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Jefferson, Frederick mum about Bechtel wooing

January 07, 1998

Jefferson, Frederick mum about Bechtel

wooing

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - An intense behind-the-scenes competition is being waged, with the prize an engineering firm's corporate headquarters and more than 1,000 jobs.

Jefferson County, W.Va., and Frederick and Montgomery counties in Maryland are among four communities trying to lure the Bechtel Power Corp. to their areas.

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"We'd certainly welcome them to Jefferson County," said Jane Peters, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority.

Company officials have met with economic development officials from Jefferson County, Frederick and Montgomery counties, and Loudoun County, Va., said Bob Palmer, business development manager for Bechtel Power Corp.

The company is seeking to move its corporate headquarters to a facility with more space and lower rent than it is currently paying for office space in Montgomery County, Palmer said.

The firm designs nuclear and fossil fuel power plants in the United States and internationally, Palmer said.

Officials in Jefferson and Frederick counties declined to discuss how they are attempting to attract the company.

Peters said she did not want to let the competition know what Jefferson County and West Virginia officials are offering Bechtel.

Jodie Bollinger, assistant director of the Frederick County Economic Development Commission, said she could not discuss the matter because negotiations are still under way.

Counties in the same region will sometimes work together to bring a business to the area, expecting a spinoff of jobs, but in this case, "I'd much rather have it here," Peters said.

About 350 Bechtel employees are working in temporary office space in Frederick County, Palmer said. More workers will be moved to temporary offices in Frederick until a long-term solution is found, he said.

The company has 309,000 square feet of office space in Gaithersburg, Md., and about another 112,000 square feet in Frederick, Palmer said.

The rent is considerably cheaper in Frederick and the company is looking for ways to lower its costs to remain competitive internationally, Palm-er said.

The company expects to have an idea by this spring of where the headquarters will be situated permanently, he said.

All four counties in the running are within commuting distance of where the work force lives, Palmer said.

The company wants to stay near a major airport to make it easier for the company's clients and the workers who frequently have to travel, he said.

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