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Manufacturing firms find value in Carroll County

One of the smallest submarkets for industrial, warehouse and manufacturing properties in the Baltimore metro area is on a hot streak.

Defense contractor Advanced Thermal Batteries, a subsidiary of ASB Group, announced last week it had purchased a 40,000-square-foot office and manufacturing facility in Westminster for $3.8 million. Last month MacKenzie Development Co. LLC broke ground on the new headquarters for Fuchs North America in Hampstead. That project includes corporate offices, research and development areas as well as manufacturing on 21 acres acquired from the Carroll County Industrial Development Authority. This spring California-based Elite Screens also purchased an 82,943-square-foot light manufacturing property at 151 Airport Drive in Westminster for $2.25 million.

“What’s been very interesting is that there’s been several very large facilities that were for sale … that have been backfilled within a pretty reasonable amount of time, by really national companies and or international companies,” said Walter L. Patton III, principal at NAI KLNB.

Carroll County only has 6.19 million square feet of flex and industrial space compared to 30.4 million in Howard County and 28 million in Harford and Cecil counties combined. But the space that’s available is in high demand with a 3.9 percent vacancy rate through the first half of the year, according to a second quarter report by Colliers International. At $7.10 per square foot the county’s warehouse and distribution space has the highest average asking rate in the region for the first two quarters of 2015.

Jack Lyburn, the county’s director of Economic Development, attributed the recent success to a few factors. They include a business-friendly environment in the county, the affordability of the property and public safety. He also said the county is preparing to announce that two large manufacturers are coming to the jurisdiction, but declined to disclose the names of the firms.

“We’re seeing more deals in the last couple of years then I saw in previous years. The economy’s getting stronger,” Lyburn said.

The recently hot market could see a lot more inventory come open depending on what happens with Hampstead-based Jos. A. Bank. The clothier merged with Men’s Warehouse and it is unknown if the facility that employs 750 people will remain open.

The surge in interest in the county’s industrial, warehouse and manufacturing space has come despite infrastructure disadvantages. The county is relatively close to the crucial Port of Baltimore, but suffers from extremely limited highway access for trucks.

Patton, who has been selling commercial properties in the area for about 30 years, attributed growing interest primarily to the lower cost of property compared to other jurisdictions in the metro area. He said the scarcity of properly zoned land in Central Maryland — particularly in the Interstate 95 corridor — is causing businesses to give Carroll County another look.

But Patton, whose firm is handling the sale of the nearly 50,000-square-foot former Carroll County Times building, one of Westminster’s largest available industrial and warehouses properties, believes the market has the ability to continue to meet the needs of companies looking for space.

“I’ve been active out in that area for years and years … I’ve certainly been encouraged by the amount of activity especially considering the market,” Patton said.


About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.