Known for its natural beauty, Maryland's Eastern Shore has developed some appealing incentives to attract business.
Maryland’s Eastern Shore is a beautiful place to live and an increasingly ideal place to do business. With thousands of miles of coastline, the region has long been known as a tourism and recreation mecca. Through a growing group of successful incentive programs, the region is now gaining notice as a strategic place for businesses to grow and expand. Located within an hour’s drive of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and less than a day’s drive to major eastern U.S. destinations, the region is accessible to major highways and more than 90 federal labs in a 90-mile radius.It also has major rail lines, and the nearby Port of Baltimore gives it access to international markets. “The major draw for Maryland Eastern Shore is the quality of life,” says Angela Visintainer, director of economic development for Caroline Economic Development Corporation. “You get to work and live in a beautiful natural setting, yet it is close to major metropolitan hubs.” The region’s labor force is largely shaped by its agricultural roots, Visintainer says. “We have people here who are industrious and hardworking, and that tradition has carried on,” she says.The region has a long history of attracting and retaining major companies in manufacturing, agriculture, food production, distribution and transportation, marine, tourism, education, health and professional services sectors.
Spurring Business Growth
Maryland’s Eastern Shore has numerous industrial parks and has developed a wealth of programs to attract business to its communities. Caroline and Dorchester counties are two of the few areas in Maryland that are eligible for the One Maryland Tax Credit, which can help businesses expand at nearly no cost. Recent designation of the Federalsburg Enterprise Zone in Caroline County enable the community to provide businesses located there with income and property tax credits to help create and retain jobs.Cecil County has also expanded its Enterprise Zone to include more than 1,000 acres in the Town of Port Deposit.
This expansion gives the county more than 6,000 acres of enterprise zone areas. “The Enterprise Zone is an important incentive for our county and prospective businesses,” says Lisa Webb, director of economic development for Cecil County. Cecil County has the added advantage of being located along Interstate 95 and situated between two major research and development hubs – the Aberdeen Proving Ground, which tests materials for the U.S. Army, and the University of Delaware. In Dorchester County, the recently completed Dorchester Regional Technology Park is home to the new Eastern Shore Innovation Center incubator. The park is in one of the county’s two state Enterprise Zones, with the other zone in Hurlock. As a federally designated HUB Zone, the county can provide federal contracting opportunities for qualified small businesses located in the zone.
“We have a great focus on building new business in the county, and our business and community representatives have been our greatest marketers,” says Keasha Haythe, director of economic development for Dorchester County.
Growing Beyond Its Roots
As a major food production area for Maryland, Queen Anne’s County has deep roots in agriculture. The county is a top producer of corn, wheat and soybeans in the state and is becoming a leading winery and distilling location. It also supports oyster seeding and replenishment initiatives and other aquaculture activities. New economic sectors have recently begun to emerge, diversifying the local economy. A burgeoning hospitality and tourism industry generates $110 million annually, and sectors such as metal fabrication, consumer and industrial goods manufacturing, food processing and agritourism are growing. “Queen Anne’s County has launched several attractive and aggressive incentive programs over the last year to assist businesses,” says Jamie Gilbert, director of economic development for Queen Anne’s County.Programs include the Economic Development Incentive Fund and the Business Reinvestment and Infrastructure Development Grant Enterprise (BRIDGE) programs, which provides grants and loans for growing businesses, Foreign Trade Zone eligibility and the Property Assessment Clean Energy (PACE) financing program. The county also offers a four-year commercial real property tax credit and does not impose any personal property taxes. “We offer an outstanding quality of life here in Queen Anne’s County and the Eastern Shore,” Gilbert says. “We also have a very skilled and educated workforce to support business growth.”
Other Eastern Shore counties are also offering incentives to encourage business growth. Talbot County provides real property tax credits for expanding new businesses that invest up to $1 million and hire at least 15 employees. Kent County has a Revolving Loan Fund administered by the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center that provides matching funds for startups and growing businesses. The county has also allocated $2.2 million in its 2016 budget to expand its broadband infrastructure.