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Governor renews Hancock enterprise zone

December 26, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - Still wounded by the spring closure of the Fleetwood Travel Trailers of Maryland Inc. plant, Hancock officials are hoping stronger marketing of the state's Enterprise Zone will help lure new business to the town and encourage others to expand, Town Manager David Smith said.

On Wednesday, Gov. Robert Ehrlich said the state renewed the town's Enterprise Zone, covering 1,500 acres predominately within the Town of Hancock and its commercial district. The Town Council voted in September to apply, through the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, for a 10-year extension of the program, which offers tax credits to employers and workers.

Formerly occupied by Prowler Industries, Fleetwood closed its plant at 35 South St. in Hancock on April 1, affecting about 300 workers. Smith said at least two companies have expressed an interest in moving into the vacated building, in addition to the possibility of Fleetwood moving back into the plant in some capacity.

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"It provides economic stimulus to a community who is basically in need of that," Smith said of the Enterprise Zone renewal. "We lost one of our major businesses, and that would provide incentive for (Fleetwood) to come back."

In a news release, Ehrlich said he hopes the renewal will help stimulate growth and business activity within the town's borders.

"By approving the Hancock Enterprise Zone renewal, we are continuing our commitment to give businesses the incentives and the resources they need to locate or expand, make stronger investments in the neighborhoods, create jobs, and empower the Maryland residents who live and work there," Ehrlich said in the release.

The state-approved the town's Enterprise Zone designation in 1995. The designation was effective for 10 years, and the renewal grants Hancock an additional 10 years. Smith could not point to any specific examples of how the designation helped to attract businesses to the town or encouraged others to expand, though he attributed that to a lack of marketing about the tax benefits of the program.

Smith said he hopes to work closely with the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission to create more awareness of the designation and the process businesses can use to take advantage of it.

"I don't know that there was an adequate job done as a marketing tool," Smith said. "We're poised now to take advantage of some of the residential growth that's coming our way."

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