ANNAPOLIS – Ask business leaders why they would move their companies to Maryland, and their answers may surprise you.
State government may be expanding economic incentives to lure businesses in, but two executives who recently made commitments here said other factors were primary.
Representatives of retailer Saks Fifth Avenue and TNT Logistics, an international management firm, pointed to Maryland’s workers, location and quality of life.
Last month, state officials announced they had struck a deal to build a distribution center in Harford County for Saks. The center, which will employ more than 350 people by 1998, will be the main distribution site for the department store chain.
“Maryland was very aggressive in pursuing us,” said Russ Locurto, senior vice president of operations at Saks. “We studied this very carefully, and we found that Maryland offered us what we needed.”
Saks chose Maryland over sites in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, Locurto said.
“The transportation was a big piece,” he said of the Harford County choice. “The access to major highways, ports and air played a big part.”
Also attractive was the combination of a skilled work force with an area that has not been overrun by development.
“We wanted to find a `green-field’ site that was a good place to work,” Locurto said. “Also, the economic development people talked up the quality of life in Maryland. The quality of life issue was important because we want to build a high-morale work force.”
Maryland’s workers were also a deciding factor for TNT Logistics. TNT came to Linthicum earlier this year with 25 employees, and is looking to expand, said Jim Eckler, company president.
“The intellectual capital and talent in Maryland is superb,” Eckler said. “There are great, high-skilled workers here.”
TNT looked at two other states, Kentucky and Florida.
In Maryland, Eckler said, state officials “assisted us in finding the right location for what we needed.”
Both companies received part of Maryland’s “Sunny Day Fund” loan program, but the executives said that the incentives were not a major swing factor in their decisions.
“The fund is relatively small compared to other states, but I think that the governor’s effort to quadruple it is a step in the right direction,” Eckler said.
Both Locurto and Eckler also said that the cooperation between local and state officials was important. “From Day 1, they made us feel welcome here and stayed involved,” said Locurto. “That goes a long way.” -30-