Legislation sought for Fort Ritchie plan

March 12, 1997


Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - State lawmakers were asked Tuesday to approve the formation of a public-private corporation that would take charge of converting Fort Ritchie to a combination technology park and corporate training center after the Army leaves.

"We view this as a phenomenal opportunity for economic growth and jobs in Washington County," Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, told the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee.

He was testifying in favor of a bill (H.B. 1319) that would create the PenMar Development Corp.

It would replace the existing Local Redevelopment Authority and take possession of the 638-acre fort when it is scheduled to close Oct. 1, 1998, said Robert Sweeney, executive director of the authority.


The new public-private agency will be able to sell and lease property, sell revenue bonds, and invest in improvements to the property.

The corporation also could receive grants and loans through various state economic development programs.

The corporation would be run by a 15-member board, to be appointed by the Washington County Commissioners. The county would receive financial reports from the corporation.

A consultant's plan for the fort calls for 410,000 square feet of new office, hotel and industrial laboratory space. Planners hope eventually to establish telemarketing and electronic publishing businesses, a conference center and a school to train workers for biotechnology jobs.

The base, which employed about 2,000 military and civilian workers in the past, eventually could employ as many as 2,200 people, the consultants said.

"We have turned, truly, a potential disaster into an opportunity," said Vernon J. Thomson, assistant secretary for regional development for the state Department of Business and Economic Development.

Such lofty plans make it important that the legislation be approved now, Sweeney said.

"We want to keep this thing on the fast track," he said.

Sweeney, a former lobbyist for IBM, does not expect any opposition to getting the bill passed.

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