this warehouse is to distribute goods to Europe as well as the eastern United States.

Last -- and deservedly least -- is the political ramifications of this deal. Mr. Hayden made a hash of economic development through much of his term. He originally appointed an unqualified director, concocted a fruitless sister city arrangement with a town in Wales, floundered on a tourism development strategy and seemed to have such slim vision for business growth that the county was reduced to touting a new convenience store as a highlight in one of its annual economic reviews. More important than any political credit to be milked from this development is what it might trigger down the road.

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