Company moving to Howard County GraphTec leaving Baltimore County in mid-December


A Baltimore County graphic arts company that has increased fourfold in size since 1990 plans to move its 110-employee operation to Howard County in mid-December.

Executives of Graphic Technology Inc. of Woodlawn -- also known as GraphTec -- said yesterday that the 15-minute move from Woodlawn is vital to the color printing company's plans to establish a greater regional presence.

"We have a hand-tailored, custom-made business," said David E. Rosquist, GraphTec's senior vice president and general manager. "As we are becoming more of a regional printer, it is essential to be between Washington and Baltimore."

Attracting high-tech companies such as GraphTec also is essential to Howard County's long-range economic development plan.

"This is right on target with our thrust for technologically driven manufacturing," said Richard W. Story, executive director of the county's Economic Development Authority.

The county seeks to lure companies that pay employees a salary higher than the industry standard and above the county average, Mr. Story said, adding, "This fits both." The average hourly wage at nonunion GraphTec is $19.50, or $780 a week, $216 more than the county average weekly wage last year.

When it completes its move to Howard in mid-January, GraphTec will bring 110 jobs -- "highly skilled, highly paid, clean manufacturing jobs," company President Bill Harrison told county officials and business leaders at a news conference yesterday.

The announcement was cast as part of a cheery reversal of a spate of bad economic development news that began a decade ago when General Electric pulled the plug on its Howard County operation.

Since then, the county has seen Coca-Cola's indefinite postponement of plans to put a bottle washing plant, hundreds of new employees and a regional headquarters in the county and the layoff of 258 employees this year at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Despite those reversals, Mr. Story said, the county has created 9,000 jobs in the last two years. "We're booming," he said.

Howard did not try to woo GraphTec from Baltimore County, Mr. Story said. "We do not go out of our way to encourage industry to move to Howard County from neighboring jurisdictions," he said. "But when they call and tell us they're leaving, we are as responsive as we can be."

Baltimore County Economic Development Director Robert L. Hannon, unaware of the GraphTec move until a reporter asked him about it, said his office would have done whatever it could to provide services to GraphTec if he had known the company was seeking to expand.

"It appears they moved primarily because the executive officers of that company live in Howard County," he said.

The county did not offer GraphTec financial incentives to relocate, County Executive Charles I. Ecker said. The county recently considered but dropped the idea of giving a county loan to an Annapolis Junction marble company as an inducement to keep it from moving elsewhere in Maryland. The state lent the company the money directly.

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