The designation of Edgewood as a state business enterprise zone is an important step toward revitalizing what has long been a pocket of depression in Harford County. But it is only a part of the comprehensive effort needed to elevate the spirits and economy of the U.S. 40 corridor there.
The enterprise zone programs include tax credits and low-interest loans for business and industry within the boundaries that stretch north from Joppatowne to Route 755.
Hiring unemployed or underemployed persons can yield tax credits of up to $3,000 each for businesses that expand or relocate in the area. Subsidized loans can finance renovation, expansion and relocation of companies.
Significantly, the Edgewood enterprise zone comprises 2,500 acres of commercially zoned land that could attract new manufacturing/distribution companies with good-paying jobs. With Harford's demonstrated appeal to these kinds of employers, Edgewood's prospects for job growth are doubly enhanced.
Edgewood is the only suburban area to get the enterprise zone benefits and money from the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development this year. The other three are in Baltimore and on the Eastern Shore. With double the crime rate of other parts of Harford County, and the heaviest concentration of low-income housing, Edgewood truly needs this government assistance.
But tax credits alone will not create economic expansion for the area. The combined efforts of businesses, residents and government will be essential to development of the aging commercial corridor. Some $21 million in commercial development is now planned there.
Fortunately, a community task force focusing on redevelopment has been hard at work for nearly two years. It's garnered $100,000 in state and county grants for a demonstration project to landscape and refurbish several blocks along U.S. 40, installing streetlights and sidewalks and bus shelters. A sheriff's precinct station is to be located in the area. The state will finish work on the Route 24 extension project next year, facilitating traffic flow.
The enterprise zone selection represents a challenge and an opportunity for the greater Edgewood community. Benefits will flow to the entire southeastern Harford area if the program works as planned. It's up to the community, and to Harford County's economic development program, to make that happen.