County buys AlliedSignal building In $7.5 million deal, company promises to remain in Columbia; Up to 900 jobs saved; Local government might use structure for offices, storage


Howard County yesterday completed its boldest incentive deal, paying $7.5 million for AlliedSignal's Columbia headquarters and a promise that the company's hundreds of local jobs will stay put.

AlliedSignal Technical Services Corp., which had looked to move its headquarters closer to Washington, plans to move to a new building at Columbia Gateway business park, according to the Rouse Co., the park's developer.

The deal appears to keep as many as 900 jobs in Howard while spurring Columbia's office boom and giving county government new office and warehouse space.

It also illustrates what critics call "corporate welfare," as governments give lucrative packages to attract or keep major employers.

Howard and company officials hailed their cooperation yesterday.

"I think it's great," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker, a Republican. "It's some space we sorely need. And it's going to keep AlliedSignal in the county."

Company spokesman Joseph Militano said, "AlliedSignal is pleased with the support of the county. In fact, in our opinion, this is a model of how businesses and government should work together."

AlliedSignal, once known as Bendix, has had its headquarters on Bendix Road -- near the junction of U.S. 29 and Route 108 -- since the late 1960s.

The 200,000-square-foot building includes 32,000 square feet of warehouse space and 29 acres of land. Five hundred employees work at that building; 400 more work elsewhere in Howard.

The company plans to stay in the building for at least another year as its new headquarters is built. The contract calls for AlliedSignal to pay $600,000 a year in rent as long as it remains there.

Construction of its new building, planned for 10 acres on lTC Gateway Drive, is likely to begin this spring, says Ed Ely, a Rouse vice president.

AlliedSignal plans to lease the new building for at least seven years, a company vice president told the County Council in September.

Cunningham-Limp Co. in Farmington Hills, Mich., has a contract to build the new headquarters, which Ely said would be two stories high and 120,000 to 150,000 square feet.

The 600-acre Columbia Gateway business park is booming, as the regional commercial real estate market improves after years of recession. Columbia Gateway buildings have a total of 1.3 million square feet. Several planned projects would add 500,000 square feet.

"There's a lot of stuff happening," Ely said.

With yesterday's closing on the AlliedSignal building purchase, county officials can concentrate on the best uses of the building after the company leaves.

County officials say they might start using the warehouse area of the AlliedSignal headquarters this spring.

The county government and the school system rent 137,000 square feet of office and warehouse space at a cost of more than $1 million a year.

The AlliedSignal deal faced some opposition in the County Council before narrowly winning approval in October.

Councilman Dennis R. Schrader, a North Laurel Republican, opposed the deal, saying the price was too high.

But yesterday, he said, "My concern was the real estate deal, which is decided. I'm just glad that Allied's staying."

An appraiser estimated the value of the AlliedSignal building at $10.9 million. The company paid $187,000 in taxes on it each year.

The swing vote belonged to Councilman Darrel E. Drown of Ellicott City, a Republican whose district includes the AlliedSignal building.

He criticized the deal but eventually gave in to Ecker's lobbying.

"You want them to stay," Drown said yesterday. "I just didn't want to give up the whole ranch so other businesses didn't end up subsidizing this thing."

Pub Date: 12/17/97

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