State offers Rite Aid development funds for a computer center in Hunt Valley Fifty permanent jobs would make loan a grant


Rite Aid Corp. has been offered $450,000 in state economic development funds for a new computer center it will open soon in Hunt Valley, James T. Brady, the state's economic development chief, confirmed yesterday.

But the money -- from the state Department of Business and Economic Development -- would remain a loan, rather than a grant, if the company fails to create 50 permanent jobs at the computer center, said Charles Pocari, a department spokesman.

The deal between Rite Aid and the government -- which could also involve Baltimore County funds -- has yet to be finalized, said Dennis Bowman, senior vice president for information services at Rite Aid, based in Camp Hill, Pa.

"Any speculation as to the amount or nature of any aid that Rite Aid might get is highly premature at this point," Mr. Bowman said.

What is certain, however, is that the pharmacy chain has committed itself to contribute $100,000 to the University of Maryland Baltimore County to create student grants for "Rite Aid Scholars in Computer Science."

Tracking inventory

The money -- to be matched at the outset by university funds -- will create two $9,000 scholarships for UMBC students starting in the fall of 1996, said Sheldon Caplis, UMBC's vice president for institutional advancement.

The university hopes that graduates of the program will be among those hired at Rite Aid's Hunt Valley computer center and that the center will provide opportunities for paid internships for UMBC students there, Mr. Caplis said.

The Hunt Valley facility will be a "working-inventory tracking center" that will involve "well-paying jobs," Mr. Pocari said. State money to assist the center would come through the Maryland Industrial Redevelopment Fund.

"This is another arrow in the economic development quiver," Mr. Pocari said.

Rite Aid has leased 16,200 square feet of space at 201 International Circle, near Hunt Valley Mall, said Richard F. Blue Jr., the commercial real estate broker who put together the deal in July for Casey & Associates Inc.

Robert Hannon, executive director of the Baltimore County Economic Development Office, declined to discuss any potential role the county might play in promoting the Rite Aid computer center.

No opening date

"Discussions with the company are ongoing," Mr. Hannon said.

Martin Grass, Rite Aid's chief executive, lives in the Green Spring Valley area of Baltimore County. And Maryland's economic development officials say they would be delighted if the company were to move its headquarters to the Baltimore area.

But Mr. Hannon indicated that the notion of such a move "is not what's now under discussion."

Rite Aid operates 2,700 stores in 21 states, all of them in the eastern United States, and the chain continues to expand, said Craig Muckle, a Rite Aid spokesman. Although job applicants have been interviewed to staff the Hunt Valley center, he said no firm date for its opening has been set.

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