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As Long as We Remember...

June 23, 2009

The Ugly Head of Anti-Business

Michael Kurtianyk

I can’t believe that any of our county commissioners would vote against a request by Life Technologies, Corp. The company is simply looking for a $25,000 economic development grant as part of a larger grant from the State of Maryland.


Actually, I can understand Commissioner John L. “Lennie” Thompson’s negative vote – anything having to do with bringing in businesses for him is akin to the bringing of smallpox to his New World by the Pilgrims. Commissioner Thompson has always been against any business support in our community.


Such a shame really – he claims to be a fiscal conservative, but, for some reason, he can’t see that the property tax revenue alone should have convinced him to approve this. And Commissioner Charles Jenkins’ vote against this is very disappointing. It’s too bad that he doesn’t see the bigger picture, either.


I commend Commissioners Jan Gardner and Kai Hagen for their support. At least they understand what it takes to continue making Frederick County a vibrant community. They understand that the “Live Here, Work Here” program, supported by the county’s Office of Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce, brings revenue in various forms: property tax revenue, spending in our local retails shops, restaurants, entertainment, etc. Kudos to them for being friendly to this business and its efforts.


Let’s look at this issue more closely: Life Technologies (formerly Invitrogen) is a company described on its web site as “a global biotechnology tools company dedicated to improving the human condition. The company has historic sales of approximately $3.5 billion, employs 9,500 people, has a presence in more than 100 countries, and possesses a rapidly growing intellectual property estate of over 3,600 patents and exclusive licenses.”


Life Technologies has a location here in Frederick, a 4,000 square-foot "Innovation Space" at 7305 Executive Way. So, we’ve established that they’re a local company, currently employing 271.


It is seeking a state grant of $250,000 to help fund an expansion in Frederick. As part of obtaining this grant, there are some conditions that need to be met:


1) Life Technologies must add at least 50 new jobs; and

2) The company would also have to spend at least $7 million in capital improvements by June 30, 2010, or pay back the grant plus three percent interest; and

3) 10% must come from the county.


Let’s take these one at a time. The first condition is that Life Technologies, Corp. must add at least 50 new jobs. Who would object to this? According to Laurie Boyer, director of the Frederick County Office of Economic Development, the county would get about $348,500 in local income taxes annually from the 271 existing employees. With the increase of the 50 employees, that number jumps to $412,920, assuming that the average salary was $75,000 and 58 percent of the workers lived in Frederick County. Broadening the tax base is needed during these distressed economic times.


The second condition is that the company would also have to spend at least $7 million in capital improvements by June 30, 2010, or pay back the grant plus three percent interest. How many businesses today are expanding? Few, if any, are seeking innovative ways to expand their businesses. We should do what we can to bring more employees to our county. We should be applauding Life Technologies for looking to the state for funding.


A third condition is that 10 percent ($25,000) comes from the county. Consider this an investment: The $25,000 could potentially bring in revenues 16 times that amount ($412,920) in local income taxes alone within the next year. Is anyone getting such a large return on their investments in the stock market? The real estate market? Tack on the increases spending by the new employees, and it’s a win-win.


Why can’t the commissioners see that it’s better to have the money come here to a Frederick County business, rather than one in Baltimore, or Rockville, or Columbia? The message Commissioners Jenkins and Thompson is sending is that Frederick County is not business-friendly. With that, who’s to say that Life Technologies might not consider relocating elsewhere? If that were to occur, how would Frederick County recover the lost revenue?


We need leaders in our county who have the vision and foresight to bring more businesses to our county. We need leaders who are not afraid to be more business-friendly. We need leaders who see this mere pittance of a grant funding as a high yielding rate of return.


One hopes that Commissioner David Gray can be the positive swing vote, and has the vision and foresight needed on this issue. Which shouldn’t even be an issue….


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