Towson University and its surrounding area are one step closer to being granted a special designation by Maryland providing certain businesses tax breaks.
The Department of Commerce has deemed the university a Qualified Institution under the Department of Commerce’s Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise (RISE) Zone. If approved for the program, new and existing enterprises in the area could receive property and income tax credits.
“Towson University is a significant economic driver of a knowledge-based economy for Towson, the county and greater Baltimore,” Towson University President Kim Schatzel said in a statement Friday. “The designation as a Qualified Institution under the RISE Zone program is an important step toward advancing the university’s connectedness and impact throughout the region.”
The university estimates its annual economic impact to the area is $1.8 billion. That figure includes $150 million from the TU Incubator, which focuses on supporting early-stage education technology businesses.
Towson University officials called being qualified a “milestone” for the Together Towson initiative intended to bolster connections between the school and community that drive economic growth.
Existing businesses in a RISE Zone must invest at least $5 million and create a minimum of 50 jobs to receive tax credits, according to the state. Firms can also receive a tax credit for 75 percent of local real property taxes.
During a recent ceremony celebrating construction starting again on the $350 million Towson Row mixed-use development, Schatzel said that obtaining the RISE Zone designation was a priority.
Strengthening economic development through closer ties between the university and Towson community was a goal of the late Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. Before his death in May, Kamenetz issued a letter supporting Towson University’s bid to have the state approve the enterprise zone.
The next step in the university’s push to gain the designation involves filing a detailed application with the Department of Commerce. That requires a public hearing before the Baltimore County Council and a resolution from those legislators.
It’s expected the application will be filed in September. It generally takes the state about 120 days to make a decision on whether to approve an enterprise zone.
If selected Towson would be Maryland’s fourth RISE Zone designee.
More than an acre of land around the University of Maryland, Baltimore, a 100-acre area surrounding University of Maryland, College Park and a 71-acre area around University of Maryland, Baltimore County have already been designated RISE Zones. The zones have a five-year sunset and are eligible for a five-year renewal.
The RISE Zone around University of Maryland, College Park has been used to leverage new investments as part of a push to create an environment in College Park that keeps businesses emerging from the university in the area.
Projects in the area covered by that zone, which was approved in early 2017, include the 300-room The Hotel at UMD, a 75,000-square-foot office building by Corporate Office Properties Trust and an 11,000 square feet of planned flex space by St. John Properties.