Ehrlich endorses plan for old Bainbridge site

PORT DEPOSIT — PORT DEPOSIT - Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. endorsed yesterday a plan by a team of developers to convert a big chunk of the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center into an applied technology park that is expected to create 3,000 jobs.

"We are buying into this project," Ehrlich said of a plan to devote 500 of the 1,200 acres of Bainbridge in Cecil County to Berkshire Laboratories Inc., a small and little-known Columbus, Ohio, company that claims to have patents on technology that could revolutionize a number of industries.


Berkshire, which first announced plans for the site in July, expects to use the land to lure other companies to Bainbridge that could transform its science into products for the commercial market.

"It's exciting. It's important," Ehrlich said. "The opportunity here is unlimited. It has the potential to be an absolute home run."


Ehrlich said he brought his top staff to Bainbridge "to see what is needed to make this project happen."

The governor was joined by Aris Melissaratos, secretary of business and economic development; Audrey E. Scott, secretary of planning; and Trent Kettleman, deputy secretary of transportation.

"This has great potential," Melissaratos said of Berkshire's claim that its technology can make U.S. manufacturing companies competitive with $3-an-hour labor in other parts of the world.

Melissaratos acknowledged that he doesn't fully understand Berkshire's technology but said: "If just one-tenth of this is true, it could change the world."

"This is an important development," he continued. "Bainbridge, in terms of acres, is the biggest or the second-biggest development project in the state."

Yesterday's bus tour was arranged by the development team picked by Bainbridge Development Corp. to negotiate an agreement with Berkshire on the redevelopment of the former Navy boot camp, which closed in 1976.

The BDC is a quasi-public agency created by the General Assembly in 1999 to oversee the development of Bainbridge, located on a hill above town overlooking the Susquehanna River.

Today, the property shows the result of years of neglect.


Two-story-high trees grow and brier bushes cover fields where sailors once marched in drills. The stone buildings of the former Tome School are in disrepair and are condemned. The windows are boarded up and in some cases the roofs are about to collapse.

The technology center would be part of a mixed-use project proposed on the site by a team of developers that include Bel Air-based Clark Turner Cos., Manekin LLC of Columbia and H & S Properties, a commercial developer in Baltimore.

Richard M. Alter, president of Manekin, said that until Berkshire came along, the plan for Bainbridge called for only 200 acres for commercial development.

While the developers have not settled on a final plan, they have been talking about a place where people can live and work. In addition to houses, the development could include a retirement center, hotel, school, library, veterans' cemetery, a lake with fishing pier and recreational land.

One major stumbling block is the need for water and sewage. Melissaratos said his department "is working very hard on a water and sewage plan." He said he favors a regional water and sewage plan that would serve the towns of Port Deposit, Perryville and Bainbridge.

Asked if the state would help fund a water and sewage plan, Melissaratos responded: "Of course. Eventually we will have to do our share. There is no question about that."


Some Cecil County residents, because of the secrecy surrounding its technology and closed meetings of the BDC when discussing the company, have viewed Berkshire with skepticism.

During a community meeting at Cecil Community College last week to discuss Berkshire's move to Bainbridge, Harlan C. Williams, a real estate broker who lives in Fair Hill, said the BDC ignored warnings from other scientists that the company's technology was "a fairytale."

Williams said there was very little public input into the decision to locate Berkshire at Bainbridge. "The public input was a joke," he said.