INTERSTATE 95 north of Baltimore has finally emerged as a hot business location. While development boomed in the 1980s along the highway between Baltimore and Northern Virginia, the John F. Kennedy Highway north of Baltimore was the stepchild of the superhighway. But the 1990s has seen a rediscovery of that portion of the road, from the city into Harford County.
First came a slew of marquee-name distribution centers, including Clorox, Frito-Lay, Saks Fifth Avenue and Time-Warner. The distribution industry and related business represent a big chunk of Maryland's economy, according to a new study by Johns Hopkins University's Institute for Policy Studies that urges more attention to this thriving area.
Retailing is also growing near the highway, from mega-bookstores and multiplex movie theaters in Harford County to "big box" merchants and a hotel in Baltimore County's White Marsh. The most dramatic is the recently announced "Avenue at White Marsh," a $35-million "outdoor mall" at a former gravel pit that is viewed as a regional entertainment venue.
I-95's allure is obvious: It offers business instant access to the populous Northeast via highway, rail and the Port of Baltimore. The distribution industry will likely continue mushrooming to meet "just-in-time" inventory practices and the shifting of
manufacturing tasks to what were formerly only storage operations. This can be a critical source of new jobs, with hourly pay from $8 to $12.
It is important for state and county government officials to continue exploring ways to exploit the vast potential of business along the interstate. For example, the extension of Route 43 from White Marsh into Middle River would strengthen the ties between I-95 opportunities and older neighborhoods that both Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Gov. Parris N. Glendening have voiced such strong interest in strengthening. Extending light rail from downtown to White Marsh would be another potent move.
The state should also consider raising its cap on loans to local governments to invest in speculative industrial sites, since ready warehouse space gives Maryland a leg up on the competition for distribution business. Government plays a critical part in stoking I-95's potential.
Pub Date: 12/02/96