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Cabinet maker plans to build plant in Allegany County

June 30, 2004|by E.T. MOORE

RAWLINGS, Md. (AP) - American Woodmark Corp., the nation's third-largest maker of kitchen cabinets, said Tuesday it will build a manufacturing plant in Allegany County, creating 500 jobs over the next five years.

It's the biggest job-creation project in decades in Allegany County, a pocket of high unemployment stemming from the loss of thousands of manufacturing and coal-mining jobs since the 1960s.

"It's been so long, it's almost unreal," County Commissioner Robert M. Hutcheson said. "We're thrilled to death."

American Woodmark, of Winchester, Va., will be the first tenant in the newly developed Barton Business Park, about 10 miles south of Cumberland along U.S. 220 in western Maryland.

The company said it will build a 250,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and invest about $12 million in the project site. A groundbreaking ceremony is expected in July, and the plant could be operational by the end of the year, officials from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development said.

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The state agency will provide a $2 million loan that will convert to a grant if American Woodmark meets its employment goals of 300 full-time jobs by 2007 and 500 by 2009, DBED Secretary Aris Melissaratos said.

He said the company also is eligible for up to $5.5 million in income tax credits over 15 years under the One Maryland program, which promotes economic development in distressed counties. Another tax credit, for job creation, could be worth $600,000 over five years, DBED officials said.

Finally, the company will receive a $300,000 work force training grant, DBED officials said.

"This is really a breakthrough for western Maryland. We needed to imbue some confidence in the population up there that there is an economic development future," Melissaratos said.

Allegany County had a May unemployment rate of 6.2 percent, third-highest in the state behind Baltimore City and Dorchester County. Maryland's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4 percent in May.

Hutcheson said the jobs will pay somewhere between $8 and $10 an hour.

Jake Goose, American Woodmark president and chief executive officer, said the company chose Allegany over several other locations "because the community offers an economically competitive environment, is strategically located and will provide a high-quality way of life for our employees."

Gov. Robert Ehrlich called the deal "a tremendous win for both Allegany County and the state of Maryland."

American Woodmark has 14 manufacturing plants scattered across the South, Midwest and Eastern United States.

In March, the West Virginia Economic Development Authority board awarded the company a $10 million state loan to build a kitchen cabinet plant in Hardy County, the company's third in the state's Eastern Panhandle.

The 250,000-square-foot plant, to be built in the Robert C. Byrd Industrial Park in Baker, W.Va., will add about 140 jobs within three years.

The company reported net income of $31.7 million for the fiscal year ending April 30. Its annual sales rose 18 percent last year to $667.5 million.

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