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Maryland’s Eastern Shore Region Poised For Business Growth

The five-county Maryland's Eastern Shore Region offers a strategic location to Mid-Atlantic markets and a growing base for diverse businesses.

By Gary Wollenhaupt on May 5, 2015

The five-county region along Maryland’s Eastern Shore offers the best of affordable East Coast business locations. The region provides access to major highways and railways, industrial and technology parks, and a large labor force.

Located within one to two hours of major metros such as Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, residents can enjoy city life and proximity to the beach. Flourishing at home are historic districts, thousands of acres of parks, nature preserves and trails, and abundant waterways for boating, fishing and other activities. Cecil County is the region’s economic center, home to more than 1,900 businesses. Located along the I-95 corridor, the county offers overnight access to Mid-Atlantic markets and infrastructure that includes Class I rail service via CSX and Norfolk Southern. “We are capitalizing on our location, becoming known as the Gateway to Innovation for the state of Maryland and gaining recognition for our proactive support of new and expanding industries,” says Lisa Webb, director of the Cecil County Office of Economic Development.

Center for Manufacturing, Logistics

The area is a hub for medical device makers W.L. Gore & Associates and Terumo Medical Corporation, which operate R&D laboratories in Elkton, as well as other world-class manufacturers including Veltec, Siemens and Orbital ATK. Cecil County is a growing center for distribution, operating warehouses for IKEA and Restoration Hardware. The latter completed an expansion in 2012, investing $65 million to grow its space by 600,000 square feet and adding 100 jobs. The county is home to one of Maryland’s four casinos – Hollywood Casino Perryville – which recently expanded with a $1 million capital investment, and an agricultural sector anchored by nurseries, orchards, creameries and family-owned farms. Technology-based companies are also taking off thanks to the Cecil Technology Center, home to LED lighting kit maker i-Lighting, which recently reshored production of its lighting circuit boards.

Commerce, Health Care and Tourism Hubs

Located on the Chesapeake Bay, Talbot County has 1,590 businesses employing 19,000. It serves as the base for the region’s top health-care provider, University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, which operates its flagship hospital in Easton. Another top employer is Aphena Pharma Solutions, which provides turnkey contract packaging, repackaging, and manufacturing services for pharmaceutical and medical markets. The firm recently added a state-of-the-art blending facility to its Easton plant to accommodate rising demand. The county also draws $50 million annually in grain, corn and soybean production, and supports seafood and poultry producers. Other economic drivers include one of the nation’s top general aviation airports, Easton Newman Field, and fully wired industrial parks.

The county is working to recruit technology-based firms to these parks, especially environmental testing firms. “We have a large amount of fiber – our health-care base has demanded that – and that’s a huge attribute,” says Paige Bethke, director of the Talbot County Office of Economic Development. The county is also a tourism magnet, with five historic towns, farm-to-table restaurants, yacht clubs and world-class golf resorts. Kent County is another tourism mecca, home to beaches, wildlife preserves and dozens of marinas. With 130,000-plus acres of farmland, the county produces Maryland’s second-highest dollar value crop output. Its 730 businesses employ 6,600 and include firms like LaMotte, which produces chemical testing equipment, and Eastman Specialties, which makes synthetic oils. Kent County is also home to Washington College, the first U.S.-founded college. Dorchester County’s location on the Baltimore-Washington corridor attracts diverse industries that encompass 740 businesses employing 8,500. The county is growing its business and technology sectors with the recent debut of its 113-acre Regional Technology Park in Cambridge – the region’s first business incubator.

Incentives for Growth

In Caroline County, major manufacturers, logistics and value-added agriculture companies, including Dart Container, M&M Refrigeration, Hanover Foods and Kraft Foods, thrive, many utilizing One Maryland Tax Credit incentive. “Our county can offer advantages using the One Maryland Tax Credit that many larger counties cannot,” says Angela Visintainer, director of economic development for Caroline Economic Development Corporation (CEDC). “In Caroline County, a business is eligible for the credit when adding 25 jobs or more, unlike most counties that require adding 65 jobs.” Tri-Gas and Oil, a leading supplier of propane and petroleum, expanded thanks to efforts between local agencies to provide a critical rail expansion needed for its growth. Choptank Transport, one of the nation’s fastest growing logistics companies, also recently hired 50 new associates countywide. “We are fortunate that we were able to take advantage of the One Maryland Tax Credit,” says Geoff Turner, Choptank president and CEO.  “The program allowed us to add on to our existing building and hire additional employees needed to accommodate our growth.  We are proud to call Maryland our corporate home.”

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