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Md. creates new zones to spur economic development

Tax credits designed to foster business growth and job creation have been extended to new areas in Kent and Frederick counties, officials announced Tuesday.

Maryland’s 34-year-old enterprise zone program offers real property and state income tax credits to businesses that create new jobs and invest in capital projects, according to the state Department of Commerce.

The Chestertown Kent County Enterprise Zone, which covers more than 1,000 acres, and the City of Brunswick Enterprise Zone, which covers about 1,300 acres, are the newest additions to the state’s portfolio of enterprise zones.

An existing enterprise zone covering nearly 9,000 acres in Aberdeen and Havre de Grace in Harford County was first established in 1996, and it has now been renewed for the second time, according to the department.

Since 2006, over $200 million has been spent on rehabilitation and new construction projects in that zone and 1,500 new jobs have been created, said Erika Quesenbery, Havre de Grace’s economic development coordinator.

“We’ve had a lot of toes in the water [from] companies looking to expand,” Quesenbery said. “They’re asking what’s in our economic development toolbox.”

More and more companies are taking their employees’ quality of life into account when relocating — an area where Havre de Grace, with its parks, restaurants and waterfront, has a lot to offer. But that needs to be complemented with business benefits, she said.

The 29 zones throughout the state are projected to receive $32 million in property tax credits in fiscal 2017, and businesses in those zones have made a total of $13.7 billion in capital investments over the past five years, according to the department.

“We’re really excited,” Jamie Williams, Kent County’s economic development coordinator, told The Daily Record. Two of the projects likely to benefit from inclusion in the zone include an expansion of Dixon Valve, a company planning to build a new warehouse and distribution center on the north side of town, and the Fish Whistle, a waterfront restaurant looking to add more seating and upgrade its parking lot to avoid flooding, she said.

Those projects will dovetail with improvements — not covered by the enterprise zone — planned at the town-owned marina, which Williams said should “bring visitors into the town of Chestertown and spread them out through the county.”

The designation could also help encourage students at Washington College to stay in the area after they graduate, according to the department.

The Brunswick zone covers the city’s Main Street district as well as other commercial and industrial properties, according to the department.

Mayor Karin Tome said in a statement that the zone designation would help attract businesses and investments to the city and help existing businesses expand their workforces.

These are the first enterprise zones for both Kent and Frederick counties.