A 77-year-old Howard County manufacturer of canvas and plastic products is negotiating to build a more-than-100,000-square-foot production facility in Carroll County.
People familiar with the negotiations say CR Daniels Inc. of Ellicott City is interested in building on 100 acres of county-owned land in Hampstead in exchange for unspecified concessions from state and county governments.
The move, which could bring more than 200 jobs, would be one of the biggest boosts for Carroll's industrial base in years.
The company, a Howard County fixture since 1918, needs to expand, but economic development and company officials aren't sure whether it will do that at its Ellicott City site, in Hampstead or in another state.
The current location is not a likely candidate for expansion, said Richard W. Story, executive director of the Howard County Department of Economic Development.
The company needs to expand by more than 20,000 square feet to keep up with "a tremendous demand" for its products, Mr. Story said.
He said his first priority would be to keep a company in Howard County but that if that is not possible, he will work with other counties in Central Maryland to keep it in the region.
Cindy Parr, a spokeswoman for the Carroll commissioners, said the company also is considering an offer from Tennessee.
State economic development officials there said they had not heard of CR Daniels' interest in the state.
"They could be working with local officials somewhere in the state," said Leigh Wieland, director of advertising and communications for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
Mr. Story would not identify the state wooing CR Daniels, but he said Maryland often is at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with other states.
"In dollars, and as a matter of philosophy, Maryland can't match other states," he said.
Gary B. Abel, CR Daniels' president and chief executive officer, said, "It's too premature to discuss it, or really comment on it."
All three Carroll commissioners have referred to the deal in the past few weeks as an example of how county economic development efforts are improving.
"I want to plead with you not to print this story about CR Daniels," Commissioner Donald I. Dell said Friday, expressing fears that Carroll might lose the deal.
Mr. Dell said Jack Lyburn, the county economic development director, had asked him and his fellow commissioners to "keep mum" about the project so that it "doesn't fall apart."
Mr. Lyburn said this month that publicity could damage the deal because CR Daniels management hadn't talked to its employees about the possible move.
He said the deal was to have remained confidential, even though "significant" state and county dollars are on the table.
"I've learned my lesson, and that's not to tell the county commissioners of any prospect activity," Mr. Lyburn said then.
He is appointed by the commissioners.
Mr. Lyburn did not return phone calls last week.
Dun's Market Identifiers, a listing of U.S. corporations, says CR Daniels was founded in 1918 and has annual sales of about $20 million.
It has more than 450 employees, 225 of them at the 160,000-square-foot Ellicott City plant.
The company has long been a defense supplier.
It has provided laundry bags for the Army and during the Persian Gulf war manufactured more than 8,200 body bags for the Defense Department.
If CR Daniels moves to the Hampstead site, it will be a major coup in the county's efforts to turn the vacant parcel into a tax-generating property.
The county acquired the property last year in a deal with Carroll County General Hospital.
As part of its acquisition of the county's Health Department building in Westminster, the hospital paid the county $2 million and turned over the 100-acre industrial site near Route 30 and Route 428.
The land now is valued at $25,000 an acre, for a total of $2.5 million.
It is part of 400 acres bequeathed to the hospital 30 years ago.